Industry Stories

How are Customers Influencing the Utilities Behavior?

Spring is here! And as part of my spring project, I ordered some furniture last week from the ‘build your own furniture’ store, only to realize that I was going to travel to Tampa for the Utilities CS Week during the weekend and would not be around to work on assembling the furniture.

So I texted Tim - the handyman, with a request for service. Within a minute, Tim replied to my text message asking me for my address, preferred delivery time, and giving me a window of service. In the next 30 seconds, he texted me asking me for the furniture model number / parts so that he could look up the instructional videos and is better prepared to service me right, the first time. Sounds great? Can customers in the utility industry expect the same experience?

My brief interaction with the handyman from the furniture store inspired me to define three key mantras that the customers of today are expecting. I shared my thoughts along with my fellow speakers at the recently concluded CS Week that included Henry Bailley from SAP, Justin Segall from Simple Energy and Eric Dresselhuys of Smart Energy Water. Collectively, we shared our views on the major changes in customer expectations and how they will impact the utility customer service in terms of people, process and technology strategies.

Three Mantras for Customer Delight

1.Know your Customer

  • Before the customer tells you about them, preempt concerns. Please them by providing them with the service they need at the time and location they prefer. Data plays a key role in knowing your customer well
  • While Tim had a rudimentary way of finding information about me, utilities already have the customer data for a 360-degree view. How do they derive insights from the data they already have is key to delivering value to the customers. This was emphasized by one of the CS Week executive sessions, where expert insights into developing a robust analytics roadmap and effectively applying data analytics to create a significant return on investments was shared with the audience
  • Utilities world over and leaders across America are investing in a single view of customer capabilities

2.Communicate Proactively in the Medium the Customer is used to

  • Tim didn’t call me back or send me an email, even though that is how he has been conducting business for the last two decades. He responded to my text message with a text question, driving the conversation on the same platform that I was comfortable with
  • Whether it is outage communication, service window communication or street maintenance planning advisory notes, your customer expects a proactive communication from you, just like they expect it from other service providers and vendors, like Amazon and Fedex. Another executive session at the CS Week discussed new capabilities that were being borne out of disasters. Providing customer support during fires and floods calls for a lot of effort in being responsive to restoring the services a customer expects
  • What is important is, they expect it as a ‘Channel Less’ service; Omni-channel doesn’t cut it anymore

3. Equip your Field Service to Serve your Customer Right, the First Time

  • Empowering the field service representative with customer information has become the norm, and so has instructional content and enabling mechanisms for finishing the service request in the appropriate window

The above expectations are what I call ‘outside in’ expectations that need to drive the Customer Experience transformation. In addition, there are technology enabled transformations that the Utility is empowered to take on today.

Bring Efficiency into Your Customer Experience with Technology Enabled Transformations

  • Deploy extreme digital process automation
    • Success in Customer Service will be increasingly about unifying efficiency with experience
    • What percentage of interactions are truly proactive Vs being reactive? Utilities customer service is typically designed to react to situations
    • Back office work needs to be highly automated and front office work needs to be mostly system guided and human empathy driven for the agents to deliver a proactive, seamless, channel-less, empathizing customer experience
    • Digital process automation capabilities like RPA, case management, text analytics, real time decision management, desktop automation, assisted automation, cross channel bots in your call centers are not optional anymore. Implementing automation/AI platforms like NIA or considering customer insights platforms for better customer communications and digital experiences will enable you as a utility company to focus your energies on the three mantras
  • Enable the smart grid vision
    • Integrating demand side management and distributed general capabilities in customer experience is being adopted across the electric utility industry
    • We are likely to see Blockchain adoption through pilots in this space over the next couple of years, to enable the true peer collaboration model that the smart grid envisioned over a decade ago
  • Enhance Customer Experience in line with the Big Five
    • Let’s face it, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft - the big five, or the frightful five (as some forums call them) - determine what customers expect from their digital experience
    • With immense data at their disposal that tell them about customer preference and usage, they are constantly setting the bar high when it comes to customizing the customer experience
    • Whether it is gathering energy efficiency preferences from Google, or communicating through Facebook, or ordering the smart thermostat from personal assistants like Alexa that controls the central AVAC or Gas Heater, we can no longer think they are outside our sector. Increasing integration with the big five will be key to any modern customer experience

To know how Infosys helps utilities create empowering customer experiences, visit