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New Research Asks: Are Utilities Providers Prepared for Customer Experience Innovation?

Liz Alton
September 17, 2019

3 minute read

Utilities companies struggle with a dual mission: to provide reliable service today for a great customer experience, and manage future innovation at the same time. Innovation often involves implementing new technologies, thinking, and strategies to establish the customer-centric grid of tomorrow.

Where exactly are utilities organizations focused as they navigate today’s fast-changing landscape? Oracle asked 114 industry professionals for their opinions on technologies ranging from AI to mobile, the importance of the customer experience, and the future of innovation in the field.

Check out 3 key trends that professionals are focused on, with a preview of insights from the report, “Utilities Report: Dual Innovation in the Field.”

Innovation technologies are driving a better experience today

Offering reliable utility access is an essential part of an improved customer experience. To achieve that goal, many utilities organizations deploy innovation technologies to compensate for challenges such as resource crunches.

The adoption of innovation technologies scales quickly as utilities providers grow. For example, 57.8% of large utility providers (those serving more than 500K households) reported using advanced analytics and machine learning to optimize field work, while the same was true for only 38.6% of providers serving fewer than 500K households.

As innovation and customer experience investments become a priority, utilities organizations are taking different paths. For larger providers, in-house teams are segmenting customers, offering pilot programs, and accessing cutting-edge technology solutions. Smaller providers access feature sets through out-of-the-box technology solutions that allow them to create productivity and customer experience solutions beyond what they’ve done before.

Field service get a big focus

If you think about the reputation many utility companies have for field service, it’s often a reputation for long waits. Utilities providers are looking at technologies and other innovations that can help reduce wait times and improve customer satisfaction. According to the report, “obtaining a single system to manage technicians was a primary goal for 72% of larger utilities, compared to 56% of respondents serving fewer than 500K households.”

However, there are varying opinions within the industry regarding which technologies and focus areas should be prioritized. For example, while front-line managers generally reported a slightly more optimistic view of their field service delivery, 12.5% more of the CXOs surveyed expressed concern over long wait times for field technicians.

Excitement wars with anxiety over innovation

There is high-level interest and excitement among utility professionals over innovation, but there is also anxiety. Many executives expressed concern that their organizations aren’t investing in new technology fast enough, with 47.7% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they weren’t keeping pace with the industry. Managers were less likely to be concerned, but still had reservations with 21.4% agreeing.

Some of the anxiety varies across job roles and may point to opportunities for more integration, communication, and training around technology and the customer experience. When asked if advanced analytics and machine learning were being used for scheduling and service optimization, 58.3% of operations workers agreed vs. 40% of employees in other roles.

Now is the time for action

Utilities organizations are poised for innovation. For many, the first step is investing in technologies that support today’s customer experience. As they build on that foundation, one way to increase the success of innovation technologies is by pairing these initiatives with robust communications and training programs to help utilities employees understand the impact and value that new tools offer.

To learn more about how utility leaders are thinking about the customer experience, read the full report, “Utilities Report: Dual Innovation in the Field.”

Liz Alton
Liz Alton
Liz Alton is a writer and content strategist specializing in B2B technology, digital marketing, and the customer experience. Her clients include creative agencies, Fortune 500 brands, and venture-backed startups.
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