Utility Week

UTILITY Week 6th May 2016

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UTILITY WEEK | 6TH - 12TH MAY 2016 | 23 Sponsored report their head round and the engineer said: 'It's all done, all fine.' And the customer le the kitchen. Then he turned to me and said: 'Well, I've done this, and that, and I've checked this and checked that' – some really reassuring comments. I said: 'Why didn't you tell the customer that?' He said: 'Would they be interested?' Of course they would, that's the peace of mind and quality and reassur- ance you want around all things electrical and gas. We're trying to heighten the aware- ness of the different installers as to how val- uable what they're doing is to the customer," says Morris. NWG has developed a way of working and a language of service that it calls 'Our way'. "From top to bottom in the organisation we all communicate directly with customers. Be it a guy out fixing a leak talking to a cus- tomer on the street, somebody in our call centre, myself at a conference, or the com- munications team, this style and approach is embedded across everything we do," says Mayhew. Further, the way that organisations are structured can play a significant role in mostat now feel more positively about Brit- ish Gas. That's transformational.' At that point the penny dropped, and Bentley said: "Look, if we're going to do this and to do it properly, how do we do it?' The new CIO, Dave Cooper, who had arrived from the telco industry, quite rightly said: "This is a product innovation and it is not a core competency of British Gas." So they went and found somebody: Kassir Hus- sein, who was working at Sky on Now TV. He came with a few riders that have served us well. The first was to be based in London, because this type of resource is in high demand and it doesn't want to move to Staines. The second was the freedom to hire and fire fairly rapidly, so a separate HR team. The third was a new brand. This was a big step. There are 30,000 people in Brit- ish Gas and we're all staunchly proud of that big blue brand. But to be known as an innovative tech- type company, we had to differentiate. The first year in 2012 it was Hive by British Gas, because the customer research said that while people thought brands like Sky or Apple might bring out new technology, when it came to putting it into their homes, they liked the British Gas engineer who turns up in a nice van and a nice uniform. So that was a masterstroke. Hussein wanted two things from the mothership: someone on the inside from a finance perspective to satisfy the need for management information. And someone to help integrate the technology back with the mothership; that was me. It started off in 2012 with four of us in an office in London we'd borrowed from an advertising agency. Hussein recruited a bunch of people he'd worked with at Sky, who had this entrepreneurial spirit, and weren't going to be bound by a corporate view of how tech should be done. It was a culture shock. I came across thinking I was the smartest guy in the room, and it took me a good six to eight weeks to realise that I was miles behind everybody else, and that their thinking was a lot quicker and more agile than mine. We hired quite rapidly in that early stage. We took the product and made it scaleable, that was the hardest part from a technology perspective. With the Internet of Things, as soon as you go to a model where you have concurrent communication with more than about 20,000 households, the physical technological infrastructure needs to be quite substantial. We started with a thermostat, and now have three types of product. First, control- type products, which are things like Hive Active Heating, namely a thermostat; sec- ond, remote diagnostics, the big one is Boiler IQ, which we launched in March through British Gas Services; and third, insight products, working with British Gas Energy and smart meter data. The aim of that product is to recommend behavioural changes back to the customer, to help cus- tomers understand how to save money. We can break it down for you and make recom- mendations based on what kind of heating you have, what kind of cooking you do. That's applied stuff." Adrian Heesom, Hive chief operating officer supporting, or squashing, any entrepreneur- ial drive. Severn Trent Water (STW) recently invested in a new enterprise project and portfolio management platform, Bubble Innovator, to help the business in prioritising research and development projects accord- ing to more sharply defined commercial criteria than in the past, and to support the development of an open innovation model. Open innovation encourages organisations to use external and internal ideas to develop their technology. Projects will now go through a more rig- orous evaluation process before getting the green light, and by using the new platform, STW will have "much better visibility as to what projects are worth to the business, and will be able to forecast the impact of the investment," says Justin Bailey, STW research and development commercial manager. The company is in the process of recruiting a team to support the upcoming transformation. But perhaps the most important element in maintaining the entrepreneurial buzz that makes an organisation come alive to custom- ers is staff passion and energy. A big part of Ovo's customer satisfaction success reflects the company's focus on find- ing the right personalities to fit the business and its values. "We recruit against our val- ues rather than for length of experience and industry knowledge. In fact, we recruit very few people with industry experience – we prefer people with great values from great brands with a reputation for excellent ser- vice and use of technology," says Haines. When true entrepreneurial zeal is present there's no mistaking it, and customers can naturally feel the internal company enthu- siasm that's behind the offer. Says Heesom: "We have a partner in Texas, Direct Energy, and they're fully rolled out on smart meters that report every ten seconds. At that level of granularity they're able to detect certain appliances: if you turn the kettle on, it has a certain profile. So in real time, on a mobile phone, we can say: 'We believe you've le your straighteners on.' Or: 'You've le the iron on.' That is what's next. That is the really exciting stuff." Brought to you in association with "I came across thinking I was the smartest guy in the room, and it took me a good six to eight weeks to real- ise that I was miles behind everybody else, and that their thinking was a lot quicker and more agile than mine." Adrian Heesom, Hive chief operating officer

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