Updated on 09/01/2023

Introduction to technological innovation in utilities

Everything changes and everything is renewed, in nature, as well as in business. Companies must be able to adapt to those changes and ride the wave of transformation in order to survive and thrive.

Until a few years ago, the market for suppliers of electricity, gas and water was locked into almost monopolistic logic, characterized by a strong presence of governmental entities and industry giants and where competition was minimal. Then, everything changed: enter utility innovation technology.


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An industrial sector in full revolution

For the Utility industry, and for the water sector, in particular, the changes are many and may be summarized into three main elements.

First of all, changes at the regulatory level are less strict and more fluid. Translated: The playing field is expanding, and the competition is increasing day by day.

Second element: It’s no longer about brand identity; today, the themes of environmental sustainability, energy efficiency and transparency are key.

In Italy, according to a survey by Lifegate and Eumetra, 74% of citizens rank sustainability first among the factors that most affect their daily consumption choices. Annually, this figure represents an increase of 15%. This is important information that should be influencing the strategic and marketing choices of companies.

The third driver of change is technological innovation. There is significant investment in digital transformation in the Utility Industry, which has accelerated the process of change, from the distribution of pure commodities to marketing and interaction with customers.

It is important, however, to remember that the combination of these factors have contributed to the revolution that the industry is experiencing. This revolution revolves around the customer, which has become the real asset and added value of companies that distribute water, electricity and gas, services that are considered primary and essential.

Today, the customer has wide access to information and wants to communicate with suppliers in a simple and effective way through various channels (from social networks to physical, telephone or online help desks). Above all, customers can change suppliers more easily than ever before, often in just a few clicks.

That’s why all companies are equipping themselves with utility innovation technology to communicate with users in the most efficient way, and in ways that can be as tailored as possible. That’s why services like those provided by Doxee are indispensable for companies. Doxee makes the digitization of processes, personalization, and a customer-oriented approach to the center of its business.

The challenges of innovation in the water sector

Let’s analyze in more depth the theme of innovation in the water sector, to try to fix a picture that considers the main trends.

It is essential to consider that innovation covers all areas of the business, from infrastructure to communication with the end user. First of all, there are the new supply infrastructures: the collection and supply plants, the potabilizers, the advances in the treatment processes (such as softening, filtration, clarification, deferring and denitrification).

Important are the technological changes that concern distribution, with new forms of construction and management of networks, maintenance, renovation and – above all – monitoring, with the ultimate goal of efficiency and reduction of waste.

“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 minimize risks”. Rebekah Eggers, Leader of IBM’s WW iot for Energy, Environment, & Utilities Business, said. “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” (source: iwa-network.org).

India – one of the emerging giants of the Mondale economy in constant and strong population growth – has set up an entire government program called Smart Cities Mission, within which the theme of smart water (therefore the efficiency of the water system thanks to technology and innovation) plays a central role.

In Italy there is a long way to go, and the view is quite uneven along the peninsula. But the direction marked is the same.

“To grow and consolidate, even in Italy the Top Utilities have decided to allocate human resources and investments to innovation and technology to an increasing extent than in the past”. Alessandro Marangoni, CEO of Althesys (a leading consulting company in the fields of environment, energy and utilities) and coordinator of the Top Utility research group (source: confservizi.emr.it) recently explained.

Therefore, research, innovation, and most modern technologies will increasingly be applied to improve infrastructures and distribution systems. But again, the most important aspect is the user. Innovating also means learning to communicate in a new way: paying more attention to customer service is the best way to consolidate and increase revenue and turnover.


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Re-learn how to communicate with the customer

According to the Customer Experience Impact Report Industry, 89% of users who choose to change their water, light and gas supplier do so because of problems or customer experience bottlenecks. In short, customers are motivated to change suppliers when customer service and communication falls short.

That’s why companies in the sector, from industry giants to start-ups, are investing in their customer service departments. Digitization and customer services were the two key themes around which Enel CEO Francesco Starace presented the company’s 2018-2020 strategic plan.

Companies have to re-learn how they communicate with customers and pivot away from a one-to-many style and embrace a one-to-one approach. This starts by realising that companies must adopt an omnichannel perspective.

Today, customers expect their suppliers to be “always-on” and available to solve problems quickly and seamlessly. They expect a well-designed and efficient online help center which includes a live chat option. Customers also want to be able to communicate via dedicated mobile apps. But it also wants to communicate effectively in the mobile version, better if through dedicated apps. 

Finally, many customers want to communicate with companies through social networks, a channel which requires constant management to make sure that issues brought forward by customers are resolved quickly and efficiently. Otherwise, an unaddressed customer issue could go viral, with potentially disastrous consequences for brand reputation.

“It is no longer thinkable that the only time to talk to the customer is when something goes wrong, when there is some problem, or when it is time for your company to collect,” said Kelly Dearing Smith of Louisville Water Company (source: Oracle)

Communicating with each customer in a personalized way: Doxee

Knowing as much as possible about your customer and addressing him or her in a personalized way is the best way to create effective communication. In this way, companies in the Utility industry can take advantage of the most advanced technological tools by relying on services such as those offered by Doxee, abandoning the many-to-one strategy for a personalized one-to-one approach. But how?

With Doxee, you can create unique communications, designed based on the characteristics and needs of users, that are customizable in real-time, from customer-specific web micro-sites (Doxee Pweb®) to personalized videos (Doxee Pvideo®) that guarantee double-digit conversion rates and engagement. All in an omnichannel perspective.

That’s why Doxee has long-lasting collaborations with the main players in the Utility sector, such as Enel, Engie, A2A, and Iren. Doxee was also included by CIOReview in its annual ranking of the “20 Most Promising Technology Solution Providers for Utilities,” and the company has been featured in analyst reports from Aspire, Madison, Gartner and Forrester.