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As customers demand a digital, responsive and trustworthy service experience from their energy providers, companies must refocus every part of their business to put the consumer at the centre of everything they do. To do so, retail energy providers will need to overcome the complexities of enacting a digital transformation.

Energy providers have long had a mandate to deliver a service and, like many organisations founded in a pre-digital time, they have done so with a focus on operational and functional reliability and efficiency. Now, consumers expect personalised service, lower prices, reliability and efficiency as a standard. To retain market share and remain competitive, energy providers will need put the customer at the centre of their service delivery.

Customer-centric digital transformation programs allow energy providers to reorientate around their consumer – but this is not easy for long-established organisations, particularly those with traditional operating models, siloed functions, hierarchical ways of working, and legacy technologies.

New expectations of service and trust

Customers want an energy provider that they can trust, yet trust in the energy sector has been eroded by complexity and a lack of transparency. To put the customer at the centre of their operations, organisations need to uncover their customer’s points of frustration and work to improve the level of service and value they deliver, drive simplicity and create transparency to earn customers trust. Consumers expect that their energy provider will be:

  • easy to do business with
  • transparent
  • offer digital service solutions
  • offer visibility and control over their bills and payments
  • understands the individual needs of the customer
  • has a clear social licence to operate, with the company actively servicing the community as a force for good.

Transformation challenges

Embarking on organisational wide customer-centric digital transformations is challenging, and can often fail. One common mistake is that organisations seek to implement new technology solutions –like a new CRM, or digital app – before properly understanding the problem they’re seeking to solve.

Technology initiatives may form part of the solution, but the initial challenge lies in identifying and diagnosing the customer problem in order to determine what the future state customer experience should be. Then organisations can take this experience and define the core capabilities (people, process, data and technology) required to realise that future, as well as the most appropriate operating model to deliver this experience.

Culture comes first

A company’s culture can play a large part in organisational wide transformation failure. Once the desired future experience is designed, and the delivery path is clear – organisational culture is a vital ingredient in transformation success.

Change can be challenging for everybody, so it’s essential that a company’s workforce are taken along the journey. This will require a strong mandate from leadership, and it could also require a rethink of traditional organisational and operational models – moving to a more horizontal and agile way of working.

In a horizontal approach, the focus is placed on multi-disciplined teams or squads – all focused on a core customer touch point or problem. These teams are focused on creating customer-centric solutions and are complemented by ‘capabilities’ or ‘guilds’ that resemble their previous functions. Specialists, for instance on customer experience, sales and marketing or data analytics, are deployed across teams to drive consistency across the customer experience and end-to-end functional capability. Behaviours required of teams in a horizontal structure are different to those that favour functional vertical structures. Generally they include:

  • a strong customer-first orientation
  • empowerment of teams close to the customer problem
  • collaboration across functional lines using frameworks such as service design and delivery
  • trust
  • transparency
  • a problem-to-solution focus
  • KPIs that balance customer outcomes with operational efficiency.

The need for these changes in ways of organising, operating and orientating to create culture that will drive success for a digital transformation cannot be underestimated; and applying appropriate focus on cultural change is critical to sustainable adoption of a new ways of operating.

Centring any organisational transformation on the customer will help energy providers focus strategy and decisions. Once core customer expectations are met, there are ample opportunities to extend the roadmap further and to achieve a state of customer experience excellence.

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