Utility Week

UTILITY Week 17th July 2015

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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UTILITY WEEK | 17TH - 23RD JULY 2015 | 19 Operations & Assets officially opened last year and is EDF Energy's largest single capital invest- ment in the UK. The company recently opened visitor centres at its eight nuclear sites and to date, has seen almost 100,000 visitors pass through its centres throughout the UK. If you have an asset or project you would like to see featured in this slot, please contact: paul.newton@fav- house.com or call 01342 332085 Pipe up Simon Harrison H ow will customers interact with utilities in the future, and how will both parties benefit from the explosion in information we are seeing all around us? The web has already transformed the cus- tomer experience and changed the way many companies build trust with their customers. Sometimes this has been to the extent of creating customer advocacy for brands, and monetising this through movement into fields apparently unrelated to the core business, but closely allied when viewed through a customer's eyes. The utility world seems to have missed this so far. There are some slick websites around, but little that really focuses on engaging customers, building loyalty or using live information to provide greater value. All too oen, customers struggle to engage with utility value propositions and can face unwelcome surprises when there is disruption or they miss out on good deals. Utility companies fail to benefit from customer-generated information. However, there are pointers to a better future. Tech- nology companies are beginning to create customer engagement in energy – for example the Nest thermo- stat combines customer appeal (saving money, control from a mobile app) with great marketing. The UK smart metering programme could also build more direct cus- tomer engagement, but the complexities of the rollout will not make this easy. My firm, Mott MacDonald, is working on something rather different. In New Zealand we're trialling direct customer engagement in the operation of stormwater and wastewater networks via a phone app that accesses our water industry middleware platform, H2knOwhow. Customers will be able to report flooding or excess sur- face water problems directly to the system operators. The soware also harvests social media feeds to gain better insight into issues and enable a more targeted response. This feed of customer information is then com- bined with other real-time network monitoring data and custom algorithms designed to minimise disruptions and environmental impact, ultimately saving money and promoting sustainability. What excites me about this is not so much the technology (although that's pretty cool), but the opportunity to build engaging, open and transparent customer relationships that provide real value. Engaged, satisfied customers for utilities – maybe technology means it's not such a pipe dream. Simon Harrison, group strategic development manager, Mott MacDonald "There is little around that really engages customers or uses live information to provide greater value." "We're trialling direct customer engagement in the operation of water networks via a phone app"

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