How has the implementation of utility digitalization strategies changed the way your utility interacts with its customers?
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- Oct 1, 2020 3:16 am GMTSep 24, 2020 4:10 pm GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 10/2020 - Advances in Utility Digitalization, click here for more
I’ll tackle this from less of a utility specific view, but rather what I have observed in my time in both public and IOU spaces (and under the guise of my consulting firm such that my views do not represent my current or previous employers).
Customers today require communication flow to be bidirectional and intelligent. Customers want the ability to easily connect with their utility, which is provided through multiple channels including web, mobile app, SMS, chatbots, IVRs and call center agents. Waiting on hold is not acceptable, and being able to instantly interact with a utility, for whatever reason, is crucial. Outage notification, bill payment, power usage – customers want these functions to be available, and quickly usable, at a moment’s notice. Utilities I have worked for invest heavily in these channels, not only for how they interact with the customer, but also how they integrate behind the scenes – the ability to effectively send data upstream and downstream to systems that need to act on the data in order to address the customer need.
At the same time, utilities are driving digitalization through the grid itself. To continue on the point of customer bidirectional communication, utilities I have worked for are implementing technology on distribution systems so that when a fault is detected, impacted customers are notified. Or better, the fault is isolated and customer impact is minimized. This proactive servicing eliminates the customer need to engage first, and gives the customer a sense of reassurance that the utility knows what happened and is working on resolving the issue.
AMI continues to be a foundational component to digitalization. It opens the door to understanding on both utility and customer ends. AMI data has proven to be an incredible asset for load planning, engineering and distribution analysis, but also for customers to make smarter energy choices. Near real time data has truly helped to take the utility from an archaic, monthly engagement with customers for bill payment, to a continuous partner helping to make informed choices.
What I would like to see from the utilities I have been a part of, is to see technology initiatives that live in silos today, come together to introduce optimal synergies. Imagine the possibilities once you combine AMI, GIS, Asset Management and OMS to build a digital twin of the grid.