• Customer Engagement
  • Utility Customer Engagement
  • Utility-Customer Relationships

Utilities Get More Customer-Centric

Neil Strother
Dec 04, 2019

Overhead Power Lines 6

Electric utilities are turning the corner on customer-centric approaches. This is the key message from a panel discussion held during Edison Electric Institute’s financial conference. For instance, customer segmentation has become a required part of customer-centricity, say the panelists.

The Customer-Centric Approach Is Based on Data

Panelist Barbara Higgins, chief customer officer at Duke Energy, found that broad customer segments, including large industrial customers, small- and medium-size businesses, government agencies, and residential customers have “huge differences in needs.” She adds, “We found in our small- and medium-size businesses, for instance, that we served some less well than others,” such as builders, developers, and agricultural customers.

So, Duke dug deeper into what it knew about its customers, in part using psycho-graphic data to help further segment the people and companies they serve. But Higgins says, “The most helpful data has been regular behavioral data.” Behavioral data helps determine if a customer is new and needs extensive assistance, or one who simply needs guidance for how to interact with the company, or perhaps a more passive customer who just needs the power turned on.

Another utility adopting the customer-centric approach is ENGIE. The French energy giant recently announced a deal with Accenture, Salesforce, and Vlocity to deploy a unified customer relationship management platform that places customers at the center of its business. The platform is also aimed at enabling ENGIE’s global workforce to drive customer success, transitioning them to zero-carbon energy. “We decided to be part of the solution by moving to zero-carbon and helping others do the same,” says Isabelle Kocher, ENGIE CEO. “Decarbonized energy and digital technology are the lifeblood of ENGIE going forward.”

Smart Cities Take Hold in the Middle East

Electric utilities are not alone in focusing more on customers, cities and water utilities are also. The idea of smart cities is taking hold in the Middle East and managing water more intelligently is a key objective. “As the region embarks on its smart cities mission, we see utilities becoming even more customer-centric and playing a wider role as a connected service provider …” notes Francois Frigaux, regional sales director for Sensus in the Middle East and North Africa. The new role of utilities brings, “Technologically advanced solutions that offer real-time intel on issues ahead of time, as well as solutions to identify and quickly address problems in the instance that they do arise.”

For many years, utilities struggled to view customers in the same way as other industries, such as retail or hospitality, often calling customers ratepayers. But the broader market has changed and utilities are finally getting on board with digital tools widely in use and customers expecting services tailored to their specific needs. This shift is a welcome one, and it is noted in Guidehouse Insights’s Home Energy Management Overview report, which discusses the move toward a more customer-centric approach.