Most people in the UK take for granted a plentiful supply of clean water. However, with estimations that demand for water in England will exceed supply by between 1.1 billion and 3.1 billion litres per day by the 2050s1 and a sector wide commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 20302, water companies are under increasing pressure to reduce leakage and personal consumption of water.
Smart metering is recognised as a fundamental way of managing current and future demand for water, supporting efforts to reduce leakage and reducing consumption and waste. Of course, a reduction in usage equals a reduction in the energy intensive activities required to process water, which makes smart water meters fundamental to the UK’s efforts to meet a net zero outcome.
But with no mandate for customers to accept a smart water meter and an industry where the degree and frequency of interaction with customers is low, if water companies are going to increase the roll-out of smart meters, they’ve got their work cut out.
Digital technology specialists Avanade believe the answer lies in improving customer engagement and experience. Avanade is the leading global Microsoft and Sitecore partner, and is focused on building customer experiences and managing data across the entire digital marketing customer lifecycle.
Ben Morgan, Avanade’s European Digital Marketing Lead believes putting customers at the heart of service delivery, increasing levels of communication and engagement, and responding rapidly to customer concerns, are critical benchmarks if water companies are going to achieve their goals and targets.
“Across industries, customer expectations around service and responsiveness have risen. Digital interactions are the new norm and customers expect more fluid interactions and better ways to accomplish tasks – such as paying bills, flagging issues and increasingly, understanding consumption. High quality interactions have never been more important.
“Ultimately, it’s all about creating a better, faster and smarter customer experience using the power of a unified Customer Data Platform (CPD). Delivering a better customer experience starts with understanding your customer. A CPD will remove data silos, which result in fragmented customer profiles and deliver a single unified view of each customer across touchpoints.”
He continues, “Today’s customers demand immersive, interactive experiences that are personalised to them. Experiences and interactions with water companies need to be tailored to locality, buyer persona or even better, more granular customer profiles. A CPD will give the organisation a clear view of what customers are actually doing – so they can identify trends, segment customer groups and where necessary, redefine audience personas, and then use this information to inform and define outgoing marketing campaigns.
“With accurate customer profiles and a better understanding of customer segments and demographics, water companies can start to understand what’s driving customers to adopt technology, such as smart meters. With a marketing strategy that targets groups that are more likely to accept a smart meter with the right content and across the appropriate channels, water companies can help customers along the user journey and achieve more successful conversion rates.”
He explains, “The ultimate goal is to empower and encourage customers to self-serve. Of course, this will become even more important with the impending discontinuation of third-party cookies. With cookie data, that previously provided an understanding of consumer behaviour across different platforms, no longer available, organisations will need to own their own data. This means encouraging customers to authenticate themselves by logging into a customer portal. And this can only be achieved by combining human-centric design with the right technology solutions.
The capability to collect and scrutinise customer data at a granular level will also help water companies achieve another key collective aim – increasing their support for vulnerable customers. With the rise in energy costs coming at a time when many household incomes are being squeezed on the back of the pandemic, affordability is a key issue.”
He explains, “Water companies have been tasked with reducing the cost of water bills and providing a range of support to vulnerable customers such as offering payment holidays, flexible payment plans, social tariffs and other affordability schemes. Connecting with customers regularly not only builds trust, but builds data streams and knowledge of a customer’s circumstances so they can be supported before they get into arrears.
He concludes. “The first step for water companies to take is to review their technology stack to see whether they have the business agility and flexibility to structure their customer experience strategy accordingly, and to assess whether they have an appropriate CPD and customer modelling/segmentation completed.”
The Avanade team would love to speak to you about how you structure your customer experience. Visit www.avanade.com/en-gb/industry/utilities for more details.