Part 2 Empowering Smart Customers – Organisational change to serve them better.

Published: Wed 28 Sep 2016
A blog entry by Alex Powar

Contributed by:

Alex Powar
Marketing Advisor
Baringa Partners

Alex Powar's Blog

‘Ms Clark, over the last few months your energy use has changed and you would save money on our Time of Use tariff.’
‘Hello, Mr Russell, I’m calling to let you know your boiler is broken. We’d like to organise a visit for one of our engineers to fix it.’
‘Dr Jones, I see you wash your laundry at 40°, if you change to 30° you could save £30 a year. We currently have a deal with Ariel…’ 

The energy industry is going through radical changes resulting in a step change in the way suppliers will interact with their customers. Once customers have engaged with the benefits of smart metering (see part 1 of this series – Getting the technology right), suppliers have the opportunity to provide innovative service offerings, benefiting both customers and business.
For years, energy companies have been constrained by historical industry complexity and the incumbent technology.  Today’s supplier is often organised functionally, and much of the work is fixing problems with customer accounts.  Huge amounts of time and money are focused on getting data such as actual reads and correcting data, which can be mismatched across many different industry players.  
In the 2020s, when all meters are smart, this no longer needs to be the case: industry processes will be simplified with real-time sharing of accurate data, there will be more non-energy products (microgeneration, electric vehicles, home care), more data will exist on customer energy consumption and customers will want to use digital channels. These changes will allow suppliers to change their operating model, organising around the customer rather than exceptions, perhaps using a demographic segmentation or geography or value or sector for SME customers.
Whatever suppliers choose, will result in profound change for customer advisors. Simplification of industry processes may result in fewer calls into contact centres, but more opportunities (and more time) for proactive calls out.  If a customer does need to get in touch with their supplier, most queries will be resolved first time.  In all cases the advisors will be able to concentrate on the value add - providing energy efficiency advice or cross-selling non-energy products, for example. Availability of half-hourly energy usage data will allow advisors to be trusted energy experts, providing customers with detailed advice, but this will mean that data analysis must become a key skill, if advisors are to be credible.
Moving to this new smart world, will allow the supplier of the future to be proactive, customer-centric, a true energy expert and will help rebuild trust. However, these are radical changes both to the operation and to employees. Suppliers will need a clear vision and roadmap, they must excite employees about the journey and career prospects, but ensure they have a plan for how to work with those who won’t come with them. Using smart as a catalyst to change the way suppliers work will require investment, but it could provide real opportunities to delight customers, engage employees and grow the business.

This blog was written by Sarah Smith, Manager, Energy, Resources and Utilities, Baringa Partners.

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