Utility Customers Taking Control

Utility Customers Taking Control

Smart technology will soon change the relationship between customers and utilities for ever. A bold statement you may think, not least because smart meter implementations are yet to fully deliver on the hype surrounding how increased data collection will inevitably lead to greater customer involvement and empowerment.  But is change now on the horizon?

Increasingly industry analysts are drawing comparisons between the utility industry of today and the telecommunications industry of a few decades ago. In telecoms, customer choice in terms of contracts, devices and bundling has expanded rapidly in recent years. This has often been fuelled by fierce competition in deregulated markets, significant technological innovation and rising customer expectations.

Are utility markets about to enter a similar process of evolution? Well, if you consider how smart technology will enable both customers and utilities to have a much firmer grasp on consumption patterns, the answer is almost inevitably 'yes'.

One tangible example of how change is occurring within the utility industry through smart technology is 'Flexiciency'. Supported by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme, Flexiciency seeks to deliver innovative energy products based on smart technology and 'big data'. Delivered by 18 companies from 10 EU countries the programme will attempt to take advantage of increasing flexibility within the EU energy market and put a firm focus on better satisfying customer needs. This in short aims to take full advantage of the opportunity brought by smart technology to facilitate a rapid increase in the type of services offered by energy companies.

If schemes such as Flexiciency are successful and utilities are able to meet latent customer demand for new products and services then only one question remains, will customers take advantage of the new deals made available to them?

It is true that in terms of both product usage and levels of brand engagement, telecoms and utilities are very different. For example utility products will never be conspicuously consumed like the latest mobile phone. Therefore it is probable that the rate of appetite and demand for change will be lower than that seen in telecom markets in recent decades. However if new energy products brought to market on the back of smart technology enable customers to better match their usage to the lowest tariff available, there should be reasonable adoption rates.

Smart technology will open the door for customers to modify their relationship with utilities. Greater choice and increased competition will enable customers to become empowered and effectively take control of the relationship with their provider. What we do not yet know with certainty is if customers will take full advantage of the opportunities and choice brought by smart technology?

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