It’s been a big year for energy and water utilities across the globe. On top of the challenge of keeping the water running, the lights on and the heat pumping through lockdowns and staff shortages, network operators and distributors of water, gas and electricity were faced with an increasing water crisis, ever pressing climate challenges and goals, rocketing energy prices and now the impact of the current crisis in Ukraine.
After what was yet another unprecedented and unstable 12 months we take a look at some of the lessons learned from the industry’s success stories.
Partner with organisations to gain flexibility and agility
When the pandemic hit and lockdown orders mandated workers across the globe to stay at home, organisations had to rally to accommodate remote working whilst delivering continuity of service, productivity and efficiency.
It’s fair to say that remote working had become the new normal by 2021. Businesses and workers had adjusted to the demands of working from home, but it was a year that still managed to keep everyone on their toes. New Covid variants hit, the health crisis took new turns, and rules and laws continuously changed to try and keep pace with the evolving pandemic. It was a year where everyone had to become very adept and adapting.
Of course it was also the year that saw the energy crisis kick in. The dramatic rise in wholesales oil prices ripped the energy retail sector apart, prompting a host of suppliers to go bust and heaping immense pressure on the remaining players in the market. By the end of the 2021, 27 energy suppliers in the UK alone had ceased trading, leaving millions of customers dependent on the safety net provided by the market regulator, Ofgem.
In order to navigate these fluctuating and pressurised times, successful suppliers have needed to be flexible and agile – able to adapt to changing markets and pressures. As confirmed by Ofgem – unfortunately many suppliers were not as resilient as they needed to be and caved under the pressure.
“It is clear, as highlighted by the recent Citizen’s Advice report, that many suppliers in the market were not as robust as they should have been and certainly not enough to withstand an economic shock of this magnitude…. Therefore, building on the rules we have in place, we are working at pace to strengthen the resilience of the sector.”1
How can suppliers become more robust? Energy and water companies must recognise where they have skills and service gaps in-house and partner with organisations that can help them become more flexible, agile and resilient. For many organisations the focus for 2022 must be improving communications with customers to help manage expectations relating to ongoing price increases and to better support vulnerable customers who struggle with rising bills.
Embrace new tools – it’s now easier than ever
One thing is for sure, the pandemic has proved people’s ability to pivot, adopt and adapt to new ways of working and new technologies. Our relationship with technology has certainly deepened as larger segments of the population embraced more digital connections for work, education, health care, daily commercial transactions and essential social interactions.
Covid has proved that a well-architected digital experience can offer an equivalent or even more personalised transaction than an in-person engagement. According to an article on Think with Google, “What is interesting, is the rapid adoption and variety of online services offered and tapped into. Whether for transactional, educational, or personal purposes, it is clear that people have turned to digital channels for many aspects of their lives. As a result, consumers are no longer expecting only the experience they were offered before, instead they have developed much higher digital expectations. This is why all businesses, regardless of vertical or size, need to accelerate their digital adoption and transform their operations to meet consumers where they are now — and give them the experience they expect.”
Utilities must capitalise on digital adoption and drive engagement with new ways to engage with customers and deliver a personalised user experience. Discover why a user led customer experience is key for sustainable growth.
You’ve got the power to take action
The ongoing energy crisis has demonstrated that there’s no place for complacency in the current utility market. Many energy suppliers were paralysed by the pressures of the pandemic and the energy crisis and went bust as a result. When changes need to happen – they need to happen quickly. There’s no time to procrastinate or reinvent the wheel.
According to George Westerman, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, “Evaluating others’ innovation efforts before taking action on your own wasn’t an option during COVID-19, and isn’t a good idea going forward. Companies operating from this playbook during COVID-19 were more likely to lag behind competitors and miss opportunities, putting them at higher risk for business closures.”2
When it comes to building customer engagement platforms and tools, utilities must capitalise on solutions that are ready to roll. Discover why buying Advizzo’s off-the-shelf customer engagement platform and solution is a no brainer when speed and time to market is an absolute imperative. Build your business case using our build versus buy blog.
2021 was a year that yielded some seismic shifts and 2022 promises further turmoil with turbulent times ahead for customers with affordability, debt and increasing utility bills. Whilst there are less competitors in the energy sector today, there’s no room for complacency. To survive, utility companies must invest heavily in the customer experience and find better ways to identify and support vulnerable customers. To find out how our off-the-shelf behavioural science and data science customer engagement solutions can help you – get in touch!