Cloud computing helps utilities bridge the engagement gap

There is a competitive advantage in cloud-based SaaS solutions that can give utilities of tommorrow the sustainability they need.
Published: Mon 20 Feb 2017

Cloud computing is not the new kid on the block. In fact, it has progressed from a mere data storage solution to a highly complex system which enables more efficient data sorting and resource management. With mobile web usage increasing daily, the internet has become an extremely important asset for companies wanting to increase profitability and stay ahead of the pack.

With the utility business model becoming more complex, it has become even more important for utilities to adopt the Cloud to manage their resources more efficiently, thereby enabling them to offer customers the same level of service they receive from other industries like banking and telecommunications.

Unfortunately cloud computing adoption is slow in the utility sector due to regulation, security and traditionalism but there appears to be change on the horizon, according to Navigant Research and IDC Insights.  

Cloud computing uses - improving customer engagement

The companies revealed recently from surveys done with utility executives in the US that utilities are actually not too far behind other industries when it comes to customer engagement capabilities.

Interestingly, while many respondents agreed that there was much to be done around engagement, most lacked confidence when it came to tackling customer analytics for instance.

The survey showed that in order to ‘bridge’ this so-called engagement gap, utilities are deploying near-term IT investment strategies with a growing focus on advanced solutions that complement current customer service tools, specifically the customer information system (CIS). Over 66% of the respondents said their biggest future IT investments will include technologies outside the CIS. Almost 75% showed an interest in cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.

But why is the uptake of cloud-based software in the US utility space so slow? It could be due to regulatory models that favour on-premise software investments by allowing utilities to collect a rate of return on software license fees. But, regulators are now beginning to understand the customer benefits of cloud-based software so adoption rates could see an increase in the future.

For Europe, it’s the region's strict privacy standards which stand in the way of cloud computing uses. Applications that process personal data may be frowned upon if these are hosted outside of the EU  country. Some companies even view SaaS user's IP address to be personal information, making SaaS/managed services very difficult to deploy. 

Cloud -a major industry shift for utilities

The move to third-party managed cloud solutions is a positive one for utilities as it will help them develop  broader and more advanced engagement capabilities which is exactly what they need to reach their goals in today’s highly competitive market. Customer segmentation, personalisation and proactive messages will only serve to impress the customer and improve engagement.   

Increasingly, utilities are opting for cloud-based SaaS solutions to improve customer service and cost-effectiveness. The solutions offer agile tools that are able to quickly fill customer engagement gaps and they replace the need for expensive and resource-intensive CIS replacement.

Now utilities are bringing together their CIS with next-generation customer engagement tools that support a more personalized cross-channel experience, maximising the value of each customer interaction.  Utilities are beginning to see the value in website upgrades which are aimed at enhancing their customers’ digital interactions. They are also providing their customer service consultants with advanced analytics tools to improve proactiveness which will go a long way to improving the customer-utility relationship.

 

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