Updated on 22/12/2022
Introduction to Multiutilities in the water sector
Multiutilities, water and digital transformation: a combination that, in some ways, sounds strange. And yet, strange is not at all: indeed, you hear and will hear more and more often about this pairing.
Before going to the heart of this article, which will focus on the theme of digital transformation for the water sector, let’s take a step back, to better frame the theme in a wider framework, which is that of the Utility Industry.
A huge, fundamental and strategic industrial sector that in recent years has experienced an unprecedented revolution. A real radical upheaval that has affected the very ways and structures of the business; the marketing and customer care departments, in particular, have assumed a central role – which they did not have before – also in this industrial sector.
Within a short time the market for electricity, gas and water suppliers has opened up and the players have multiplied. In this way, we have moved from an almost monopolistic regime to a hyper-competitive ecosystem.
All this has triggered a series of chain effects. First of all, the change of the brand identity of all the giants in the sector: the key words, today, are environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, transparency and an increasingly smart approach.
And then, above all, the reversal of the role of the user: which is no longer a number among other numbers, but has become the real center of business, the true heritage and added value of companies in the industry.
Companies that, in turn, are all committed to strengthening their customer care services, aiming as much as possible to establish a one-to-one and tailored dialogue with their customers: the ultimate goal to achieve is loyalty and loyalty.
The survival and market positioning of the Utility Industry companies is mainly played here. By contrast, the biggest bogeyman, the problem that all players in the industry are struggling with increasingly effective weapons is the worrying and constant growth in the rate of customer abandonment, the so-called customer Churn.
Within the folds of these epochal and unprecedented changes there are enormous opportunities. And the most careful, solid and innovative companies have noticed this. Also and especially in the water sector.
Just think of Engie, the fourth world group in the Energy sector, with its Water department; or – to stay in Italy – A2A: both of these companies have chosen in recent years to rely on the cutting-edge services offered by a company like Doxee, which makes digitization, customization and customer-oriented services the center of its business. And, not surprisingly, CIOReview (an American magazine specializing in technological and cutting-edge solutions for business) has included Doxee services in the 2018 list of the 20 most promising technologies for the world of Utilities
Users and infrastructure: The two main playing fields
“Technologies such as the iot (Internet of Things), big data analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning offer our industry new and unprecedented capabilities to analyze, automate processes, correct them in real time, to predict and minimise risks. With these tools, companies in the water sector can best face the challenges on the horizon: thus extending the average life of infrastructure, reducing waste and waste, improving water quality monitoring. Ultimately raise service levels and increase revenue with effective operations. There is an important growth of digital adoption in the water sector; but the gap to fill compared to other industries is still large, especially in the integration of smart technologies that cover the entire span of this complex ecosystem”. These are very significant statements, summarizing many different and central points, by Rebekah Eggers, Leader of IBM’s WW iot for Energy, Environment, & Utilities Business (source: iwa-network.org).
The directives according to which the digital transformation is revolutionizing the water sector can therefore be summarized in two aspects (complementary): the aspect regarding the very scope of infrastructure and distribution and the side – instead – involving the user sphere, and the new way in which companies in the sector interface with him.
“The digital consumer, today, is at the center”. Eggers continues with great clarity in the same interview. “And it has become a real agent of this change, not just the recipient. For example, people’s expectations and growing interest in sustainability are at the root of changing supplier identities and practices, especially in the water sector. Changes that can be best put in place, again, only through digital transformation”.
But let us continue, and let us go more and more concretely. Below we have identified 4 trends that anyone who deals with Utilities, in the most specific area of Water, should keep an eye on. Not to stay one step behind, and seize the new opportunities that begin to present themselves 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, 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.