For over a decade many of us in the industry, including the major research firms, have been promoting the benefits of large centralized customer information systems (CIS) from a single vendor. Such an approach may still be valid for some, but with the transformation of the electricity industry due to the convergence of new energy and internet technologies along with changing consumer and regulatory expectations, each Utility should make sure this is still a valid approach.
Until recently electricity customers were relatively homogenous, they would consume electricity, and pay for their usage. Products varied slightly but rarely to the extent that it justified needing separate systems. It was all about economies of scale, driving out variability in products to simplify the back-office operations which in turn drove down the cost to serve the customer.
While, for most customers, price remains the most important part of the value proposition, the future Utility customer will expect greater personalization and increased product and service choice. For example:
- Scenarios where two customers live in the same house. One has an electricity account for the house, the other for the electric car.
- Looking at another electric car scenario, one customer may have an electricity account with Utility A for the house, and with Utility B for the electric vehicle.
- Those with distributed generation and storage may be offered ‘insurance’ products, allowing them to reduce or remove network charges from their bills but still be able to draw on the grid in times of emergencies.
- Customers may be offered discounted services or rebates to reduce their demand at certain times
- Customers may be offered financing arrangements so that they can take advantage of behind the meter technologies
- Utilities may partner with microgrid operators, embedded network operators, appliance manufacturers, in-home technology providers, property developers, property managers, etc. to offer new products and services to customers.
These are just a few examples to illustrate a very different range of products and services a Utility may introduce in the coming years.
The Utility of the future will need to maintain a single customer view but also have the ability to provide a broad range of products and services, be able to bring these to market quickly and change them or remove them at short notice as they receive feedback.
How is your Utility’s Customer Information System going to support the services you want to introduce in the future?