The current push and pull situation in the utilities landscape cannot be more demanding. Both energy consumption and revenues have declined due to technological advancements and the shift towards less energy-intensive industries.
Yet, there is an important dimension that utilities need to quickly take note of — innovations and enhanced customer-centricity. The explosive growth in data and digital technology has empowered consumers who are very clear about what they know and what they want.
Utilities have traditionally focused on the operational areas of demand and supply, and woven customer service around these aspects. Today, incentives and penalties are directly linked to customer satisfaction. Processes, frameworks and tools are constantly evolving towards this goal. Marketing and brand reach, hitherto not taken very seriously, are becoming top priorities.
Utilities aiming for superior performance should set their priorities around anticipating customers’ needs, simplifying transactions (including self-service), and extracting deep and intelligent insights from their customer data.
The growing momentum in smart metering will only add to the huge volumes of customer data that companies already possess. But the critical question is whether utility companies can interpret this data to meaningfully and effectively segment their customers. High performance aspirants need to quickly master this data to drive customer-centric performance, and identify new products and services to address the emerging needs of consumers in different markets.
New Customer-centric Business Models
The marketplace is witnessing a multi-pronged disruption — in business models, regulatory mandates, innovation, alternate energy sources, energy demand, grids and data. Additionally, a far more complex ecosystem is emerging where customers have the option to generate, store, use and trade their own electricity in a ‘connected home’ scenario spurred by home automation solutions.
The change from a product-centric to a customer-centric culture calls for newer retail-like business models built around the deep understanding of customers. Such models will need to embed business processes, systems and platforms that deliver superior and seamless customer experience across all touch points in the customer lifecycle. Customer experience journeys that are simple and cohesive need to be designed to bring value to the customer and deliver measurable business benefits.
Technology will be a critical differentiator in this journey. Specifically, solutions based on data, analytics, online self-service tools and cloud computing are set to become game-changers.
For instance, energy use among multiple devices may be analyzed to help consumers prioritize energy-savings. Mobile apps and portals that provide alerts, customized insights and information on energy efficiency will invite better interactions and engagement. Social media channels can make consumers comfortable in engaging with their utility providers, thereby promoting interactive communication. And effective social media listening tools and platforms can extract valuable context to enable insights-driven and customer-centric decisions.
Billing is another critical area where investments in IT and bolt-on tools/products can have a huge impact on the bottom lines of utilities. As billing remains one of the main reasons for dissatisfied customers, flexible and customized solutions/products can help utilities pull up their customer satisfaction scores.
A data analytics model to achieve customer- centricity
- Efficient data aggregation to better understand customer demographics, behaviors and sentiments
- Deploy advanced analytics to perform insightful customer segmentation mapped to the organization’s unique customer base
- Create customized bundled services aligned to the customer segmentations
- Leverage insights to build and sharpen capabilities as an energy advisor in the areas that matter most to consumers – cost optimization through energy efficiencies, power quality, environmental improvements, etc.
The Road Ahead
The optimization of customer-facing business processes and systems will be critical for utilities to achieve best-in-class customer-centricity. They need to know where they stand in the journey, what their maturity level is and what steps they need to adopt.
Utilities will find it difficult to go it alone in building all the necessary expertise and resources. Collaborating with partners and service providers with strong capabilities and experience in serving other customer-centric industry segments will help utilities build a differentiated, customer-focused, market-based and technology-driven model for success.
Are you a utility company looking to improve efficiencies, exceed customer expectations and increase revenues? We may be able to help you outperform. View our utilities and energy analytics solutions page for more information.