2023: How Technology, Innovation & CX Transform Utility Industry

2023: How Technology, Innovation & CX Transform Utility Industry

The utility industry is changing rapidly, with advancements in technology and innovation leading the way. As a result, changing customer expectations that means that utilities are in a transitional phase. These shifts create a new competitive landscape, even in regulated countries where customers can’t choose a service provider. Today, a utility facility’s ability to add value to a customer’s experience is more important than ever. The way customers interact with utilities is evolving, and the industry needs to adapt to keep up with the changing landscape.

According to a recent study, the estimated marketing value of the utility industry in the USA in 2020 was around 993.12 billion dollars, forecasted to reach 1069.28 billion dollars by 2025. This highlights the massive size of the industry and the importance of keeping up with technological advancements to stay ahead of the competition.

Top 5 CX Expectations for Utilities

Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all interactions between a customer and a company, from the initial point of contact to the final purchase. In the utility industry, CX has become an essential aspect of service delivery, and companies that prioritize it can reap the benefits of customer loyalty and retention. CX is crucial in utilities because customers demand more personalized and efficient service delivery. In a competitive market, utilities that fail to provide excellent CX may lose their customers to rivals. The top two CX expectations in utilities are proactive communication from utilities and personalized energy-saving recommendations.

CX Expectations for Utilities:

Mobile Access to Utility Accounts

Mobile access to utility accounts is becoming a must-have for customers. With the rise of smartphones and the increased use of mobile devices, customers expect to have access to their utility accounts on their mobile devices. Mobile access to utility accounts is critical because it allows customers to manage them anywhere easily. Consumers can view their usage and pay their bills from their mobile devices.

One good use case for mobile access to utility accounts is during a power outage. Users can report the outage from their mobile devices and track the progress of the outage restoration. This helps to keep customers informed and reduces frustration during an outage.

Automated Scheduling

Automated scheduling is critical for utilities to meet customer expectations. Customers expect to be notified promptly if there’s an outage and want to know when power will be restored. Automated scheduling can help utilities reduce customer frustration by providing timely and accurate information about outages.

An excellent use case for automated scheduling is in the healthcare industry, where hospitals and clinics have to manage many appointments and schedules for doctors, nurses, and patients. Automatic scheduling can optimize the use of resources, minimize wait times, and reduce the risk of errors or double bookings. It can also help to improve patient satisfaction by ensuring that the proper healthcare professional sees them at the right time.

Digital Self-Service

Digital self-service refers to using digital technologies to allow customers to perform tasks or access information without human assistance. Digital self-service is becoming increasingly popular in today’s digital age due to its numerous benefits and use cases. Convenience is among the significant advantages of utilizing digital self-service. Customers can access information or complete tasks at their own pace without waiting in long lines or dealing with human representatives. This can save them time and effort and allow them to complete tasks from anywhere, anytime, as long as they have internet or mobile device access.

One of the most significant use cases of digital self-service is in the retail industry, where self-checkout systems are becoming increasingly popular. Customers can scan their items, pay with credit cards or mobile wallets, and receive digital receipts without human cashiers. This can reduce waiting times and improve the shopping experience while reducing the retailer’s labor costs.

Predictive Grid/Network Operations

Predictive grid/network operations and maintenance use advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to predict equipment failures, identify maintenance needs, and optimize power grid or communication network processes. One of the primary benefits of predictive grid/network operations and maintenance is improved reliability and availability. This can also improve system resilience, as operators can quickly detect and respond to potential issues, minimizing customer impact.

Utilities can use predictive analytics to monitor and analyze data from power equipment such as transformers, switchgear, and circuit breakers to identify potential issues before they occur. This approach allows utilities to schedule maintenance proactively, minimizing unplanned downtime and reducing repair costs.

Prescriptive Personalization

Prescriptive personalization is essential because it allows businesses to deliver highly targeted and customized experiences to individual customers. By analyzing vast amounts of customer data, rigid personalization algorithms can determine the best products, services, or experiences to offer each customer based on their preferences, behaviors, and needs. This improves customer satisfaction and increases the likelihood of repeat business and brand loyalty.

One good use case for prescriptive personalization is in e-commerce. For example, an online retailer can use rigid personalization algorithms to recommend products to customers based on their previous browsing and purchase history, as well as other contextual information such as their location, time of day, and device type. By delivering highly targeted product recommendations, the retailer can increase the likelihood of customers purchasing, leading to increased revenue and customer satisfaction.

