Trends and Pain Points In Utility Operations

March 3, 2019
Swivelt - Utilities

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The marketplace has changed drastically over the past decade and looks to transform even more quickly in the near future. Technological advancements, in particular, have raised standards of performance both internally to the industry and also among consumers.

Here are the major trends and pain points in the industry and a look at what utility companies can do to keep up.

Rise in Popularity of Alternative Sources of Energy

Utilities must prepare to work with customers who specifically wish to use only renewable sources. This could be from external sources or from their own solar and wind mechanisms. Customers with their own sources will wish to work with utilities who will buy excess power from individual household producers. Regulators in some states may work to compel utilities to have more flexible relationships with consumers looking at using alternative energy. 

Digitalization, Internet of Things, and Other Advances Will Revolutionize the Industry

With manufacturing and the transportation sector leading the way, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technological advances will transform the way most companies look at production and distribution. Utilities must also follow suit.

IoT devices hold a strong track record of dramatically increasing efficiencies. They can monitor production and distribution systems, reporting to human operators in the home office or the field. Such devices can collect and analyze data to perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Informing when key machinery may soon fail
  • Improving quality control through monitoring utility plant operations
  • Helping workers in the field find technical issues more quickly
  • Helping supervisors better monitor and direct the progress of field operations

Advances do not stop with the advent of the IoT. Unmanned drones can check power lines, pipelines, and other infrastructure for issues and even help to identify sources of outages much more quickly. 

Overall, advances in data collection will enable utilities to not only operate more efficiently and reduce costs, but also serve customers more effectively. IoT data mining from production and distribution, combined with that collected from customer service systems, can give utilities a real competitive edge. This edge will grow more necessary as non-utility providers (who may have the potential to capture up to one-fifth of the energy consumption market in the near future) enter the market more aggressively.

Customer Service Pain Points and Technology Based Solutions

In 2016, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative polled 2,000 American utility customers. They found that an overwhelming number of consumers desire more personalized and relevant offers and discounts. While utilities did not perform as well at individualization as banks or online retailers, they still outperformed cable and other entertainment providers. One of the main problems lies in offers and deals requiring too much effort from customers for not enough return.

Additionally, experts agree that utilities can do more to personalize their relationship with customers in ways that offer more convenience. They suggest that utilities follow the banking industry by creating mobile apps that help customers monitor service, pay bills from their mobile phone, and make other areas of the service relationship more efficient. 

Better interaction through social media and the advent of Web 2.0 can also help to reduce frustration and pain points while actively working to recruit and retain customers. Web 2.0 refers to the evolution of the internet into a more participatory environment, especially in terms of communication, information sharing, and problem resolution. This has the potential to reduce or eliminate the most frustrating customer service experience with utility providers, the long wait for service on the phone when the message tree cannot help.

The Customer May Not Always Be Right, But the Market Is

Technology changes have created a broader energy consumption landscape that traditional utilities must address, or face a loss of share. Consumers want more convenience, better offers, and service with as little interruption as possible. They also desire simple and personalized solutions to household and business energy needs. 

Pain points still exist and will always exist The advancement of technology and continual discovery of energy resources in the United States, however, point to a potentially bright future for utilities and their consumers, if they invest in the technology and the techniques that connect them better to customers. 

How Swivelt Provides Solutions

Swivelt’s strong track record of success in creating technology-based customer service solutions can help any utility build their positive profile now. Utilities should not wait until non-utility competition starts pushing into the market. Swivelt provides omni-channel marketing, and customized mobile app service, as well as access to analytics and AI-based technology. Using these new technologies will help utility companies develop a stronger relationship and bond with customers, assisting dramatically in acquisition and retention. 

Contact us to learn more about how our services can benefit your organization.

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