In this live panel interview about consumer engagement initiatives and how to go about them, Engerati invited three guests to the live studio at European Utility Week 2014: John Webster, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for EMEA, Opower; Julien Metge, Head of Business Development, Smart Home & Energy, Netatmo; Jean C. Kiessling, International Head of Business Development for connected homes, Deutsche Telekom.
Utilities should change their culture
All speakers agreed that a new generation of customers expect a higher level of engagement with their utilities. Webster points out that utilities’ interest in consumer engagement is increasing and the debate is now about what to do, how to do it and where to start.
A number of forward-thinking utilities understand the importance of customer engagement, and have started to change their culture by adopting new technologies and strategies, as well as recruiting from more customer centric industries.
Webster says that utilities should learn from other industries such as telecommunications and banking that have had to adopt new customer engagement plans. Utilities are actually at an advantage since they already own the customer relationship and customers are looking to their utilities to provide the more interactive and personalized service. “The opportunities are there and so is the relationship so utilities need to act now.”
The right tools
Kiessling says that utilities should provide the right tools around value-added services that customers need. “It’s not about leveraging or participating in an energy service, it is about understanding customers and their needs and what adds value to individual needs.”
The utility today is too focused on how it can make a business out of the smart home instead of thinking how value that can be created will actually create the business in the end. The telco industry can provide lessons as it has undergone a substantial mind shift when it comes to understanding and providing meaningful propositions to the consumer.
Kiessling adds that when it comes to providing home energy management devices in homes, there has to be choice for consumers since there will always be personal design and budget preferences.
Metge points to the smart thermostat as a good start to providing value-added services to their customers. He says that through the data which is collected, utility bills can be reduced and faults can be picked up by utilities in advance. Utilities are given the tools to be more proactive which will improve the level of customer service. “Data delivers extended utility reports which are useful when creating new value added services. Its about combining existing utility data with new data from the smart thermostat.”
The next step would be home services such as security, or even equipment insurance and maintenance.
Getting the basics right first
While new technologies provide a number of opportunities for both the consumer and the utility, Webster points out that it is also important to start understanding the customers’ needs before new technology is deployed.
“You have to remember that for the average consumer energy is boring and utilities need to ensure that when the consumer thinks about it, their experience is positive. Then it’s possible to start building a long lasting relationship with the consumer. Ultimately it’s about customer retention and churn reduction.”
Updated on 27 November 2014