Utility and Customer Agendas Should Compliment Each Other

Utilities need to stay engaged with their customers in order to understand and react to their changing needs.
Published: Tue 21 Jul 2015

In a live studio interview at Asian Utility Week 2015, David Prins, Director of Etrog Consulting, talks about how utilities should go about deploying a successful smart meter programme. He recommends that, like with any new project, participants should understand what they are aiming to achieve first. He goes on to explain that it is important to ensure objectives are sound and to also look at who the stakeholders are because the electricity industry is very complex and these participants could have a major impact on a project’s development.

Utilities understanding the customers’ agenda

He also talks about customer engagement and smart meter installation. Mr Prins says that utilities are at an advantage compared to most countries because the industry has yet to be reorganized and disaggregated. For instance in Australia, with retail and network businesses separated, it is a lot more difficult to get messages across.

In some of the Asian countries, there is competition between retailers, for example in Singapore where there are many parties involved. But, in other Asian countries, one company will be doing most of the customer engagement so that customers recognise and trust one brand which makes engagement easier, he says.

“Nowadays I would use all available opportunities to talk to customers since they are easy to communicate with, thanks to today’s social media options. It’s important to stay engaged with the customers in order to understand what their needs are since these do change. Keep talking to customers in innovative and inventive ways and find out what it is they are interested in and respond to that. Don’t assume they are interested in the utility’s agenda. Speak to them in terms they understand.”

Utility and customer agendas

Mr Prins also explains why smart meter policies should be developed with the aim of incorporating the needs of customers and utilities. “The needs of both must be considered and combined. Long term interests of consumers are served by a well-funded, strong and sustainable utility industry. The two do not oppose-they can work together to formulate the best solution and be complementary to each other.”

In conclusion, Mr Prins says that the power sector is not very different from other customer-focused industries such as banks and retailers. “There are many retailers that are highly successful so think what they do. Always be able to learn from other industries and think about those who serve consumers and what makes them successful.”