Pioneering Progress-

Transforming Customer Experience with AI and Sustainability

Varun Bhatia
Published: April 9, 2024
5 min read

The utility industry has come a long way, hasn't it? Think about it—from the days when someone had to physically check the meter to now, with AI chatbots providing customer service. It's like watching a superhero movie, but instead of capes and masks, it’s about the power of innovation in utilities!

And guess what? The future’s looking even brighter.

The utility industry, once known for its traditional ways, is now filled with excitement as it embraces some seriously game-changing trends. From revolutionizing how communities consume energy to redefining the customer experience, the industry has suddenly been plugged into a power surge of innovation.

Let’s explore the trends shaping the future of customer experience in the utility industry, as described by our product lead.

As a product leader, how do you envision the future of customer experience in utilities?

Indeed, the evolution of digital experiences in the utility industry has been fascinating. Looking ahead, I see a future where technology plays a more significant role in enhancing customer interactions. Utilities that invest in customer experience and digital innovation now will reap the benefits for the next 10 years.

While AI-driven chatbots and smart meters hold promise, it's crucial to remember the human element. Every meter and account number represents a person with unique needs. So, it becomes critical to leverage technology to personalize customer experience.

Envisioning the dynamic changes, I believe three trends will change the future of customer experience:

  1. Personalized CX across Customer Segments: Utilities will leverage personalized CX to understand individual energy and water needs, offering intelligent solutions that promote energy efficiency, customer satisfaction, and sustainable practices.

  2. Vertical-Specific AI: With the proliferation of data from sensors, smart meters, and various IoT devices, the adoption of vertical-specific AI in utilities will mark a deliberate transition towards AI solutions explicitly tailored to the needs of the industry. This strategic shift will help deliver more targeted and impactful applications, enhancing operational efficiency and driving innovation in the utilities sector.

  3. Empowered Customers: Utilities must act by engaging, educating, and empowering customers through interactive platforms, energy-saving recommendations, and consumption insights. This strategy will foster a culture of energy conservation and proactive management, resulting in happier customers and a more sustainable future.

Understanding the importance of personalization is key. Can you paint a picture of what this personalized experience might look like for utility customers?

Imagine a scenario where your utility provider knows you on a personal level. You seamlessly navigate through various channels—mobile apps, websites, smart watches, and social media—all tailored to your preferences. These channels would be integrated to provide a consistent experience, allowing customers to interact with their providers wherever and whenever they choose.

Upon logging in, customers would be greeted by a personalized dashboard displaying relevant information such as their energy and water usage patterns, billing history, and personalized recommendations for optimizing their consumption. This information would be presented in a clear and easy-to-understand format, empowering customers to make informed decisions about their resource usage.

Furthermore, AI and machine learning algorithms would analyze customer data in real-time to anticipate their needs and preferences. For example, if a customer typically adjusts their thermostat during certain times of the day, the system could proactively suggest energy-water saving tips or offer customized pricing plans tailored to their usage patterns.

Customers are getting smart, and we need to make them smarter so that they can contribute to making important decisions that inherently impact the future of the planet. Through personalized experiences, utilities can inspire and support customers in taking crucial actions that have a positive impact on the planet, ultimately driving towards a more sustainable future for all.

As a product lead, I am excited to contribute and deliver intelligent products and interconnected digital platforms that can effectively engage customers, provide relevant information that align with their values and preferences, and empower them to make meaningful choices that contribute to environmental sustainability.

Moving beyond personalization, how do you see customers becoming active participants in their energy consumption journey?

With the advent of self-generation technologies like solar panels, customers are no longer solely consumers but active participants in energy production.

Envisioning the evolution of customer participation in their energy consumption journey, particularly for prosumers, technology will serve as the cornerstone of empowerment. Prosumers will leverage advanced solutions such as smart metering real-time insights, home energy management systems for holistic control, energy storage for optimization, peer-to-peer energy trading platforms for direct engagement, virtual power plants for collective impact, and energy management analytics for informed decision-making.

I would focus on developing seamless, intuitive solutions that integrate these technologies, empowering consumers to actively manage their energy production, consumption, and trading, thus driving a more sustainable and resilient energy ecosystem.

And finally, how do you envision AI revolutionizing customer interactions in the utility industry?

I believe the utility industry stands on the brink of a transformative shift in customer interactions propelled by AI technology. Chatbots powered by natural language processing will provide instant, round-the-clock assistance, resolving queries efficiently and accurately.

Predictive analytics will anticipate customer needs, preempting issues and offering proactive solutions. Smart meters and IoT devices will communicate seamlessly with AI systems, enabling real-time monitoring and optimization of energy consumption.

Moreover, AI-based insights will enhance front-end customer interactions and empower customer service agents and backend teams. By analyzing vast data, AI algorithms can provide 360-degree customer insights, allowing agents to personalize interactions and address issues effectively. These insights will enable backend teams to make data-based decisions, optimize resource allocation, and improve operational efficiency, ultimately leading to a more seamless and satisfying customer experience.

I am excited about what the future holds and can’t wait to lead this innovation journey ahead for the industry.

For utilities, the time to transform is now!

I think utility companies can position themselves as leaders in the competitive landscape by prioritizing innovation, sustainability, and customer-centricity to build resilient, future-ready businesses that deliver tangible value to customers and society.

As we look toward the future, it’s clear that the customer experience will remain a critical differentiator for utilities seeking to thrive in an increasingly digital and customer-centric world.

With the right strategies and technologies, utilities can forge ahead toward a more dynamic, responsive, and sustainable customer experience landscape.

SEW's SmartCX is the #1 digital customer experience (CX) platform for energy, water, and gas providers worldwide. It harnesses the power of digital to address customer needs better and build future-ready businesses. We are helping global providers adopt intelligent strategies to gain customers' trust through personalized CX experiences, superior self-service solutions, improved processes, enhanced customer services, and smart workforce management.

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Varun Bhatia
Product Engineering and Management

Varun is a product leader at SEW, where he is responsible for the flagship SmartCX platform. His role involves managing a diverse product portfolio and ensuring that the products meet the needs of end customers and the business objectives. His keen interest is in solving the industry problems with analytical and productized approach. He has 15 years of experience in managing product and consulting engagements across the multiple geographies. Prior to SEW, he has worked with veterans like Amazon, HP, Capgemini, and agile startup like Travel Triangle. He holds BE from Pune and MBA from S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai.

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