Customer communication critical to successful ‘smart’ rollouts 19 MAY 2016

The role of communication and customer engagement has been one of the key themes discussed with utility executives at the 2016 African Utility Week.

Communication with customers before, during and after deployment of digital technologies cannot be stressed enough, a key point which has been raised several times in conversations and conference sessions at the currently being African Utility Week, in Cape Town.

Communicating the both the positives and challenges of technology rollout is critical prior to deployment.

Ensuring that utility customers understand who, what, when, why and how of a planned rollout opens the door to further engagement with customers, in understanding what is most important to them, what their needs are to create the dialogue of how technology can serve them.

Jodie Sherwan Hill, executive director of Joemat Investments stated: “Instead of telling them [utility customers] what to expect, present customers with options and provide incentives.”

Hill went on to explain that customers have the potential to become custodians of new smart energy solutions, if they understand what impact it will have, how it serves them, communicating the potential challenges and continuous learning alongside customers prior to, during and after rollout.

Customer engagement technologies

Sherwan’s call follows the launch of a new customer engagement technology by US energy management startup Jasmine Universe, to help utilities to employ demand response programmes.

The firm claims its wireless communication platform will enable utilities to provide consumers with real time feedback on their energy consumption to help them implement sustainable energy usage to save energy and money.

Mohan Wanchoo, President of Jasmine, commented: “As the energy industry changes, utilities and energy marketers need to better engage their customers to further enable them to effectively fulfill their energy needs.”

Meaanwhile, Glendale Water and Power (GWP) received an award at the CS Week for its customer engagement programme aimed at digitising its services.

The utility providing water services to some 33,744 customers and 88,100 electric consumers in Glendale, California was awarded the 2016 CS Week Expanding Excellence Award in the “Best in Mobility Implementation” category.

The award is presented to utilities that develop the best innovative measure to improve its customer service through a two way communication from the metering to the bill payment stage.

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