An energy crisis or energy shortage is a significant bottleneck in the supply of energy resources to an economy. The latest UK crisis, in 2023, is driving the current cost of living crisis, affecting almost everyone in the UK.
As more people now fall into the vulnerable and disadvantaged categories and customers are being left confused and looking for answers, it’s clear that something must be done.
An Ello Group study in 2022 found that only 12% of people trust their current preferred utilities supplier and 22% of customers admit loyalty to the businesses and organisations they normally buy from has declined in recent months.
Customers feel that they are not being listened to and don’t have faith that their utility supplier understands them. With 14% of people saying their trust in brands would likely increase if companies can show that they listen to and know their customers.
Due to the lack of trust, many customers have been left confused, with a lot of questions and wondering how they can approach the energy crisis so that they are not left at a disadvantage. This means calls to utility companies are rising significantly, putting support teams at full capacity.
It’s also been highlighted that the information customers need the most isn’t being delivered to them during this essential time, leading to a lack of confidence from customers and declining relationships between those involved.
A new FCA Consumer Duty regulation (2023), that will apply to the utility sector, requires companies to focus on their customer’s needs. The FCA urges firms to ensure they are making the changes needed so consumers receive communications they can understand, products and services that meet their needs and offer fair value, and they get the customer support they need when they need it.
The regulation highlights that utility companies need to communicate with their customers and show an understanding of their needs. It represents that there is an understanding from the FCA and that they will be working with organisations to help make this happen and ensure it’s effective in achieving the goals it sets out.
For example, customers need to receive more communications when it comes to the end of their contract so that they can discuss tariffs, as well as boiler service and maintenance reminders, safety checks and information regarding sustainability and the environment.
Whilst there may be many different types of communication that the regulation will cover, one of the most effective ways utility organisations can communicate is through the use of mail.
Printed mail, or print and post, has been a staple communication method for thousands of years. It allows organisations to communicate in-depth, to their end audience, whilst being clear, on-brand and helping achieve the results they require. Organisations in all sectors, across the world use this method to engage and build relationships and this is no different for utility companies.
There are many benefits to sending mail:
PEOPLE RESPOND BETTER TO LETTERS
Studies have shown that people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged respond better to printed mail.
This is because printed mail provides the opportunity to share in-depth information, be informative and answer questions individuals may have through the messaging available. Therefore, increases the level of trust from the recipient.
So why not use mail to educate customers about it?
LETTERS SIGNIFY IMPORTANCE
Royal Mail studies have shown that the average person receives 3.5 letters per week but will receive over 100 emails a day. As letters are less frequent and more personal than emails, they tend to signify importance, resulting in higher engagement and response rates, due to it being something the recipient deems as essential to read.
This is further supported by a Market Reach study (2020) which found that 87% of people trust mail and consider it believable.
LETTERS REACH THOSE HARDER AUDIENCES
Within any sector, there are audiences that are harder to reach. It can include: people who don’t use the internet, the older generations and those who live in more remote areas.
Mail is the ideal solution to target these groups because it can be sent directly to them, at no inconvenience to themselves, as it doesn’t require them to leave their homes or spend any money to receive these communications. It can be used to send various forms of communications, to a wide range of locations, in different formats and at any time.
MAIL BUILDS TRUST
A Market Reach study (2020) proved that mail is a trusted form of communication, finding that 87% of people trust mail and consider it believable. Younger generations have a high level of trust in mail due to the fact they don’t receive it as often, so when they do, they open it and trust it.
LETTERS ARE MORE ACCESSIBLE
In 2023, it’s expected that those with accessibility issues may still be facing challenges when it comes to receiving mail. Most mail companies should be able to offer solutions to enable everyone to read their mail, be it in brail and black on yellow and larger font on letters, ensuring every customer receives and understand the information sent to them.
Whilst the power of printed mail is evident for utility companies, it doesn’t stop there. To ensure that a letter stands out from others landing on the doormat, companies need to go that extra mile to ensure that it’s engaging the audience from the moment it lands.
There are many different ways that organisations can enhance their printed mail.
With people receiving communications constantly, be it by mail, email or text, personalising such communications can have a huge impact on the chances of the recipient opening and engaging with what you’ve sent. 74% of marketers say targeted personalisation increases customer engagement.
Solutions such as hybrid mail, which enables companies to produce letters using their computers to then be sent out by the hybrid mail provider, also offer a personalisation service, so that each letter can be addressed to the recipient, with their personal account information on.
Troy Fisher, Customer experience manager at SSE, said that “personalisation is important in a world of hyper-communication. Humanising your communications by writing in first person improves this”.
THEY CAN BE SENT ON A MASS SCALE
Letters can be sent out on a mass scale, enabling utility companies to send out these communications in one go, which can offer valuable savings in time and money. In the middle of an energy crisis, this fulfills the need for information to be communicated regularly and efficiently, in an easy way for the utility company.
MESSAGING CAN START FROM THE MOMENT THE RECIPIENT SEES THE ENVELOPE
Many hybrid mail solutions also offer the option to add text and images to the envelope. Enabling utility companies to highlight that the information enclosed is important, but also add relevant information and contact details on there..
ADD INSERTS AND FURTHER INFORMATION
Additional information, leaflets and various other inserts may also be required to share further information, to educate customers. A better understanding of what is happening and why, helps build trust and engaged customers. Inserts are a great way to include further information in mailings and can often be done so without additional postage costs, subject to weight bands.
Mail has shown that it’s an effective tool in building trust between a company and its customers, which is exactly what utility companies need at this time.
Further trust can be built by those within the utility sector by partnering with an already trusted supplier, who can also help send clearer messages. The FCA’s Consumer Duty policy recognises this, by saying that firms need to share information and work closely with their commercial partners to make sure they are all delivering good customer outcomes.
Solutions like hybrid mail are ideal for this, enabling utility companies to send thousands of letters, from their PC, where they are then produced and sent out by a reliable, secure supplier.
Most good hybrid mail providers will have relevant accreditations and certifications to support that they are secure and following best practices. This in turn benefits the utility company, as their customer data is safe, along with the communications that are being sent out.