Utility execs just identified a huge gap in their customer capabilities — and a strategy to close it


In a new report, Navigant asked nearly 100 utility executives two questions: What are your customer engagement priorities? And are you prepared to deliver on them? The answers are striking. Executives identified a wide range of critical customer engagement capabilities, particularly around online self-service and call center operations. But fewer than 15% said they were confident in those capabilities. Respondents agreed that closing that capabilities gap is increasingly important. “Utility executives believe that disruption will drive their industry to become even more customer-centric,” said Aida Hakirevic, who coauthored the report. “Increased regulatory requirements, customer expectations, and pressure on traditional utility business models are motivating them to respond with IT solutions that complement the gaps in their legacy systems and make them more nimble businesses." 

Which customer capabilities matter most?

Respondents prioritized five capabilities above the rest: advanced CSR tools, digital transactions, contact center next-best action, proactive alerts, and a 360º view of the customer. Taken together, these priorities suggest that utility leaders are most eager to analyze data and surface it as insights — both for service reps, and for customers. 

How will utilities close the capabilities gap?

Regardless of which capabilities were most important, executives stressed that solutions have to be fast and flexible. Most said they prefer buying IT systems over building them. And 76% said they use or want to use software-as-a-service (SaaS), which offers quick implementations and weekly upgrade cycles. “We’re out of the era now where we can build it ourselves,” said one respondent. “We’ve been caught too many times with legacy systems and nobody knows what’s under the hood.” Navigant called the trend “a strong indication of utilities shifting away from the traditional IT delivery models within their customer service organization (in other words, building systems and applications themselves) and moving toward relying on third-party SaaS providers (i.e., buying the capabilities they need).” The findings echo another 2016 survey of utility executives, which found that 78% are using or considering SaaS solutions.


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