Nobody likes receiving an unexpectedly high utility bill, but some new research shows that customers do appreciate a “heads-up” from their utility company if a big bill is coming their way.

Opower, a provider of customer-engagement software for the utility industry, surveyed 7,000 customers about good and bad experiences with their utility companies. The researchers found that utilities seem to be missing opportunities for improving customer satisfaction through better communication.

The high bill scenario is a case in point: Eight out of 10 customers say that it is important that their utility provide them with an alert for an unusual bill, but only about four in 10 say they are satisfied with the way their utility provides that kind of alert.

The survey uncovered similar gaps in customers’ expectation and utility performance. For example, more than 80 percent of customers believe it is important for utilities to provide information on rate changes, but less than half are satisfied with the way their utility provides that information.

The survey also supported the notion that customers don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time interacting with their utility. This resonates with many customer service managers, who know that if a customer reaches out to them, it’s more than likely because of a problem or concern.

Therefore utilities have limited–but readily identifiable opportunities–to shape a positive customer experience. These opportunities, which the researchers call “critical moments,” include moving into a new home, receiving a high bill or experiencing an extreme weather event or power outage.

“Most customers think about their energy provider for just a few minutes each year, and everyone is looking for ways to break through their supposed indifference,” said Timur Hicyilmaz, Director of Consumer Insights at Opower. “But if you listen to customers it’s clear the solution lies not in telling them about great service provided or creating new reasons to contact them, but by selectively enriching the customer experience during existing moments that are most important to them.”