PSI Mobile are delighted to be attending this years Utility Week Live event at the NEC Birmingham on 22 & 23 May.
We’re going on something of a reconnaissance mission and are looking forward to the opportunity to meet our industry peers across water, gas, electricity sectors, to get a feel for their current challenges.
The theme of the event is Disruption and many of the discussions on the agenda are centred on the fast-paced changes rippling across the industry. One of the major talking points will inevitably be the drive toward digitisation. For us it will be interesting to learn about the strategies and approaches companies are taking to meet digital disruption head on.
Disruption is a phrase that we see bandied about a lot; traditionally it can have negative implications since it implies upheaval, change and uncertainty. However, to us it means something different. It’s an opportunity to innovate, abandon old ways of doing things, and embrace new technologies to make greater efficiency a reality (rather than a pipe dream). That’s something we feel very strongly about. The event will be an opportunity to offset - even neutralise - the anxieties and pressures facing a modern utility company.
We believe that there are 4 key questions that can assist in developing a more successful digital business strategy and executable plan:
1. How confident are you that you have a strategy in place to address disruption via digital channels? How far along are you in implementing these plans?
2016 seems like ancient history in some respects - but has much changed since we blogged about the International Data Corporation (IDC) report back then?
The report looked at the state of the utilities industry as it was. It assessed the attitudes of senior executives and how they planned to cope with the digital changes and challenges being foisted upon them. The results were alarming - just 22% of considered themselves ‘innovative.’ Now, two years down the line consumer habits have changed - mobile and ecommerce spend has grown exponentially - but have senior utilities executives changed their position inline with this? Inquiring minds need to know.
- 2. What is your company doing to embrace customer-centricity?
Customer satisfaction has always been crucial to building a loyal customer base, but we can’t rely on customers to keep coming back for more. Changing consumer habits and increased competition has left utilities brands battling to keep customers engaged, which in many cases has contributed to falling customer retention.
At Utility Week Live, it will be interesting to see how providers are creating meaningful engagement with their customers. Have they learned anything from the retail industry, which is streets ahead of everyone else in terms of improving customer service via digital channels?
- 3. Is your company concerned about the trend towards decentralisation of processes?
Decentralisation describes a situation where decision-making is delegated to people outside the management of an organisation. While this sounds like making a huge leap of faith from a top-down perspective, if utilities companies want to meet their customer service promises, speed and time are of the essence. Are the outsourced field-based sales reps still initiating sales without immediate follow-through?
Before management can loosen their grip on every small process that requires sign-off, they must first put in place a solution for digitising and storing content from their information network. System-generated analytics and data can then feed into reports which can be presented to management, or used to inform and assist other departments in their interventions. For example, if your third-party metre operators aren’t making their appointments with customers, does your customer services team know in real time so they can enact damage limitation?
The benefits of such a system are twofold: bottlenecks in decision-making are relieved but since managers can also log into a central system, they retain full visibility without having to micromanage in a deliberate way. It will also give other departments the crucial tool they need to ensure they can work proactively and efficiently.
4. How concerned are you about increased regulatory scrutiny and issues of trust in the utilities industry?
GDPR, Brexit and the influence of consumer watchdog groups have the potential to change how utilities interact with their customers. As regulatory scrutiny has increased (along with the introduction of stipulations around competition) the profitability of smaller companies in particular has been impacted. On the other hand, larger providers have hoisted up prices in order to protect their bottomline (a move that has not been without controversy.)
Utilities providers need to be able to balance the needs of their customers against shareholder demand for increased profit - and it’s a minefield out there. The ability to capture, store and report on accurate operational data, in real time, is crucial. This is what drives optimised business decisions and improves inefficiencies with the overarching aim of increasing the company’s profitability.
We see many utilities struggling with significant legacy issues in the drive towards digitisation; getting in the way of them delivering a truly holistic business strategy. This is almost always down to the capability of their technology, which is where we assist in plugging the gaps. (PSI are happy to consult with providers for whom this remains a challenge.)
Last year Utility Week Live attracted 5000 visitors over 2 days - that’s a lot of conversations. If you would like to meet a PSI rep at the event for a chat and a coffee (on us!) please contact Amy or Grace. We hope to see you there!
Grace Moore/Amy Keith