The ‘Utility’ of the future will be Invisible

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Having worked in the utilities domain with a Fintech bent of mind has been very educational. I am fascinated with how the monolithic finance sector has evolved over time to a point where closing branches is a now a normal event in retail banking.

“Digital or Not” is not a debatable issue anymore – the way services and products are being consumed across the world is transforming. Digital change is here! The myriad customer experiences that the Fintech industry offers like telephonic banking (voice authenticated banking), internet banking, and mobile banking, opens up our minds to ask “What’s next?”. We are at a stage where, Natural Language Processing (Siri, Google Now, and Cortana) is fast becoming the preferred choice of User interface/User experience and how humans interact with computers. Customer Experience is the new paradigm.

Having worked in the utilities domain for over 17 years, I have seen how the Electricity, Water and Gas organisations have had to redefine their strategic intent business models and customer journeys to incorporate the shift in how the customers consume their services. For years, “customer services” was an alien word in utilities but has been put in the spotlight due to regulatory drivers with the “360-degree view” of customers being envisioned by the organisations. It was cultivated by initiatives such as Omni-channel integration, social media drives and KYC (Know your customer) championed by some future-thinking utilities. This has led to bleeding-edge outcomes ranging from interactive websites to mobile apps to the next step of integrating the utility bills with “ALEXA” from Amazon.

We have pushed the boundary of what is possible a bit more with every technological innovation to a point where we are able to deliver proactive customer services, wherein technology can be leveraged to tell people when they want to know something and what that is. This heralds the phase of prosumers (producing customers) – some have defined these prosumers as a competitor to utility organisations themselves.

While on the other end of the spectrum, we still hear horror stories about inaccurate bill calculation, the horrors of switching suppliers once a smart meter has been installed (as in the case of SMETS1) and Data Communication Company being delayed (again), debates like Is there a business case for Smart meter etc. This brings us to question what really is next.

In the immediate horizon, we are looking into how we can incorporate Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Cognitive Computing to build the future that is both consumer-centric and prosumer-friendly, while driving down the carbon footprint of the humankind.

Mankind has always had the aspiration to make life easier for themselves either by industrial evolution or digital revolution. I truly believe that customer experience would not just be a more intuitive multi-channel and proactive but real customer experience would be to have no interaction with the customer at all, if the customer would never have to call the utility company at all, that would be the NIRVANA state of customer satisfaction because then, the human can do what they like to do best in being creative rather than interacting with companies.

Specifically for the utilities sector, I would define this as an “Invisible Utility”, a utility organisation that knows all the relevant data points about the customer and their behaviors and adapt to provide a seamless service without any customer intervention at all.

But I believe that over the next 10 years this would be the norm to (not) engage with your customer. Hence Let’s all aspire towards a place where we should try and streamline the processes, systems and behaviors to align to deliver an invisible customer experience for the betterment of human kind and environment  whole.

 

Vikesh Sachdeva

Vikesh Sachdeva is a senior advisor focusing on engineering leading-edge digital solutions for utility segment. Over the past 17 years, Vikesh has helped redesign utility business processes and regulatory regime, with his work ranging from Mergers and Acquisitions, business strategy and roadmaps, turning around organizations to adopting technology faster. Vikesh has been instrumental in delivering value for many utility organisation helping them achieve best in class performance which has been recognized both by regulator and shareholders alike while delivering best value to the customers

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