The energy sector has long been a key area of expertise for Accent with many of the suppliers and network operators included in our client list, as well as the industry regulator.
Areas of Expertise:
- Public perceptions
We provide our clients with an understanding of public attitudes towards a number of energy-related topics, from energy behaviours, to existing energy services and the advent of new technologies.
We are expert at canvassing public opinion about energy subjects and have done so in relation to energy efficiency, electric vehicles, consumer expectations and experiences of smart meters, attitudes towards electricity infrastructure, distributed energy storage and how consumers interact with the energy market and make decisions when comparing and switching between different energy suppliers.
- Stated Preference (Prioritisation and WTP)
Accent is a market leader in the use of the stated preference technique, a sophisticated form of conjoint analysis. The technique is universally recognised as one of the most robust means of:
- determining the key factors in the choice between competing products or services
- prioritising aspects of a potential product or service
- attributing monetary values to specific aspects of a product or service
- predicting the effect of changes in product formulation or service levels on choices between suppliers
- predicting the effect of competitive action on market share.
We have used Stated Preference techniques for several energy clients, for example to measure consumers’ likely take-up of low carbon and micro-generation technologies, helping energy suppliers to understand which product and pricing features are most valued by existing and potential customers and which strategies should be used to minimise churn, and for several electricity and gas network operators to understand customers’ willingness to pay for service improvements to inform business planning.
- Customer satisfaction
Accent are expert at helping our clients to measure customer satisfaction, the drivers of satisfaction and to understand how customers satisfaction can be improved. We work with our clients to develop KPIs, design research to track satisfaction and pinpoint areas of service that can be improved.
We use qualitative and quantitative methods to help several Distribution Network Operators, energy suppliers, consumer bodies, installers and energy consultants to measure satisfaction of their customers. Our customer satisfaction work has included distributed energy generation, energy supplies, smart meters, fuel poverty and vulnerability, home installations, website usability, call handling and many more.
- Customer segmentation
Accent combines qualitative and quantitative techniques to develop behavioural and attitudinal segmentation models for many of our clients. Typically, our segmentation research uses a multi-stage approach including:
- Stakeholder workshop
- Qualitative co-creation groups
- Quantitative segment sizing and development of Golden Questions (which can be used to identify segments for future research and market sizing)
- Qualitative refinement and bringing the segments to life
- Creation of segment handbooks.
- Propensity to pay ahead of time
- Proposition development
We have designed research to support a number of clients in developing new products and propositions. This has included:
- research with trialists to measure attitudes towards, and usage of, a range of devices to allow remote heating controls;
- recruiting consumers to a long term energy services panel involving them having a new type of heating management system installed in their home and participation in exercises to understand customer service expectations for new ways of buying heat;
- profiling energy saving behaviour among consumers in the social housing sector and their reactions to the Green Deal;
- supporting DNOs to develop innovative commercial offerings for industrial and commercial energy users that build upon existing decentralised energy systems;
- research to test new website development, in terms of functionality, ease of use and relevant content.
- Communications development
Developing communications for new or existing propositions can take many forms. We have applied a range of both qualitative and quantitative techniques to developing communications materials for our clients. This has encompassed research with consumers around the subject of debt communications they have received from their energy supplier through to customer attitudes towards communications provided by agents during unplanned power cuts. There is also a strong behavioural economics aspect to how we explore the power of communications in effecting behavioural change.
- Vulnerable customer research
Accent undertakes research with vulnerable consumers across a range of sectors, services and clients. We are expert at designing research that takes account of the different forms of vulnerability that consumers might face, and helping our clients to understand the experiences, needs and perspectives of their vulnerable customers or stakeholders. We ensure that all of our research is inclusive and can cater to the needs of more vulnerable consumers, as well as designing research that is specifically focused on vulnerable audiences.
For the last three years we have delivered a tracking survey of Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) vulnerable customers. This seeks the views of vulnerable customers on WPD’s Priority Services Register and fuel poverty services and how the services could be improved. For Citizens Advice we recently conducted research with vulnerable energy customers who use prepayment meters to pay for their gas and/or electricity. This focused on 'self-disconnection', where a prepayment customer's gas/electricity supply is interrupted because the meter has not been topped up, and aimed to measure the scale of self-disconnection in Great Britain, the profile of consumers affected and the impact on them.
For eight years we have delivered research for Citizens Advice Scotland on their Extra Help Unit, which provides a complaints and advocacy service to vulnerable domestic and business consumers across the UK. Accent provides customer satisfaction data to feed into Citizens Advice KPI scores and to provide an objective and independent view on a regular, ongoing basis of how complainants feel about the way they are treated and the outcome of the service they receive.
- CSR and sustainability
Accent works with clients across the utilities sector to understand consumer, stakeholder and customer views on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability issues.
We have worked with the Energy Saving Trust (EST) to undertake a survey with senior decision-makers in relevant sectors on sustainability. The research focused on how businesses perceive the opportunities to engage consumers on sustainability and energy issues, how much they plan to invest in the coming years, what challenges they can see, whether there are gaps in their knowledge, expertise and brand values, and the extent to which they are concerned by the long-term operational risks.
For a multinational built environment consultancy Accent delivered a quantitative study to identify the sustainable actions taken by the UK manufacturing industry. Over 300 telephone interviews were undertaken with high level individuals within the manufacturing sector. The research fed into a wider project looking at sustainability and other climate change/business/environmental issues, with findings presented at an international conference.
We have delivered several waves of research for an organisation providing an online resource for sustainability professionals. The research was with Energy Managers to understand their role within the workplace and to explore energy efficiency within organisations.
- Energy Efficiency
We conduct research on a number of different energy efficiency subjects, including the investigation of the importance of energy efficiency advice, products and services
amongst many other aspects of service and supply – for a number of organisations in the utilities sector.
Citizens Advice commissioned Accent to provide evidence – based upon consumer attitudes and behaviour – to inform Citizens Advice’s advocacy on government energy efficiency policies, particularly the successor to the Green Deal and related incentive schemes. The project comprised a desk research review of existing literature, extended consumer workshops and depth interviews.
We have helped the Energy Systems Catapult to assess demand for an energy saving product through a 3 stage project:
- measuring household behaviour around and attitudes to energy saving via a representative sample of 3,000 in-home interviews
- building profiling assessment carried out by professional Energy Performance Certificate assessors
- a stated preference survey
We also help energy suppliers to understand consumer appetitie for, and expectations regarding, energy efficiency. This includes:
- studies aimed at exploring the views of social housing tenants, home owners and landlords toward energy efficiency and the Green Deal
- qualitative and quantitative research for two large energy suppliers to inform their smart metering strategy and roll-out. Research assessed attitudes towards the meters, their functionality and the impact of them upon household’s energy consumption and investment in energy efficiency measures.