Customer engagement discussion kickstarts African Utility Week


Customer engagement and digitisation of utility operations are some of the trending topics addressed during the opening day of the 2018 African Utility Week (AUW) yesterday.

AUW is an annual event where stakeholders in the utilities industry meet and discuss challenges being faced in the sector, as well as showcase solutions to address industry constraints. This year’s edition is currently underway at the Cape Town International Convention Center.

In a presentation on revenue cycle management and metering, Florian Frömberg, Industry Principal at SAP Hybris, discussed how utilities can optimise customer engagement using digital and innovative solutions.

Enhancing customer engagement helps improve branding. “Brands are important. Utilities need to care about how they are perceived by customers,” he said.

Despite various challenges to digitise customer engagement on a global scale, to date utilities have customer engagement as their number one focus.

The focus is being driven by changing utility business models and by the shift from consumers to prosumers.

Utilities need to know “the future competitor might be your customer,” added Florian.

Florian predicts there will be an increase in onsite consumer energy generation and demand for digital services, including real-time access to usage data and bill payment via applications, globally.

He highlighted some trending customer requirements:

  • The provision of advice and actions to reduce bills – 58%
  • Personalised advice on products and services that consumers can purchase to reduce bills – 45%
  • Provide early notifications when bills exceed normal levels – 31%
  • Micro-generation products to generate energy at home – 28%
  • Increased functionality on web and mobile channels – 27%
  • Enhanced customer service – 15%

When asked where utilities should start when digitising customer engagement processes, Florian said energy companies need to start with the development of IT strategies.

They need to understand what they want to achieve and what their customers want. Knowing what consumers are requesting can simply be done by combining data on consumer inquiries submitted via customer call centers and websites, he said.