The following is a contributed article by James Eardley, a Global Director in SAP Hybris Industry Marketing.
Andre and Zola are moving from the suburbs to the city, and via social media, they share how excited they are for life with a shorter commute, fewer strip malls and more of the culture they crave.
Using machine learning-powered monitoring and analytics tools, Flash Energy, the utility company that will provide energy service to Andre and Zola at their new city home, just as it did in the suburbs, learns of their impending move via those same social media posts.
In response, the utility triggers an automatic advertisement to post on the couple's social channels, providing them with a click-through to the utility's change-of-service web page. Based on the couple's power usage history, the utility, once the change-of-service process is complete, offers them a customized bundle that includes a favorable power rate, plus a new smart thermostat, free of charge. Andre and Zola sign up for the service bundle and schedule installation of the thermostat on the spot.
A few weeks later, as they're unpacking boxes at their new home, a Flash Energy technician arrives at the appointed time, installs the new thermostat and shows the couple how to use it. The company has given Andre and Zola even more reason to love their move to the city, and the couple, via a quick text-based post-installation "How did we do?" survey, tells the utility how happy they are with their service. Oh, and by the way, they also mention that they are interested in purchasing an electric vehicle. To be continued…
Experience management shows value
This entire hypothetical interaction, as much as it has strengthened the bond between consumer and utility while positioning Flash Energy as a trusted source of solutions and advice, is made possible by experience management (XM), a term that refers to the growing emphasis businesses, including utilities, are putting on experience data — and the intelligent technologies to gather, interpret and act upon it.
Represented by the equation X+O=XM, where O is the business operations data gathered from across the enterprise and X is the experience data gathered from feedback provided by customers, employees and other relevant parties, XM essentially is how enterprises connect the insight they gain from that feedback directly to business outcomes.
XM is proving its value in more than hypothetical settings. One of the largest investor-owned electric systems in the United States leaned heavily on XM in developing a new unregulated online B2C marketplace for EV chargers, connected home plans, connected home audio/visual equipment and more.
Due in large part to the X+O intelligence it gained, what started as a trial balloon a couple of years ago has grown into a vital revenue source for the company. It's but one example of how utilities like this one are investing in the digital tools to build out their XM capabilities in both unregulated and regulated settings, and realizing just how big a difference XM can make to the ongoing relevance and profitability of their business and their brand by enabling them to:
1. Intelligently identify and capitalize on new business opportunities.
It turns out Flash Energy was listening when Andre and Zola mentioned being interested in an electric vehicle.
Once that mention in the couple's text message survey response is flagged by machine learning tools attached to the utility's CRM system, it automatically triggers the system to create a customized marketing pitch around an EV bundle that includes the actual EV, available via a local auto dealer with which Flash Energy has partnered, with a rebate from the utility for purchasing the vehicle, plus a discounted rate for charging the vehicle in off-peak hours, along with the option of an installed home charger for a modest monthly fee.
Again, Andre and Zola enthusiastically accept the offer. Flash Energy quarterbacks the entire process, including vehicle acquisition, assistance with claiming federal and state tax incentives, and installation of the home charger.
With the ability to collect, analyze and act upon X and O data, a utility can test various scenarios around pricing, billing, consumption and customer preference to develop new business models and revenue streams built on the lifestyle-oriented energy efficiency products and services that consumers increasingly crave.
With a strong end-to-end digital backbone, it can capture feedback to better understand customer preferences around industry adoption of new products and services before they are introduced, then, armed with that insight, quickly and straightforwardly operationalize and scale up a new venture or offering accordingly.
2. Improve the customer experience.
Research by IDC indicates that utilities and other energy suppliers have plenty of room to improve the experience they provide customers.
"Energy consumers around the world suggest that the customer experience provided by energy suppliers is mediocre at best," IDC concludes, citing ratings in which consumers gave energy suppliers an average score of 3.03 on a scale of 1 to 5. What's more, according to research from Capgemini, 73% of utility customers would be willing to spend more for a better experience.
In a highly commoditized energy business, the ability to consistently deliver an elevated customer experience can be a powerful competitive differentiator for the relationships it can help a utility to cultivate and deepen. Doing so requires having the digital tools to capture and act upon consumer feedback in a timely fashion, and then to create quality interactions and experiences along the entire customer journey.
Once the X and O data is gathered, synthesized and analyzed, it's critical to have a robust, responsive customer experience environment capable of translating that understanding into outstanding experiences.
A utility could, for example, use digital channels to trigger feedback from both customers and technicians (including third-party) after a service experience. From the customer side, it hears that its service technicians don't seem knowledgeable on certain issues, while it hears from technicians that they don't feel adequately trained by the company to address those same issues.
Armed with real-time insight into the key factors influencing important service KPIs, the company can move promptly to remedy customer issues while adjusting its training protocols to better prepare technicians.
3. Turn their organization into a talent magnet.
According to a recent report from the Energy Futures Initiative, 77% of U.S. energy industry employers have had difficulty hiring qualified workers in the last 12 months, up almost 7% from the prior year.
In a tight market for talent, delivering an elevated employee experience provides a powerful competitive edge. Indeed, according to analysis by Qualtrics, organizations that focus on employee experience report up to four times more profit per employee, three times more revenue per employee and have a turnover rate 40% lower than the average company.
Say a utility's analysis of O data identifies several service issues: unacceptably long lead times for executing work orders, a high rate of back-ordered materials on service calls, plus a high incidence of customer complaints about technicians' quality of service. With XM tools, the utility could, via mobile app, collect feedback from technicians after they complete service visits.
Maybe it learns that technicians consistently feel undertrained and lack adequate information about material requirements to complete the job. It then can move to strengthen training in the identified area(s) and subsequently reward technicians for completing that training, while also improving labor and materials planning by providing technicians with timelier, more thorough work orders. Now those technicians feel their employer is investing more in their on-the-job success.
Bigger picture, by combining the intelligence they gain from the X and O data, utilities gain a more rounded picture of the key experience drivers impacting engagement and attrition in the workforce. They then can allocate resources accordingly to strengthen training, to upskill employees to work in growing new areas of the business, and to give them tools that help them do their jobs better.
This in turn fuels the higher level of workforce engagement that is critical to reducing turnover and keeping valued employees.
One way to stay relevant with energy consumers like Andre and Zola and to stay a step ahead of the disruptive forces that are shaping the energy business is to become a disruptor yourself. Experience management is the X factor that is enabling utility companies to do just that.