The latest CX Files podcast featured a focused on the energy and utilities sector – often a difficult industry for customer experience because many customers have no choice over their energy supplier and therefore competition can be restricted. However, this is not true in all markets. Some, such as the UK, have a very active ecosystem of comparison websites and easy switching between suppliers.
Peter Ryan was in the chair as host and he called on Stuart Ravens, a veteran industry analyst focused on energy and utilities. Stuart just recently founded Corax Insights, but he has a long track record at other well known analyst firms – including Ovum where Peter himself led on CX for many years.
Stuart opened the conversation by describing to Peter just how far we have come in the past decade or so. He said: “I’ve looked at the energy industry for well over a decade and I think if we go back to the early years of this century, utilities really lagged behind other industries in their approach to the customer experience. Certainly in the US, most utilities would refer to their customers as ratepayers. So they weren’t even thought of as customers. Some utilities actually went out of their way to minimise the amount of contact that they’d have with their customers – that has changed significantly.”
Stuart described how many energy customers are asking for greener alternatives, they actively want their energy provider to be using solar or wind generation, yet it is not always so simple – he described the problem as a “trilemma.” He said: “This trilemma It’s still as relevant today, if not more relevant today than it was 13 or 14 years ago. The trilemma is quite simple. It’s how does a utility, deliver reliable, cheap, and green electricity? Because ultimately, you can achieve two of those quite easily. But three is a lot harder, and everything kind of like pulls back to that energy trilemma. But the shift towards renewables is inexorable now, there’s no argument about it. The economics of solar and wind are such that it’s cheaper than any other form of generation.”
Energy companies have a reputation for adapting to customer expectations slower than many other industries, but Stuart said that there are some reasons for this: “When you’re running a billing cycle for 10, 15, or 20 million customers every single month, you know that this is a huge undertaking. You can’t just rip it out and replace it with new software every six months – it requires hundreds of millions of dollars to make those changes. So you’re talking about highly expensive IT projects for companies operating on very slim margins.”
Stuart went on to describe how more and more consumers are using electric vehicles and how the power grids will cope – not every country is ready – and how different governments are providing stimulus packages to encourage more energy companies to move to green energy.
This is only a summary of the latest CX Files podcast – to listen to the complete interview with Stuart Ravens, search your favourite podcast app for ‘CX Files’ or click here to listen online.