On the second day of Opower’s annual innovation summit in Miami, the spotlight shone brightly on the industry pioneers who are leading the way in revolutionizing the utility customer experience. After a big morning announcement about Opower’s new Customer Care solution and new platform technology offerings, attention soon turned to our utility partners who shared their unique perspectives on better engaging customers. The first session was a discussion featuring National Grid’s Jim Madej (SVP, Customer Energy Solutions), Phil Austen (Director, Program Strategy for New York), Carlos Nouel (Director, Alliance and Vendor Strategy), and Opower president Alex Laskey on developing a strategic path forward for utilities in the 21st century.
Opower president Alex Laskey and Jim Madej, SVP Customer Energy Solutions at National Grid[
The conversation shed light on a broad range of efforts to modernize the U.S. electricity grid and redefine the utility business model. One example mentioned during the panel was the New York Public Service Commission's proposal last year to “Reform the Energy Vision.” The plan, colloquially referred to as “REV,” paints an ambitious vision of a customer-centric energy system that goes well-beyond the industry’s historic role of providing gas and electricity, and instead prioritizes advanced objectives like energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation. While these types of efforts certainly pose a significant challenge to utilities — they also represent a game-changing opportunity to leverage new technology that better engages customers. Building on this theme, Brian Rich — VP and CIO of Michigan’s largest utility, Consumers Energy — presented on how state-of-the-art analytics and new information technology can help meet climbing customer expectations while also strengthening utilities’ bottom lines.
Brian Rich, VP and CIO at Consumers Energy
At Consumers, Brian is working to deliver a world-class utility customer experience — one evocative of the personalization provided by Amazon and Netflix. By integrating all customer data in a unified platform that employs advanced analytics and delivers automated, personalized communications, Consumers is vastly improving the customer experience while also lowering the utility’s own customer care costs. This type of customer-centric, data-driven approach is helping drive the utility industry forward not only in the U.S. — but it’s also paying huge dividends for energy providers internationally, like across the pond in Europe.
Anthony Ainsworth — Marketing Director at E.ON UK — one of Europe’s largest energy suppliers — elaborated in a presentation how customer trust can, and must, be regained and strengthened through personalized, digital customer engagement.
Anthony Ainsworth, Director of Sales and Marketing at E.ON UK
After launching the Saving Energy Toolkit in late 2013 — which provides customers with online analysis about their energy use, costs, and comparative usage patterns in their neighborhood — E.ON UK saw its web traffic more than double in a matter of weeks. Now, more than 850,000 unique customers are logging in for personalized energy insights and advice. Of course, no day would be complete without some cutting-edge insights from Opower’s own experts. Opower’s first-class design team led a hands-on workshop demonstrating how user-centered, behavioral design can help achieve key business outcomes.
Carleigh Graves, Jaime Lopez, and Suelyn Yu — leaders of Opower’s Design and User Experience Teams
Nancy Hersh — Opower’s Vice President of Analytics — added to the conversation by illustrating how predictive analytics can put an end to generic utility communications. By analyzing past customer behavior and determining people’s propensity to take certain future actions (e.g. participating in a demand response program, or installing distributed generation like solar), utilities can send timely and tailored communications that reach the customers most likely to participate in programs and act on specific offers.
Nancy Hersh, VP of Analytics at Opower
PowerUp 2015 is proving to be a truly energizing experience for all attendees — a huge thanks to all of our utility partners and presenters for making this year’s summit one for the books!