Utilities have this year increased investments in online customer engagement tools as part of their digital strategies.
Apart from improving services and customer experience, online tools for customer engagement tend to help energy providers reduce manual tasks for their workforce at the same time reducing operational costs.
For instance, the emergence of smart meters and related online tools allow consumers to access real-time energy usage data and monthly bills using mobile devices, instead of energy companies posting consumer energy bills or sending out workers to issue monthly bills.
Utility customer engagement market
A new study conducted recently by Navigant forecasts utility spending on customer engagement tools to increase from $3.6 billion in 2017 to $5.2 billion in 2026.
According to the report, consumers are demanding services equivalent to those offered by large corporations such as Amazon, Google and Uber hence energy retailers will increase investments in customer engagement by investing in such tools.
The report states that websites with self- servicing capabilities, online chat and mobile applications are amongst the most popular customer engagement tools regarded standard.
Energy customers want to be notified of the occurrence of outages, Time of Use energy pricing, energy efficiency tips and other utility services using innovative and digital tools.
Michael Kelly, research analyst with Navigant Research. “Today, utilities must work to engage customers proactively through multiple channels—and for multiple purposes.”
ComEd secured an award for its customer engagement programme, which the utility claims has reduced the duration of some 70,000 outages reported using the platform.
ComEd integrated its meter ping technology with customer engagement tools including ComEd.com, mobile applications, mobile web, sms and Facebook.
The integration enables ComEd to remotely check faults on a customer’s meter in the event he/she reports an outage, using tools integrated with the technology. [ComEd awarded for customer engagement programme].
PEPCO ensured its customers have knowledge on the day to day operations of their energy providers, subsidiaries of PEPCO, by launching an online news portal.
According to a statement, the online portal ‘The Source’ will provide news on investments made, programmes being implemented and plans by PEPCO and its sister companies Atlantic City Electric and Delmarva Power.
Traditional customer engagement measures
Despite online tools being defined as standard customer engagement measures, face to face interaction with consumers remains one of the most significant ways in which utilities can communicate with customers.
UK Power Networks got recognition from Ofgem for directly engaging with its customers and improve customer services using data gathered from the meetings.
The utility was ranked second out of six in the energy regulator's 2016-2017 Stakeholder Engagement and Consumer Vulnerability Incentive.
In 2016 and 2017, UK Power Networks engaged with 44,648 consumers at 125 events to register customers to its Priority Service Register, which the company use to personalize energy efficiency services to registered customers.
The energy sector continues to evolve with the introduction of new and innovative solutions and business models.
What other capabilities will solution developers integrate into online customer engagement tools in the near future? Will face-to-face interactions between consumers and energy providers be a thing of the past?
To what extent can we say utility workers are at risk of losing jobs due to increases in adoption of digital customer engagement tools?
I guess we will have to wait and see.
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