Top 7 Technologies Driving Utilities

The rapid development of technology has transformed the utility industry in recent years. Utility companies are adopting new technologies to enhance their services and improve customer experience. Here are the top 7 technologies driving the utility industry:

  • Internet of Things (IoT): Improved asset management, predictive maintenance, energy efficiency, and customer engagement. IoT sensors can be installed in utility assets such as transformers, meters, and pipelines to monitor their health and detect anomalies, reducing downtime and maintenance costs. Utilities can also use IoT to monitor customer energy usage patterns and provide customized energy-saving tips.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Improved grid reliability and efficiency, better load forecasting, and reduced operational costs. AI can predict electricity demand and optimize power generation and distribution. It can also detect and diagnose faults in the grid, reducing outage times.
  • Extended Reality (XR): Improved safety, training, and operational efficiency. Utilities can use XR technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, to train workers in hazardous and remote environments. They can also use XR to simulate and test equipment or processes before deployment.
  • Digital Twins: Improved asset management, predictive maintenance, and efficiency. Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical assets that can monitor their health and performance in real-time. Utilities can use digital twins to predict maintenance needs and optimize asset performance, reducing downtime and maintenance costs.
  • Predictive Analytics: Improved grid reliability, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency. Utilities can use predictive analytics to identify patterns and anomalies in customer energy usage and grid performance, enabling them to address issues before they become problems proactively. Predictive analytics can also be used to optimize grid operations and reduce costs.
  • Self-Service Customer Portals: Improved customer satisfaction, efficiency, and cost savings. Utilities can provide self-service portals for customers to manage their accounts, track their energy usage, and make payments. This reduces the need for customer service representatives and enables customers to access information and services easily.
  • Drone Technology: Improved safety, efficiency, and cost savings. Utilities can use drones to inspect and monitor power lines, pipelines, and substations. This reduces the need for workers to perform dangerous tasks at heights or in hazardous environments and enables faster and more accurate inspections. Drones can also be used to survey land for new construction projects or to monitor vegetation growth near power lines.

Future of CX in Utilities

The future of CX in utilities is bright, with technological advancements creating new opportunities for personalized experiences and enhanced customer service. CX’s future in utilities will likely be heavily influenced by personalized, data-driven experiences, virtual assistants, peer-to-peer transactions, and services beyond electricity.

Here are some of the ways CX is expected to evolve in the utility industry:

  • Beyond Electricity: Utilities must expand their services beyond electricity to meet customers’ changing needs. This could include offering innovative home services, such as home security and automation, as well as energy-efficient products and services. With this development, utilities can generate more sales, installation, and maintenance of solar, storage, microgrids, and EV chargers.
  • Peer-to-Peer Transactions: This will become more common as customers seek more control over their energy usage and explore alternative options. Customers may be able to trade energy with each other, allowing those with excess solar power to sell it to neighbors who need it. This will provide new revenue streams, balance the grid, and optimize supplies.
  • Personalized, Data-Driven Experience: These experiences will become more critical as utilities strive to provide customized services to meet individual customer needs. Utilities must collect and analyze customer usage patterns data to deliver tailored recommendations on energy efficiency, renewable energy options, and other services. These experiences will provide real-time and historical consumption patterns and send usage and outage alerts to customers.
  • Virtual Assistants (VAs): This technology will be increasingly important in providing customer service in the utility industry. VAs can handle routine customer inquiries, provide personalized advice, and even offer energy-saving tips based on individual usage patterns. As the technology behind VAs improves, they’ll become more sophisticated, allowing utilities to provide an even better customer experience. An omnichannel VA can be used for managing energy use and optimizing attributes. The VA combines customer habits with external data (weather).

Overall, the future of CX in utilities will be shaped by a combination of personalized experiences, data-driven insights, virtual assistants, peer-to-peer transactions, and a focus on expanding services beyond electricity. Utilities that can adapt to these trends and provide exceptional customer experience will be well-positioned for success in the years ahead.

My Thoughts

As technology advances, the utility industry must adopt new technologies to remain competitive. The technologies driving utilities, such as mobile access to utility accounts and smart grid technology, are essential to improving customer experience and increasing efficiency. However, more than technology is needed. Customer experience must also be a top priority for utilities. CX platforms and solutions, such as personalized energy-saving recommendations and proactive communication, will be essential to meeting customer expectations and providing a superior customer experience.

The future of utilities will depend on their ability to innovate and adopt new technologies while prioritizing customer experience. By leveraging technology to provide personalized experiences and proactive issue resolution, utilities can stay ahead of customer expectations and remain competitive in an increasingly crowded market. With the advent of technology and innovation, utilities can now provide a better customer experience (CX) than ever before.

Brian Friedman, VP of Global Strategic Sales at SoftClouds, wrote this post. Brian has a sales technology, business development, corporate management, and sales background. Brian has been responsible for the creation and growth of numerous companies developing successful long-term relationships that have resulted in double-digit sales growth and continuing business expansion.

SoftClouds is a recognized leader in CRM/CX transformation with experience in numerous service cloud implementations with pre-configured best practice business processes for multiple verticals/domains.

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