by Paul McRoberts, President
If you caught our blog series on industry disruption, you learned how rising data volumes, smart technologies and evolving skillsets are redefining the way we approach utilities analytics. Think of them as the “Three Dominos Utilities Disruption.” But what our two-part series didn’t explore was the fourth and arguably most impactful domino, the one that falls first and forces the others to knock into each other: you and I, the utilities customer.
Customers Want More from Utility Providers
We’re high maintenance. We need hundreds of movies, shows and TV channels at our disposal at any given second, we need to make purchases at the click of a button without ever setting foot in a store, and we need to be able to do it all with a super-computer that fits in the palms of our hands. Why should we expect any less convenience from our utilities provider? In Deloitte’s 2019 Power and Utilities Industry Outlook report, Scott Smith introduces the “new normal,” a utilities paradigm ruled by the customer experience. Let’s unpack the components of this new normal.
Control and Choice
The Deloitte Resources 2018 Study reveals that we as customers are taking a more active role in managing our power consumption than ever before:
- 47% of respondents rated the prospect of having greater flexibility with their own power consumption as “very/extremely” motivating.
- Consumer interest in time-of-use rates, rate plans that offer lower energy prices during off-peak hours, has jumped over 30% from 2017.
- Roughly half of Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers subscribe to the idea of using smart meters to manage energy consumption.
- One-quarter of customers receive energy-saving tips via social media.
But what’s driving the statistics? In a word: youth. Millennials, folks who Pew Research clocks between the ages of 22 and 37, show substantially more interest in energy-management tools like smart meters, time-of-use rates and digital applications than any other generation surveyed by Deloitte. Climate change is another major driver. 68% of respondents admit to being very concerned about their personal contributions to climate change, and nearly half want more access to green energy sources. Based on this research, clearly our behavior as utilities customers is changing and providers should be on alert.
Understandably, as we take a greater role in our own power consumption, we want greater participation and support from our providers, just like we do when something goes wrong with our iPhone or we have a question about an Amazon purchase. Providers admit that this is an uncomfortable demand—in the Utilities Analytics Institute’s State of the Market recap, companies rate customer service as the second-greatest challenge facing them today. The question is: Are these customer service challenges due to a lack of personnel, resources, strategy or all of the above? Most likely the latter.
Price-shopping is another component of the new norm in utilities. This shouldn’t be surprising given our desire for greater control of where our energy dollars go, but providers need to be taking note—and some already are. Deloitte suggests that heightened competition among providers is part of the reason why we’re seeing increased adoption of tools like advanced analytics and customer-facing apps.
How Providers Are Responding
This new normal has a ripple effect that impacts the consumer-facing providers handling metering all the way to the upstream ones responsible for power generation and management. The good news is these providers are in prime position to meet these evolving demands, and data is their greatest advantage. Being able to harness just a fraction of the billions of bytes of data running through networks each day gives companies a viewpoint into their infrastructure can lead to smoother operations, greater efficiencies and smarter performance. We just mentioned the growing adoption of advanced analytics and customer apps, but these tools are only the start. The larger shift is what’s happening with the way utilities providers are running their businesses.
Miss our series on utilities disruption? No problem!