Data-A Serious Market Differentiator

The personalization and relevance of customer engagements could make or break the future utility’s business model.
Published: Thu 19 Nov 2015

Data, available from many sources today, needs to be turned by utilities into valuable information so as to better engage with the energy consumer, reduce churn, improve operational efficiency and strengthen market competitiveness.

We spoke to a number of industry experts in our studios at European Utility Week to gain more insight into how utilities can harness the opportunities of data aggregation and analysis. [See the attached playlist].

Getting the customer’s attention

Ogi Kavazovic, SVP of Product Management & Strategy, Opower, made the point that the clever use of data can certainly improve customer experiences. He explains that to get customers’ attention, utilities must show that they know what is happening as far as their customer journeys are concerned and this should be done by personalising communication with them. This will establish credibility with customers and they will be more willing to engage, he says.

Data analysis can be used to reveal daily consumption habits of customers so that the appropriate tariffs, services, tips and products are offered. He adds that this proactiveness and personalization can lead to customer loyalty. While the idea is to convert insights into new (and positive) customer experiences, the results should be provable and measurable since return on investment matters.

Making positive impacts during key moments

Riccardo Vicari, VP, EMEA, Opower says that many retail utilities suffer from a lack of brand differentiation but the sharing of relevant data at appropriate times with consumers can change that.

He explains that it is important that utilities show their support of customers during key (and sometimes highly stressful) moments where utilities have the opportunity to make a positive impact during the customer journey. These “moments” include unexpected high bills and moving house. “Customer intimacy is the key differentiator,” he adds.

Mass advertising is not always effective and this is where proper data analysis will ensure that the right information reaches appropriate customer segments to ensure relevancy.

By using data in a smart way, utilities can look forward to reducing their costs and improving their operational efficiency.

Being proactive rather than reactive

Adrian Tuck, CEO, Tendril, says that utilities should become more proactive instead of reactive when it comes to customer engagement. He describes how their physics-based data solution uses the simulation of a home to predict energy consumption habits which can reveal customers’ needs.

Through this data, utilities can target segments with new services and products. “It’s about the timely mining of data. Data is useless unless someone can make sense of it.”

Creative, flexible and agile solutions needed

Leslie De Cuyper and Johan Vandekerckhove, Ferranti Computer Systems, say that market competitiveness and customers’ changing demands are forcing utilities to stay ahead.   

Customer engagement should be at the heart of the utility business and their experiences should not be frustrating. “There should be one voice- information communicated to the customer should not be conflicting. There should be a holistic view and understanding of all the services on offer to the customer.”

“Old legacy applications must be changed to accommodate the customer’s need for personalized communications,” they explain.