Great question, Carlos. We’ve seen a lot of utilities making strategic, proactive adjustments to protect worker safety and preserve the well-being of their customers over the past year. Utilities have more-actively encouraged customers to enroll in payment assistance, for example, at the same time making it easier for customers to sign up for these programs.
They’ve made incredible use of digital technology to do that, and to circulate important messaging about this difficult issue of billing, especially. Utilities have put their websites to better use in the past year to deliver relevant information about programs and, at the same time, effectively drive brand values, showing greater empathy and compassion through their messaging.
In addition, we’re seeing utilities roll out digital tools like chatbots to assist customers who have had to grapple with new and growing concerns, while simultaneously easing demand on call centers. Utilities are delivering text alerts for customer outreach about accounts and programs now, a shift that enhances their long-held use of text/SMS strictly for power outages. They’re also offering more mobile payment options and other mobile apps to accommodate people’s growing reliance on cell phones. Then they're analyzing usage of these programs to understand their customers better.
Utilities are doing all this in a really targeted way, too, in an effort to satisfy the needs of individual customers. Evidence suggests these new methodologies are effective and will stick around until the next new technology is introduced.
Utilities have been very methodical and intentional this past year, and we’ve seen them make this shift, in large part, by thinking differently about their data; how it’s gathered, how it's stored, what to do with it. They’re recognizing just how much more they can be doing with data on a regular basis, as a go-to tool for many different purposes; that they can take the data they already know about their customers as well as about the grid, and integrate it with even deeper insights gleaned from external sources, and then use that enriched data to get proactive in solving other challenge areas within their operations.
They’re orchestrating departments, breaking down silos, and embracing these technology and data tools to inform decision-making and strategy-building. All of these efforts raise the standards of previous best practices, and we think utilities will only continue to embrace digital innovations and data integration across more initiatives into the future, now that they see just how proactive they can truly be in a crisis.