Water and digital may sound like a strange combination, but like much of the utilities industry today, the water sector is also undergoing its own digital transformation.
The Utilities sector has experienced an unprecedented revolution in recent years, a radical upheaval that has affected the methods and structures of the business itself, and marketing and customer care departments have taken on a central role. Over a relatively short period of time, the market for electricity, gas and water suppliers have opened up, and the players have multiplied; the sector has gone from an almost monopolistic regime to a hyper-competitive ecosystem.
All of this has triggered a series of consequences. First of all, brand identity has changed. Today, the themes are environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, transparency and an increasingly smart approach.
Above all, there has been a reversal of the role of the user, who is no longer a number among many, but the real center of the business, an asset and added value of the companies in the sector.
In turn, companies have committed themselves to strengthen their customer care services, aiming to establish a one-to-one, tailor-made dialog with customers. Here, the ultimate goal to be achieved is loyalty.
Digital transformation in utilities: Survival and market positioning
This is the area where companies must really compete. The rate of customer abandonment, aka customer churn, is what’s causing companies to worry and where they are struggling to find an effective weapon.
In reality, among these changes is where the most opportunities lie, and the most attentive and innovative companies have noticed this.
Consider Engie, the fourth largest group in the world in the energy sector or the Italian A2A: both companies have chosen to rely on the advanced services offered by Doxee, which makes digitization, personalization, and customer-oriented services the center of its business. It is no coincidence that CIOReview has included Doxee in its list of the 20 most promising technologies for the world of Utilities in 2018.
Users and infrastructure: The two main playing fields
New technologies like the Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence can help water and utilities address some of the biggest challenges that they are facing.
The themes that come with digital transformation in utilities and that are revolutionizing the water industry can, therefore, be summarized in two complementary aspects: on one side, those of infrastructure and distribution, and on the other, those that involve users and the new ways that companies in the sector interface with them.
Today, the digital consumer is at the very center of things. “…the digital consumer is actually driving the change to some degree versus acting as a recipient of it,” commented Rebekah Eggers, IBM’s WW IoT for Energy, Environment, & Utilities Business.
For example, customer expectations and a growing interest in sustainability is shaping brand identity and supplier practices, and these are changes that can be best implemented through digital transformation.
Here are four trends that those in the water and utilities industry will want to be aware of in order to seize opportunities now on the horizon.
1. Sustainability and Energy Efficiency
As we have already mentioned, this is perhaps the most visible trend. More water suppliers are moving in the direction of reducing waste (of water and money), increasing efficiency of the network and usage by the end consumer. It’s more than smart water. For example, India, a country with more than 1.3 billion people and growing has set up a government program called Smart Cities Mission, where “smart water” plays a central role.
In Italy, according to the most recent survey conducted by Lifegate in collaboration with the research institute Eumetra in 2018, 74% of Italians believe that sustainability is one of the most important issues and influential on their daily choices. The percentage increase compared to to the same data in the previous year is +15%. And, 90% of British consumers consider efficiency and sustainability to be fundamental to their energy choices (according to a survey by Enervee).
2. Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
As we’ve already mentioned, the Internet of Things will constitute a real revolution in the water sector. Through IoT, it will be possible to collect an even greater amount of data on the distribution and final use of water, through an approach that is smart and attentive to efficiency and sustainability.
Through these technologies, in the near future, “you can do what we cannot even imagine today, opening new horizons and new areas of business in the Utilities sector, with a view to ‘customizable’ services for those who use Utilities services,” said Moreno Mazzoni, CTO of Nextre, a web marketing and strategic consulting company.
To do so, it’s essential to know how and with whom you’re doing business and to put in place effective actions for customer retention, engagement and loyalty. It is precisely this type of personalization that Doxee can offer to companies in the sector.
At this point, we can see the central role that intelligent technologies like AI play in terms of processing massive amounts of data that is growing in quantity and quality (for this reason it is preferable to speak of “smart data” or “deep data”).
3. Customer service and personalization
We have underlined this several times: customer service is the area with the greatest impact when it comes to digital transformation. They play a decisive role, especially for providers of an essential service like water that impacts the daily lives of all citizens.
According to the Customer Experience Impact Report, in the Utility industry, 89% of users turn to competitors due to problems and customer experience bottlenecks. In addition, 86% of customers say they are willing to pay more for better service experience and dialog with the company.
That’s why the main challenge may be won—or lost—here. Learning to communicate with users in a one-to-one, omnichannel and interactive way is something you can no longer postpone.
“The only time your customers see you cannot just be when something breaks or when you need money,” said Kelly Dearing Smith of Louisville Water Company.
4. Cyber security
Finally: there can be no digital transformation without careful attention to the field of cybersecurity. Just think of the cases and scandals on the subject in the media. This only emphazises the importance of companies of every kind to have solid cybersecurity protection in place.
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