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Improving Utility Customers’ Satisfaction through Real-Time Data and Alerts

With Lance Brown, Vice President of Customer Service Solutions, Smart Energy Water (SEW)

Utilities across the globe are transitioning, shifting their role from passive commodity providers to customer-centric service providers. Sustainable utilities are developing energy partnerships with their customers that revolve around creating valuable customer experiences. To do so, many utilities are providing real-time data access to connected devices that make customers’ lives simpler by allowing them to monitor, analyze and control their energy usage.

A new era of customer expectations

In the era of integrating energy services, customers expect utilities to know more about their usage patterns, and consumers want this data at their fingertips. The need for utilities is to go from being preemptive to proactive to predictive; the need for consumers is to have a seamless experience that enables them to reduce their energy consumption and, ultimately, save on each month’s bill.

According to a recent survey of nearly 1,700 U.S. consumers conducted by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), consumers are seeking real-time energy information from their utilities. When asked to rate their interest in eight utility programs, including peak rebate programs, prepaid billing and home energy management, real-time outage reporting and real-time energy usage data came out on top, with 66 and 65 percent of consumers, respectively.

Among the green champion segment, which tends to include more digital natives who take an active interest in grid modernization and climate change issues, interest in these two programs is even higher – at 76 and 75 percent.

The popularity of these programs syncs well with the top two smart grid benefits that consumers indicated in the recent survey – “saving money by using energy more efficient” at 74 percent of all consumers and “preventing and reducing the length of outages” at 70 percent. These two benefits of the smart grid and related smart grid-enabled technologies come up time and time again in SGCC’s research as being crucially import to consumers of all segments.

The emerging digital energy ecosystem

Our energy ecosystem is increasingly becoming a two-way system made up of billions of interacting endpoints: everything from the connected home, smart meters, solar PV systems to digital customer platforms. To survive in the competitive market, with Tesla, solar providers and potential other new entrants like Google or Apple, utilities need to position themselves as a consumer-centric brand for the future.

Today’s customer is sensitive to trends, and brands must respond in real time. According to SGCC’s “Customer Experience & Expectations” survey, consumers today – especially millennials, an increasingly important demographic – are comparing utilities to other service providers, like Amazon, Airbnb or Lyft, and they’re seeking similar intuitive digital solutions.

There are several ways that utilities can keep up with changing customer expectations. One example is utility bill information, fed automatically from the utility, which can facilitate an automatic reconciliation of billed usage. Another example would be maintaining a load profile and comparing the load profile to process data or other relevant reference data. This capability will allow the utility to make agile decisions. Lastly, usage reporting capability helps to identify usage inefficiencies on a real-time basis.

One company who is working to enable consumers to better control their energy usage is Smart Energy Water (SEW). The SEW cloud platform helps utilities engage their customers through digital channels and empowers customers to pay bills on the go, raise service requests and compare their usage with their peers.

Customers get actionable recommendations through their preferred channel, like SMS text messaging, interactive voice response (IVR), email and push notifications, and SEW leverages its cloud technology to ensure utilities achieve their customer success goals, including increased consumer adoption and satisfaction.

Real-time engagement for future sustainability

Technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and utilities can now utilize partnerships with technology vendors to help solve the challenges of today’s demanding customer requirements. As a key first step, many utilities are measuring and providing real-time energy consumption data to deliver better opportunities for savings for their customer base. For this, utilities need to segment their customers as per the level of engagement – from basic to “prosumer” level. Each utility needs to decide on its strategy to drive success from real-time engagement with its customers. 

Reporting energy usage in real time, sending meaningful alerts and making actionable recommendations to consumers about their energy habits enables them to take control and reduce their energy consumption. The Smart Energy Water (SEW) SCM platform helps utilities engage with their customers and helps customers save on both energy and water. Customers have self-service capabilities to enroll for various conservation tips and access usage data. Customers can also enroll in energy efficiency and demand response programs, rebates and savings tips through any device. These programs allow customers to participate in events as well as assisting in improving demand-supply management during peak hours, thereby reducing the overall consumption.

Customer engagement is crucial for any electric, water and gas utility today. Marketing, customer service and business mobility are all vehicles used to create customer loyalty, satisfaction and interaction that will increase productivity. While utilities look for more efficient and reliable ways to deliver energy to customers, their customers look for lower energy bills through changes in their consumption patterns, driven by the use of digital channels to receive usage data in real time. Smart Energy Water (SEW) leverages its cloud technology and ensures utilities achieve their customer success goals – resulting in customer retention, expansion and satisfaction.

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