Customer communication and engagement was a recurring theme in conversations and interviews conducted with speakers at African Utility Week, which took place in Cape Town last week. With several African countries in the planning and deployment phase of digital technology, such as smart meters, communication with customers before, during and after rollout is critical.
Discussions focused on ensuring that utility customers understand who, what, when, why and how a planned rollout opens the door to further engagement with customers; understanding what is most important to them, and what their needs are to create the dialogue of how technology can serve them.
Jodie Sherwin Hill, executive director of Jomat Investments, stated: "Instead of telling them [utility customers] what to expect, present customers with options and provide incentives." She said that it is important to find out what your customers care about most so that having a smart meter installed adds value to their daily lives and not an additional burden.
Sherwin Hill went on to explain that customers have the potential to become custodians of new smart energy solutions, if they understand what impact it will have, how it serves them, communicating the potential challenges and continuous learning alongside customers prior to, during and after rollout.
New technology is bound to come with its teething problems, but it’s important to note, said Christo Nicholls, CEO of Smart Utility Solutions at Edison Power Group, that technology that has become commonplace in the developed world, should be leveraged in a way that its used to solve Africa’s unique energy challenges, instead of scurrying to catch up with technology that is being deployed in more developed economies.
How high of a priority is communication and engagement with your customers? Let us know your comments and feedback.
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