Water and energy companies now have an opportunity to look beyond traditional barriers and learn from the example of leaders in sectors like retail, telecommunications and financial services. “There are new ways to architect systems to drive greater flexibility and lower cost.” insists Siddall at Accenture.
“With the added power of technologies like cloud services, customer analytics, automation and artificial intelligence, there is also greater opportunity to personalise and automate customer interaction across the right channel, at the right time and for the right outcome, dramatically lowering cost with higher customer satisfaction.”
To do this, says Siddall, requires a new outlook from utility and energy companies with respect to the core capabilities they need to focus on. Businesses must also partner more effectively to get the best out of a broader ecosystem that will keep them at the frontier of innovation and cost.
Centrica is welcoming this challenge through its Centrica Innovations (CI) venture, which has seen the company collaborating and investing in start-ups that could have a significant role to play in the future solutions offered to customers. Since CI’s launch, the company has invested in Israeli firm Driivz and is collaborating on electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions for businesses as part of Centrica’s new Mobility Ventures team.
The team will build on Centrica’s experience as an installer of over 17,000 EV chargers globally and the launch of a new smart time-of-use tariff from British Gas that offers homeowners cheaper electricity overnight to charge their car.
Centrica has also invested in GreenCom Networks as part of a new Home Energy Management Ventures team, which will see the company expand its offer for homes to include solar, battery storage and heat pumps.
“But it’s important to note that our mission extends beyond scanning for technology,” insists Salisbury. “We’re focussing our resources on finding solutions to some huge societal challenges such as the need to decarbonise transport and heat, and how to help older people live more active lives and stay in their homes longer…Fundamentally, it’s all about how we can better serve our customers.”
Improving the way that customers are served now and into the future must remain at the heart of every business. But according to the UWL survey, current business models will be 31 per cent less fit for purpose in the next 15 years. It’s a distinct warning for utilities if they fail to embrace the bountiful opportunities for change: act now, or risk being left behind in the proverbial dust.