Digital Natives - The Multi-Utility, Digital Customer Engagement and Startup, SmartMeasures

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Rod McLauchlan, Show Director APAC
Digital Utility Expo, Asia & Australasia

This newsletter is designed for executives who work in the digital water or energy sector. It goes out to 40,000 executives across APAC. We focus on the practical implications of using transformational technology and include personal stories from people at the cutting edge of change.

We welcome contributions from our market. Write to me here if you would like to be a guest commentator:
rod.mclauchlan@clarionevents.com


Rod’s Commentary:

The multi-utility and the blueprint for a new service based model

Technology has created opportunities for traditional utility service providers, like power, water, waste management, TV cable, gas and telecom utilities, to engage with their customers and create better experiences via smart metering, billing, notifications about service problems and online payment. The trend is moving towards building mobile phone based utility service apps and the connected home hub. It’s becoming easier to see a future where there is one utility provider, one customer solution, and one bill.
 
In Europe, the multi-utility concept has been around since the 1970s. Large international utilities who are already promoting the multi-utility concept include: E.ON, ENGIE, EDF, ENEL, RWE, Veolia, TEPCO, Centrica, and Iberdrola. What are the benefits for companies and customers? First of all, the effects are reduced back office cost and possible tariff reductions. Examples for synergies can be found in joint meter reading, central purchasing, optimised fleet management or stock-keeping. Cost reduction and performance improvements are also to be expected in administration.
 
Two recently technology innovations they may facilitate the multi-utility concept and the connected home future within Australia are:

  • The IoT network platform that adds intelligence to many of the utility services to streamline back-office management of multiple systems and expand consumer offerings in the future.

  • Cloud platform services that facilitate a real-time, two-way communication between a utility and its customers to address any Self-Service, Customer Service and Operation Management.

The future of energy and water related services as part of the connected home market in Australia is still being defined.  Whether they choose to partner with others or go it alone, ultimately, utility service providers will need to find ways to tap their expertise and unique capabilities to create engaging customer service offers that go beyond the existing basic services.

We welcome your thoughts about the multi-utility model and how the connected home technology architecture is shaping utility service innovations in your region.


Eric Dresselhuys, President
Smart Energy Water, USA
Guest Commentary:
 

Next Generation Digital Customer Engagement and Experience
 
The historic regulatory nature of the utility industry created a few incentives to focus on customer service. 

Reliability and safety were a few priorities for the consumers in a ‘One-Size fits-all' regulatory construct. Over the last 10 years, the regulatory and market environment for utilities has changed dramatically.  Market restructuring and de-regulation became widespread. Utilities raced to upgrade billing, CRM and ERP systems to keep up with these changing requirements. More recently, the proliferation of distributed energy resources, smart-grids and ‘Behind the Meter' alternatives have added to that complexity. Moreover, consumer expectations, driven by the ubiquity of mobile devices, have moved to demand real-time, transparent relationships with all providers. This Digital Disruption has left utilities with no choice but to adapt the change and re imagine the utility customer relationship.

Your Customer expects a New Experience

With the digital natives such as Amazon, Netflix, Google and Uber revolutionizing the customer experience, the expectations from the utilities have changed. Imagine, a situation where Dave receives a notification on his phone for high energy usage along with a few rebates and programs for improving the energy efficiency. After accepting the offer, he gets another notification to check if he wants to enroll in a plan with similar rebates and programs in future. He selects ‘yes' and move on to buy an energy saving appliance. Dave is a happy customer as he can save money and use it to purchase new appliances. This experience is one of the many next generation experiences that a customer wants, in a digital world. The expectations have risen due to mass digitization. The next generation wants digitally enabled self-service platforms for managing smart home, current and projected bill statements, choice for alternate sources of energy, better energy transaction options and easy connect with the utility to name a few. Disruptive technologies could help utilities to fulfill these desires and make them a trusted service partner of choice for the customers.

