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Building a Digital Bridge: Three Utilities That Transformed the Digital Customer Experience

Vikas Mukhi | | April 10, 2018

No one could say the utilities industry lags when it comes to digital innovation. Some of the most-discussed sources of transformation range from distributed energy resources (DERs) to smart distribution models, self-healing grids and entirely new business models.

McKinsey analysts predict that in the future, digital utilities will have to balance increasingly strict regulatory frameworks and industry disruption to compete for customer loyalty. Consumers already have choices about where their power come from, and many are choosing green power sources and DERs. In tomorrow’s world, consumer choice for utilities may be far more extensive. Meeting targets for conservation and DER integration in the present hinges on the modern utility’s ability to transform and build a digital bridge to the customer. This innovation is business-critical, but it can also deliver immediate operational benefits to providers. Read on to learn why building a digital bridge for utilities customers isn’t optional, and industry customer engagement success stories.

How Three Utilities Won with Digital Bridge Initiatives

In 2018, consumers expect digital services that are personal, self-servicing and available 24/7. For many utilities providers, the first step toward digital customer experience transformation is delivering a best-of-class, on-demand system for customers to pay bills, review their payment history and update account history. According to UtilityDive, successful digital customer experience management enables “utilities [to] meet energy efficiency mandates, smooth peak loads and implement new rate designs.” Organizations that succeed at opting customers into online billing or energy-efficiency programs can realize immediate operational savings and develop the groundwork for engaging customers in future efforts.

  1. Southeastern Utility Redefines the Customer Relationship “We’re shifting beyond the ways our industry has traditionally thought about relationships with customers,” says Anthony Oni of Alabama Power (AP). “And there is a lot of white space outside of that paradigm.” For AP, adding value to the customer relationship came in the form of a standalone e-commerce website called SmartNeighbor, where consumers can shop for “slam dunk deals” on home energy improvements, complete with personalized recommendations and consumer reviews. The success of this project bolstered awareness around one of Alabama Power’s DER initiatives, Smart Neighborhood, the Southeast’s first microgrid community.
  2. North American T&D Provider Boosts Self-Service With the help of specialized utilities self-service consultants, one large North American T&D provider launched a highly functional self-service portal for their 1.3 million business and residential customers. This portal provided 24/7/365 access to need-to-know information for their customers, including payment history, bills and other account data. Prior to the launch, just 8 percent of the providers customers were opted in to e-billing, which was costly considering the $5 average per mailed bill. The portal launch boosted e-billing sign-ups by 20 percent, allowing the utility to recuperate immense savings.
  3. UK Utility Promotes Energy-Efficiency Opt-ins UK Networks transformed customer relationships while balancing client needs and energy efficiency. In 2016 and 2017, they promoted a new program called the Priority Services Register. This program is used to personalize service delivery during shortages and outages to ensure individuals with disabilities, mobility issues or other special needs remain in service. The U.K.-based utilities provider ultimately opted in 44,648 to the web-based form by launching a series of 125 events.

Are You Prepared for Crucial Transformation in the Utilities Industry?

There’s significant speculation about the future of utilities, including distant possibilities such as virtual power plants powered by DER grids. While it’s unclear what the industry will look like in 10 years, there is clear operational benefit in digitizing your customer experience today. In the present, providing customer portals and sign-up sites and understanding your market needs is crucial to meeting program targets and customer expectations. To learn more about how the customer and utilities provider both win with digital innovation, download the Datavail white paper today: Managing Distributed Energy Resources: Utilities Can’t do it Without Customers. For additional assets please see our Utility Resource Center.


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