Utilities: the role of data in customer-centric transformation

Customer expectations have changed, and new tech-savvy competitors are emerging to meet them. It’s time for incumbent providers to respond with smart, data-driven service. 

The ubiquity of smart, connected technology means consumers expect personalised service from every company. At the same time, greater environmental awareness is pressuring brands to prove their green credentials.

In the utilities sector, it’s a new wave of digital-savvy start-ups who are rising to meet these expectations. More than 60 energy start-ups have launched in the UK in the last decade, earning a 20% share of the market in the process.

And with customer satisfaction levels in utilities now ranking below the UK average, incumbent providers need to rethink how they use data to meet customer expectations and respond to a rapidly changing market.

Connected customer choice

It’s never been easier for customers to change their utilities provider. In fact, switching or reviewing providers is a regular occurrence for 33% of UK consumers.

Smart, mobile technology means they can research, compare and decide which provider to pledge their loyalty to in minutes. And thanks to ‘auto-switching’ services, enacting that decision involves little to no disruption to their everyday life.

But what influences customers to switch?

In a survey by Echo Managed Services, 33% of consumers say they would switch as a protest against poor customer service, while 61% say a price increase is the most likely reason for them to switch accounts.

In response, utilities providers must begin tailoring service across every touchpoint around individual customer needs. And budget permitting, identify and apply the best possible financial outcome for the customer, every time.

40% of consumers say their previous supplier made no effort to retain their custom. (Echo Managed Services)

Transformation begins

Market regulation is already helping accelerate this shift towards a more customer-centric model. Ofgem’s new RIIO-2 price controls prioritise giving “customers a stronger voice”, meaning those running gas and electricity networks must innovate to meet tougher price and customer service goals.

Likewise, the next cycle of Ofwat’s new Asset Management Plan, AMP7, will see more than £50bn invested into customer service, bill reductions and leakage prevention between 2020-2025.

But how exactly can utilities providers respond to these challenges and enable change?

The power of data

By uniting customer data from across the organisation into a Modern Data Warehouse in the cloud, utilities providers can access, analyse and report on it in near real-time.

To deliver innovation and personalisation at scale, utilities can then use that single source of data to build a 360-degree view of each customer. One fuelled by the continuous collection and contextualisation of data sourced from every customer touchpoint.

But what does this look like in practice? Here are a few examples of how providers can use that single, data-driven view to drive customer satisfaction:

  • Offering seamless omni-channel service that automatically routes customers to the right team without asking them to repeat their issue or switch channel.
  • Deploying AI to automate fast responses to routine issues and support agents with accurate, contextual insights – or free their time for higher value cases.
  • Ensuring the right staff levels are available to handle cases at peak times, and dynamically adapting those levels in response to traffic patterns.
  • Launching self-service options so customers can manage their account through a convenient 24/7 mobile app or web-based service portal.
  • Rewarding brand loyalty with tailored incentives such as a ‘recommend a friend’ initiative or opportunities to earn interest when an account is in credit.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. With the right tools, capabilities and support, providers can put their data to work to drive transformation initiatives across the business: from meeting new regulatory requirements to introducing preventative maintenance on the network infrastructure.

Making it happen

In our new white paper, Data: The key ingredient of utilities modernisation, we explore further how data can help utilities providers to overcome major barriers to modernisation, and start responding to new competitors, regulations and changing customer expectations.

Get your copy now and discover how a partner like Adatis can help you to design, validate and roll out a successful data transformation project.