UK utilities to overhaul customer service for smart-tech rollout

More than two thirds of UK energy companies will overhaul their customer-services divisions next year in preparation for a mass-market adoption of smart technology, according to a survey by Aspect.

The market-research company also said that some 52% of utilities will make additional investments in speech analytics, while half will increase spending on auxiliary paid-for services specifically relating to energy efficiency and renewable sources, such as audits, consultancy and solar panel installation.

More than two thirds of UK energy companies will overhaul their customer-services divisions next year in preparation for a mass-market adoption of smart technology, according to a survey by Aspect.

The market-research company also said that some 52% of utilities will make additional investments in speech analytics, while half will increase spending on auxiliary paid-for services specifically relating to energy efficiency and renewable sources, such as audits, consultancy and solar panel installation.

Aspect spoke to 100 UK utilities suppliers with at least one customer service location and employing more than 100 people.

“Utilities suppliers are not only facing one of the biggest changes in the history of the industry with smart technology adoption, but they cannot ignore the global energy resource crisis, lack of control of raw materials prices and huge portions of budgets going on replacing legacy infrastructure,” said Stephen Pritchard, the head of utilities at Aspect. “All signs point to investment in the customer as being critical to survival and growth.”

Having outsourced customer service as a cost-saving measure in recent years, most utilities are now moving these functions back to the UK, according to Aspect.

That is happening partly because outsourcing costs are growing, but also as utilities recognise the needs of their customers.

IT issues were cited by half of survey respondents as the biggest barriers to the deployment of smart technology to every UK home by 2019.

“A change in IT infrastructure requirements”, “integration of real-time meter readings with customer records” and “a huge increase in data” took the top three spots when utilities were asked about their main challenges.