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Survey: Interest Grows In Bundled Services

Survey: Interest Grows In Bundled Services

Consumers are becoming more interested in buying energy, communications and other services in one-stop package deals, a recent national survey has found. However, customers expect any "bundled" products and services to be offered at a discount of at least 5%, according to the survey. In fact, interest in specific packages increases in direct proportion to the depth of the discount. Overall, customers assume that combining products and services in a package over a single brand will add value and create economies of scale

Some of the customers most interested in new product and service bundles are least satisfied with their current energy provider. Conversely, customers most satisfied with their energy and long distance providers are much less interested in combined products and services.

The survey was conducted by RKS Research &amp Consulting of North Salem, NY. The RKS sample consisted of 804 residential and 406 small business customers across the United States.

"From this rigorous process, we surfaced significant interest in consumer-generated bundles of energy and telecommunications products and services from a single source," said Charleen Heidt, vice president in charge of RKS residential research. "These are not mass markets, but clearly niche segments that will require highly tailored promotional strategies. And where customer satisfaction is low, a substantial investment will be required to establish and improve relationships in advance of any product or service offering."

The survey found residentials are receptive to packaged energy-related offerings consisting of heating and air conditioning repair and maintenance, home appliance repair and electrician's services under the brand umbrella of their local energy supplier. Small business customers showed interest in power quality consulting and energy audits. And both groups are disposed to turn first to their local energy provider for these additional services.

Both groups also are open to packages of telecommunications-related products and services from their energy provider. Residential customers would consider local and long distance telephone service, cable or satellite television service in a bundle with electricity. Small business customers are equally receptive, except that they would include Internet access instead of television in their preferred package.

"These findings demonstrate the equity value of the local energy supplier's image and reputation," said Heidt. "Based on the responses of the customers we sampled, a combination of a respected energy provider, linked up with a credible national brand to offer discounted telecommunications services, would be a potent entrant in these emerging markets."

RKS found customers link other products and services into possible packages. These include "smart" thermostats, home automation, surge protection and security systems; carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, air filtration systems; Internet access, long-distance, and advanced television/data systems; heating, air conditioning, equipment installation and repair and duct cleaning; distributed and backup generation, fuel cells, photovoltaics, UPS systems; and energy/air quality audits, plus air filter repair and replacement. "Each of these potential packages appeals to a different segment of our small business and residential customer sample," Heidt said.

"Some of these products and services come together logically, while others seem more convenient and efficient to customers if they were offered through a single source. The challenge for energy providers is to determine which of these segments warrants an increased investment in marketing - then start the process of educating these customers about the value and benefits of the broader portfolio of products and services."

Joe Fisher, Houston

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