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The energy sector is undergoing a radical transformation right now. Changes are taking place globally, and on a number of different levels. As a result, the sector is seeing the emergence of new business models and new customer attitudes. With business competing on price, but price no longer the unique differentiator, two issues are high-priority for energy companies: customer experience (CX) optimization and digital transformation.

Before looking at how companies can manage these two issues, Alessandro Varotto, Group Energy Industry Director, summarises the recent changes in the energy sector, which all feed into the new customer management agenda for energy companies.

CHANGE IS COMING FROM MULTIPLE DIRECTIONS 

The first major driver of change in the energy sector is market liberalization, which began pre-2010 and is bringing in new players such as integrated providers, full digital providers and aggregators. The result is increased competition on price and added-value offers.

Second, there is the energy transition. Emissions targets in different geographies are increasing the penetration of renewable energy, and the development of electric transportation (or ‘e-mobility’) is gaining momentum.

Third, there is increasing awareness of energy efficiency. With strong support across governments and consumers to reduce energy consumption per capita, there is growing usage of ‘smart home’ devices that influence customer decisions and provide companies with a mass of data on consumer behaviours. Some consumers are taking on the role of ‘actors’, with the emergence of ‘microgrids’ allowing them to become small energy producers.

Fourth, consumers’ behavior is changing. They expect seamless and simplified interactions and CX, and have moved much of their lives online during the Covid-19 pandemic. To cater for this cost-effectively and efficiently requires digitalization and process automation (such as the use of digital bot platforms, cloud and user interfaces).

Last, there is Covid-19. As well as accelerating some of the trends above, the pandemic ‘has caused more disruption to the energy sector than any other event in recent history, leaving impacts that will be felt for years to come,’ says the International Energy Agency (IEA). Consequences include a slump in global energy demand and uncertainty over the shape of the recovery, both of which impact businesses’ future operations and investment.

These are huge issues – each on its own significant enough to open a new chapter for the sector and each requiring energy companies to think very differently about customer management and CX. Comdata Group is helping them to do this.

A VIEW FROM THE FRONTLINE 

Energy is the second largest industry sector for Comdata Group, and our services and solutions help energy clients around the world to face sector-wide and specific customer management challenges. Much of our work for them involves customer care – both front office and back office – and sales, and we also offer credit collection and technical assistance support. All this puts us firmly on the frontline in terms of understanding:

  • the needs of end-consumers
  • the internal operations needs for customer centers 

END-CONSUMERS WANT NEW APPROACHES, CHANNELS AND INTERFACES 

From our unique perspective on end-consumers’ needs, we see a number of trends gathering pace on the demand side – all linked to the global energy trends summarised above. 

  1. Consumers have new expectations from energy providers. As well as more sustainable sources of energy, they want digitalized and personalized CX, and they’re concerned about data privacy. But these expectations are not universal or cross-generational. Segmentation approaches are crucial, for ‘tribes’ such as baby boomers, digital natives, eco-consumers and others.
  2. Consumers want new and multiple channels and interfaces when dealing with corporates. For example, many expect a choice of self-care channels (FAQs, chatbots) and reinforcement of messaging across live chat and social media. 
  3. There’s interest in new interfaces with providers – smart home devices and smart grids are on the rise, and virtual experiences (such as augmented reality and remote video assistance) are moving mainstream.

In the face of these trends, any energy company wanting to remain competitive must put customer journey digitalization and improvement high on the agenda.

ENERGY COMPANIES FACE INTERNAL CHALLENGES TO DELIVER FOR CUSTOMERS 

On the supply side, new expectations from end-customers require new approaches and capabilities in customer management. 

  1. Energy companies need improved data management capabilities, including interaction contextualisation and 360-degree customer views. Smarter interaction analytics can help them anticipate customer needs and develop services proactively.
  2. Companies also need to improve efficiency, using process optimization and automation more extensively for low added-value activities, and also deploying real-time translation tools.
  3. Also on their agendas must be a review of their organizations and working methods – for example, how they can use human agents more effectively for high added-value or complex interactions, and whether new outsourcing business models (such as value-based models) are appropriate.

Covid-19 has amplified these requirements and made them more pressing. 

SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES TO NAVIGATE CHANGE 

At Comdata, we understand how to manage these challenges. With our business functions organized by sector and industry-specialized consultants, tools and processes, we can shape end-to-end solutions to help specific segments of the market address change.

Through our understanding of these specific segments and how the changes in the sector affect them, we can help businesses drive customer value, optimize their costs and deliver differentiating customer management approaches. In collaboration with one of the leading energy companies in Italy, for example, we have devised a more beneficial and efficient system with the objective to create value for individual customers and our partners by improving the quality of service, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the risk of frustration by understanding their needs, and resolving their problem the first time they call. The model overcomes the traditional division between front and back-office activities, which is incomprehensible to customers, and aims to assess our operators based on quality parameters.

In addition, and very importantly in the context of the radical changes we are seeing in the energy sector, we have a dedicated Digital Team of more than 200 specialists. These can accelerate energy businesses’ digital transformation, including process automation front-end and back-end and the introduction of new solutions based on smarter analytics. 

When faced with transformation, such as that taking place in the energy sector, it’s easy for businesses to feel challenged, and focus on fear – especially when also dealing with the current Covid-19 disruption. But, of course, transformation also creates opportunity, and those businesses that move quickly, position themselves to gain advantage.

In the energy industry, the opportunities around digital transformation and customer management are there to be taken. Our Group Energy Industry is ready to help you capture them.  

1.IEA (2020), ‘World Energy Outlook 2020’ report, https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2020

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