Learn more about SAP Intelligent Customer Experience at SAP for Utilities, Presented by ASUG (October 9-11, 2023) in Chicago, IL.

Today, many utilities in the energy retail space are focused on improving customer experience with a combination of technology, strategy, and design. But, for energy and water companies committed to progress in this area, what does customer experience actually mean?

Historically, customer experience has referred to traditional Meter-to-Cash processes, where the only time customers communicated with utilities was to turn a service on or off, inquire about a bill or make a payment, or request a meter reading or additional service.

In those times, utilities’ marketing came in the form of an insert with monthly bills that almost nobody looked at. But with digitization transforming one industry after another, today’s customers expect more from their utilities and how those utilities communicate than ever before.

Today's utilities work toward decarbonization goals and pursue decentralized power generation, through sources such as wind turbines and rooftop solar panels, initiatives that impact utilities’ margins. This mandates the creation of new business models to source new revenue streams. With customers now investing in their own solar panels, tankless water appliances, heat pumps, and so on, utilities need to find a way to stay relevant by offering these products as well as associated services (such as selling or leasing and providing warranties, installation, maintenance, and tune-up services), as part of their portfolios. In short, utilities must offer energy and non-energy related products and services to remain competitive.

When I recently prepared to move. I contacted my gas company to schedule a turn-off service at my old property and turn-on service at my new property. The gas company offered to schedule all turn-off/on services for electricity, water, internet, and cable, if I provided the associated company names. The gas company also marketed additional offers, stating that, if I bundled my internet, cable, and mobile service together with a single telecommunications provider, they would give me the sports channel for free for the first year. My gas company was upselling me on telecommunication products. I was also provided with a list of what needed to be accomplished during the move and, with it, a list of moving companies their team had worked with. My gas company is now in the moving business.

One new mantra from utility companies is that they want to “be the Amazon of utilities,” a one-stop shop. That's easier said than done, and where intelligent customer experience comes into play.

Today’s consumers demand a personalized customer experience, one that can predict their habits and interests as well as effectively market products and services. They're looking for the Barnes & Noble experience, where the quality of the product—and the satisfaction of the customer—comes first.

If we use purchasing solar panels as an example, customers look for storefronts on utilities’ websites to browse product and service offerings. If a customer browsed one of these sites and researched a 5.0kW system, that information would then be stored in a data library. The next time that customer accessed that utility’s website, the site would recognize them and remind them that they had previously considered a 5.0kW system. The site would make targeted suggestions, perhaps displaying that people who looked at 5.0kW systems also looked at 6.5kW systems and specific battery storage capacities.

If this customer decided to purchase or lease either system, the utility could manage the sales transaction through a back-to-back agreement with Solar Panel Inc., schedule the delivery and installation, manage the installation contractors, and offer additional warranties and maintenance.

That's intelligent customer experience at work, placing the customer in the middle of the equation and connecting people with resources. Customers are everywhere, and resources are anywhere; it's a business imperative of the intelligent utility to bring them together.

The key to providing an intelligent customer experience is that an organization’s data library, storefront, marketing team sales operations, and service capabilities must work seamlessly together. Such connectivity will allow utilities to:

  • Increase loyalty and reduce customer churn by optimizing and personalizing customers’ omni-channel engagements.
  • Increase revenues and reduce time to market for new products by enabling direct-to-consumer and personalized sales channels.
  • Increase customers’ share of wallet and LTV through omni-channel and convenient shopping experiences integrated with operations.
  • Increase service efficiency and customer satisfaction by aligning demand, after-sales, and fulfilment processes across multiple channels.
  • Increase sales network efficiency by converging high-touch and digital sales, marketing, and after-sales channels.
  • Increase loyalty and reduce customer churn in after-sales service and operations.
  • Increase profits and revenue streams through everything-as-service business models​.

With these new business models, utilities will develop new networks and revenue streams, remaining competitive and profitable. How do you foresee the future of an intelligent customer experience? After all, we're all customers. 

Feel free to share your thoughts with me, at ja.mcclelland@sap.com, or with ASUG, at asugnews@asug.com.

James McClelland is responsible for global marketing for the utilities industry at SAP.

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