26 Sep 2023

Sustainability in utilities, not just an ethical imperative, but a critical customer service initiative

By Matt Loreille, Chief Marketing Officer, Gentrack

Customer expectations of utility providers have irrevocably altered. The traditional transactional customer relationship is no longer enough. Customers seek rich, hyper-personalised experiences and are looking for utility providers to become their trusted energy advisors. To explore this further, we recently launched a report with IDC, titled ‘Energy and water companies urgently need to transform their technology stack to prosper in the sustainable era’1. The report found that utilities need to prioritise individual differences in customer expectations, with a particular focus on sustainability, if they are to thrive in the rapidly changing environment.  

Serving to a new generation 

One example of personalisation described in the report, is the need to recognise and allow for generational differences in customer expectations. As Gen Zs and millennials will make up the majority of the consumer population globally (60%) by 2031, it’s important to pay attention to their preferences. These tech-savvy individuals demonstrate unique purchasing tendencies and exhibit a greater awareness of climate change and sustainability. They actively seek to participate in the energy transition, leveraging distributed generation, residential storage systems, electric vehicles and demand response (DR) programmes to make a difference. 

A recent global IDC survey of energy consumers2 highlighted that an increasing share of residential customers are interested in sustainable energy products, services and bundles, as well as related discounts and offers. The report also explored the best customer engagement channels to service these needs. It found that many consumers are eager to self-serve through digital channels, especially dedicated mobile apps, instant messaging services, text/SMS and dedicated customer portals. According to our recent IDC report, enabling customers to self-serve is especially important around “the most critical moment of the customer journey” – the bill. Leveraging technology to ensure accurate on-time bills is key to building trust, while creating a unified bill experience for all products and services enhances convenience, ultimately fuelling loyalty.  

Building a flawless digital experience 

Building customer journeys to fit a growing number of user scenarios is a complex technological task and coding each of these individually is not a viable option for suppliers. Not every customer will follow the “happy path” – the optimal linear customer journey, which features no exceptions to the standard format. Gentrack mitigates this by providing suppliers with over 100 pre-built customer journeys to cover every customer eventuality and guarantee a seamless customer experience.  

A prime example of personalised offerings and enhanced digital customer experience comes from EnergyAustralia. Powered by Gentrack, this supplier has introduced a groundbreaking Energy-as-a-Service solution. It allows sustainability-conscious customers to access solar panels and batteries at zero upfront costs and a flat fee over seven years. This trailblazing solution is targeted at the right customers – made possible through the power of technology. Advanced analytics analyse usage profiles and forecast costs compared to existing plans, to indicate the customers who would benefit most. Ongoing analysis is also used to ensure optimal management, reporting and billing.  

Prioritising sustainability is not just limited to consumers. The IDC also reveals that globally 53%3 of Commercial and Industrial (C&I) organisations plan to improve the efficiency of their energy usage, where a further 40% plan to decarbonise their energy sourcing and production, including by investing in self-generation (27%). 

Transforming the IT stack for hyper-personalisation 

To implement the level of hyper-personalisation required to meet the needs of green-thinking customers and bring relevant products, services, and bundles to market at the right time, utilities must transform their IT stack. Embracing a composable architecture, breaking down system and data silos, and improving operational flexibility are critical steps. Moreover, pervasive data analytics must be leveraged to unearth hidden pockets of value. 

Recognising the limitations of legacy business models powered by outdated technology, utilities providers worldwide are embracing change. Further IDC studies project that 73% of utilities globally will invest in customer-facing solar programmes by 2025, while 42% will invest in DSM programmes to encourage customers to drive down their usage. 

A business model built for the future 

The report introduces a new business model and mindset for the utilities sector, which explains the technological shift required to make this change a reality. Termed ‘product-to-profit’, the model describes the evolution to a more agile, targeted, and automated way of working. You can delve deeper into this here.  

Sustainability is no longer an ethical imperative alone; customers now look for innovative green solutions, coupled with a seamless digital experience. By embracing technological advancements, prioritising individual differences, and adopting a customer-centric approach, utilities can thrive in the sustainable era while meeting evolving customer expectations. 

[1] IDC Technology Spotlight, sponsored by Gentrack, Energy and water companies urgently need to transform their technology stack to prosper in the sustainable era, IDC #EUR150620423, May 2023
[2] IDC EMEA’s Global Utilities Consumer Survey, July 2022
[3] Globally, how are businesses reacting to high energy costs and what does this mean for the utilities that serve them? IDC #EUR150085523, January 2023
[4] The energy transition and global events, IDC #US49285822, June 2022

Explore our portfolio

Leading utilities looking to transform their business need technologies and partners they can trust

View our
open roles

Help us shape the future of smart utilities