Now is the time

This combination of regulatory shifts, competitive threats and changing customer expectations create a compelling call-to-action for utilities to become a complete ‘digital provider'. Three characteristics define this transition: First, a 360-degree multi-channel interaction with the customer experience designed from the perspective of their journey with the utility.  Second, Anytime, Anywhere & Any device experiences. and Third, Real time data analytics powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. All designed to drive a transition from reactive customer-service to proactive interactions. This ensures customer stickiness in the competitive world.
 
Digital customer experiences enhance the ongoing IoT adoption of utilities, creating customer value from these infrastructure investments. Customers can monitor consumption, receive real-time alerts, control services and connect smart-home and other ‘behind the meter' assets to create a truly interactive transaction. This strong digital capability helps to keep pace with the changing customers' demands. Utilities need to embrace these new opportunities and take actions to provide a superior level of service and own the customer experience. They need to break the complex interactions and personalize the communication through the application of advanced analytics on the customer data.

 

Conclusion

With the rise of digital era, the choices are many, and the customer expectations have evolved. An agile, digitally informed, and design-based approach can help deliver better experience to the utility customers. This will best position the utilities to establish lasting relationships with the customers and capture most of the energy value chain, regardless of the underlying changes in regulation and technology. Managing customer relationships is a never-ending process, and new technologies is on their way to disrupt the industry. This leaves a question for the utilities, ‘Are you implementing the technology platform that will empower you to own the relationship'?

SPEAKER SPOTLIGHT
Here we profile speakers at Australian Utility Week that play a key role in delivering digital transformation strategies within their organisation. If you sign up for our show, you can meet them in person.
Candice Suttor
Executive Manager
Retail Operations
Flow Systems
Ivan Fernandez
Industry Director
Australia & New Zealand
Frost & Sullivan
Phillipa Watson
Research Fellow
University of Tasmania

 

Darren Cash
Customer Hub Manager
Sydney Water

 

Lisa McLean
CEO
Open Cities

 

Nick Black
Lead Strategy
ICT Transformation
Ausgrid

DIGITAL HERO SPOTLIGHT

Libby Dale, Co-founder, SmartMeasures

Background
Libby is a digital professional passionate about all things related to customer experience and customer success.  She is drawn to finding new ways to use technology to help customers and improve the bottom line for the business. Not one to ‘go with the flow’ Libby doesn’t accept that customer churn is just part of doing business in 2018. She says ‘Yes, technology has eroded the barriers to switching and customers certainly are king, but you don’t have to ‘go with the flow’ either, you can do something to stop churn.’
 
During 20+ years immersed in creating solutions in the online, e-commerce and customer experience space for large corporates as technology changed the world, Libby grew frustrated with the lack of ‘a real solution’ to customer churn. She left corporate life to co-create the ground breaking churn prediction and treatment software SmartMeasures, which fills the ‘leading indicator’ gap enabling energy retailers to predict and control customer churn.

Key Insight
Energy Retailers have a ton of data which can be used to detect when a customer needs attention.  There are technologies that support the collection and real-time monitoring of this data to help the business to reach out to those in need before they leave, which helps both the business and the customer. Let’s leverage that technology.
 
Who are you and what’s your interest in attending AUW and digital utilities/energy/water?
I’m passionate about good customer service and technology and have seen a need in the energy retail space.  Churn is a massive issue which causes pain for both the customer and the retailer. We have developed a world first solution to help.
 
What gets you out of bed in the morning and makes you happy to be alive?
It sounds corny, but as an engineer, all I ever wanted was to find ways to apply technology to help business and people, and this ideal still ‘pushes my buttons’.
 
How did you find yourself in the digital utility/customer space?
I’ve worked in technology for 30+ years and always found myself drawn to playing a role to interface between engineering/IT and the business to help both deliver better outcomes.
 
How does your company help businesses with the digital utility sector?
We leverage the data in the various systems to measure customer health and predict when they are unhappy enough to churn. This helps the business address the customer need, and the customer to feel understood. 
 
What advice would you give to recent new entrants to this sector?
Look to learn from other sectors, don’t re-invent the wheel.
Interested in sponsorship or exhibiting opportunities? Contact Kelly at sponsor@clarionevents.com
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