A prime case study is the telecommunications industry, which went through a comparable transformation during the last two decades. While similarly regulated, disruptive technology drove the convergence of conventional telecommunications, wireless and the internet. This convergence fostered new business models, competition and customer engagement. The way telecommunication companies profit has changed completely during the last decade and continues to evolve with the customer at the core of their efforts. The advancements in data sciences and technology make it possible to have a conversation with millions of customers at a personal level, delivering value and influencing behavior. Utilities can take advantage by providing seamless, intuitive and even subconscious engagement to better support customers during particular life events, for example. The timing is right for utilities to transform, but how should they do it?
Understand the consumer
Utilities can start by aggregating data and leveraging analytics to better understand the consumer through studying their behaviors. Techniques to truly comprehend and classify the consumer have evolved over the last two decades from demographic and sentiment to behavioral to moments. Businesses today have an unprecedented view into the life of consumers. This, combined with other sources of consumer data (e.g., Axiom, Nielsen, Google, Facebook and credit card transactions) is an asset that can facilitate consumer understanding. For example, a popular fast food restaurant chain is the next stop for six in ten customers who visit Lowes or Home Depot. Derived by correlating several streams of data, this insight can help a popular fast food restaurant chain make decisions, such as identifying new store locations. Imagine the power of using similar insights to help electricity consumers reduce their bill by shifting consumption to off-peak rates and predicting key life changes (for example, renting an apartment, moving into a new house, going on vacation or retiring) with seamless transitions. And what if utilities could make it easier to split utility bills between friends sharing an apartment by leveraging and interfacing with existing mobile applications like Splitwise and Venmo? Another example that represents an investment in future energy literacy is engaging kids through gaming techniques in a fun and educational way. Understanding the customer will identify and unlock several such opportunities for the utility.