Today, utility suppliers are facing many operational challenges - from aging infrastructure and grid security concerns to disruptive technologies, economic competitiveness, environmental considerations, and new regulations. It is therefore imperative that they not only embrace newer technologies but also reinvent their business models to transform customer engagement.
In a digitally connected world, customers are becoming increasingly demanding of the level of services being offered and this is especially the case for energy providers, where customer service and price are often the only differentiators. Many have come to expect undisrupted, reliable and predictable supply, quick service restoration in case of outage instances, hassle-free billing and payment cycles and 24/7 customer service support.
Below the Big Six providers there is a tier of newer utilities who have taken on the challenge of innovation, and judging by their success, are showing it works. Providers such as Ecotriacity, The Utility Warehouse and Ovo Energy are all enjoying periods of rapid growth as customers seek greener, and cheaper energy sources along with a more innovative customer experience. For example, The Utility Warehouse has challenged the status quo by choosing not to invest in expensive advertising campaigns, meaning they are able to pass on these cost savings to their customers. Alternatively, Ecotricity uses its customers’ bills to fund the building of new sources of green energy from windmills to solar-panelled sun parks.
But for these suppliers to achieve differentiation and innovation they must have the right infrastructure in place which can support their digital business ambitions. Many energy suppliers are turning to public cloud to give them the competitive edge. But how exactly can the utilisation of cloud leverage innovation?
Transforming the Customer Experience
Price is often the main differentiator when it comes to choosing a utility provider. Often, this is determined by price comparison sites which refer the consumer to the energy providers website. This is the point at which the customer will expect to access all the information they need to enable them to purchase a tariff easily and efficiently.
In addition to this, by leveraging big data and AI in the Cloud, energy providers can now gather more intelligence than ever before about their customers. For online interactions, this could mean identifying which services and promotions a consumer has viewed on the website and how they’ve come to land on the page whether organically, through a promotional link or a price comparison site.
Using this information, energy suppliers are then able to better target consumers with relevant and timely information and promotions. Over repeated interactions, the provider will be able to build detailed customer profiles which will help them to understand their energy usage, their current use of renewable energy and when their current contract is due to expire.
Managing the assets used for Grid Operations
As smart meters and other advanced metering infrastructure floods the market, there is now a need for more data storage and analysis than ever before. By moving the existing infrastructure to the cloud, organisations can reduce the maintenance needed for on premise storage infrastructure which lowers capital costs. On top of this utilities also gain access to powerful analytics tools that can help improve services to customers. But the advantages of cloud computing do not end there. When combined with an online interface, cloud computing can help both energy providers and their customers with easy access to real-time and accurate consumption data. This information can be easily accessed through their mobile devices as well as personal computers.
Achieving Operational Efficiency
Deregulation and privatisation of the electricity sector has also increased competitiveness. As pressure to expand their customer base and market share grows, utilities are turning to technology to enable them to gain operational efficiency and offer services that increase customer satisfaction. For example, using billing tools and CRM software, they are now better able to engage and target customers. Cloud based applications offer a number of advantages over on premise apps, such as mobility, scalability and reduced management by internal IT teams.
Cutting costs with a Pay-as-you go Model
Cloud Service providers enable a “pay-as-you-go” option, meaning energy providers can benefit by collaborating with a cloud partner for interoperable, customised cloud solutions. This helps the sector to manage their CAPEX/OPEX costs as they only pay for what they use. Shifting to the cloud can free up assets, resources, and capital from “run-the-business” to “change-the-business” activities, impacting their overall profitability in the long-run.
Despite the benefits offered by Cloud, some energy providers are still apprehensive in adopting it for critical operations such as grid management, outage management, and for storing customer data, with many having cited data privacy and cyber security as the major roadblocks in cloud adoption.
However, as cloud technology continues to mature, we’re beginning to see confidence ripple through the sector, leading many of the major providers to adopt to maintain their competitive edge.
Take the Leap. Remain competitive.
To deliver these digital investments successfully, the sector must choose the right Cloud provider to not only help migrate applications to the cloud, but also to achieve the most appropriate and cost-effective use of Hyperscale Public Cloud.
As the UK’s #1 Cloud Service Provider, ANS is experienced in helping the energy sector to migrate and build their next generation of digital business applications in Azure and AWS.
So whether you’re thinking about migrating to the cloud or if you’re already using it but want to find out how you can optimise your environment and become more efficient, speak to us.
In the meantime, why not check out our latest Public Cloud Lightboard Series, hosted by ANS’ CTO, Andy Barrow to find out why Public Cloud is becoming ever more popular and how ANS is helping organisations to design and manage a cost-effective solution to help businesses achieve global reach and access a wealth of new services.
Posted by Sam Richardson