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Different industry, similar problem: Why energy providers are looking to telcos for best practices in digital billing

The commercial and industrial (C&I) segment represents 10 to 12% of total utility customers. But with this same segment representing over 50% of total customer revenues and 50% of total support costs, companies are keen to find a way to deliver a superior experience at a lower operating cost. One CE operations exec says he has the answer – just follow the path set forth by the telecommunications industry. 

For one APAC energy provider, smart meters offer the promise of lower operating costs and happier customers. Deploying smart C&I meters greatly reduces the need for manual or drive-by meter readings, and provides more precise measurement of consumption as it relates to billing. At the same time, smart meters can help savvy C&I customers understand their consumption in order to improve energy efficiency. A win-win for the customer and the supplier.

But with new opportunity comes new challenge.

Although smart meter technology and the supporting infrastructure is readily available, there’s one major component that seems to be lacking – the front-end customer experience.

How do you integrate this new consumption-based data into your overall customer billing experience?  And how do you make it easy to digest, with the goal of reducing support versus increasing inquiries?  

After working previously in the telco space to solve a similar problem among the corporate segment, the new head of CE operations has a simple recommendation – ‘there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.’

The goal is to provide a unified digital experience that encompasses detail usage data, bills, reporting, and payments.  And ironically, this is exactly were telcos were years ago.

The similarities between the telco and energy markets make them prime allies for applying – and reapplying – best practices.  For example, both industries:

1. Offer usage-based services

Very few industries share this trait of consumption-based services and billing. This adds a level of complexity – for both the biller and the customer – when it comes to invoicing accuracy and complexity. A combination of month-end and real-time usage data is becoming table stakes for today’s digitally savvy customers.

2. Require customer visibility and validation  

Due to the usage component of products and services, bills vary month-to-month. This adds a required step of validation before bills can be allocated and processed for payment. Customers require detailed usage data and the tools to analyze that data according to their specific business requirements.

3. Serve thousands of business customers

Telecom and utilities are the top 2 billing industries by revenue and bill volumes. Suppliers have relationships with thousands of business customers, spanning from SME to complex C&I. This requires a flexible billing and reporting approach that can be tailored according to segment or customer specific needs.  

4. Lack a single view of the customer

With varying products and services and business customers with complex org and entity structures, it’s not uncommon for customers to receive multiple bills each month. This results in a siloed view of the customer relationship for both the customers themselves, as well as the supplier.

5. Have complex infrastructures due to tenure and M&A

Utilities and telecom have histories that few other industries can compete with. But with this tenure often comes a slew of systems and processes that are operating in a silo or independent state. This lack of integration has a significant impact on efficiency, as well as the resulting experience.

Different industry, similiar problems, same customers.

That’s right, the same customers making up the C&I energy segment have a direct overlap with the Enterprise & Corporate telecom segments. And to take it even further, it’s most likely the same Accounts Payable user or team who would be leveraging these solutions to validate charges, review invoices, and ultimately, submit payment.

Although the rise of smart meters may be calling for a new approach to digital invoicing in the energy space, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an approach that doesn’t exist today. 

Learn from your telecom peers to understand exactly what this valuable customer segment needs in order to accelerate review and payment – and in turn, accelerate your speed to market and level of success. 

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