This fall, we partnered with Utility Analytics Institute to survey utilities on their current and future plans for using data analytics. Respondents represented a broad sampling of our industry:
- Service offerings: water, electric, street lighting, gas
- Types: municipal, co-op, IOU
- Sizes: fewer than 10,000 – 1 million or more customers served
Being analytics-minded myself, I sliced and diced the data many different ways and still found common ground around business and operating challenges as well as how analytics can help. Across the board, the research tells a similar story focused on asset/infrastructure management and customer service. Let’s see if you can relate.
When asked to identify the most challenging asset and work-management related issues, two emerged at the forefront: data challenges and integrating new technology.
When it comes to data, there are generally a number of pain points:
- Access to data is often restricted or data sources are unknown
- Validation of data is cumbersome at best and near-impossible at worst. Think: “garbage in, garbage out.”
- Storage becomes an issue because data is structured differently which makes it difficult to consolidate for analysis. Not to mention the storage challenges around cost and regulatory compliance.
- People with the right skills and given the proper amount of time to dedicate to data analytics projects are needed and often hard to come by in a utility.
Does any of this sound familiar yet? What about your challenges with aging infrastructure? This has been and will remain a problem for many years to come. Utilities are making strides in mitigating small challenges by servicing and replacing the most critical points in the system. But, not all utilities are taking a data-driven approach to doing so. Instead, they are relying on their gut which can be risky.
Customer satisfaction and perception emerged as the single most challenging customer-related issue, followed by digitizing the customer experience.
The number of customers who prefer to manage their lives via mobile apps and online portals is quickly surpassing that of customers who choose paper and phone-based communications. An easy way for utilities to address this is through a customer portal solution. Introducing a customer portal to your homeowners provides many benefits:
- A decrease in routine customer service calls
- Fewer high bill complaints when homeowners better understand usage and billing
- A reduction of energy and water waste, leading to reduced lost revenue
- Less time to identify and fix a problem
- Enhanced customer satisfaction and public perception
I was pleased to see the alignment in challenges and where utilities report they are budgeting for improvements. As you can see, the top 7 directly relate to improving asset management issues and customer satisfaction. (Respondents were permitted to select up to 5 choices out of 18.)
So, how does your organization stack up?
Are you feeling the same pains and actively working on improvement? Drop me a comment below and see what else your peers have to say including their current successes using analytics and their three year plans. Download the whitepaper: “Address Challenges and Improving Performance through Analytics.”
About the Author
Michele Reister is the former Marketing Communications Manager for Sensus software, services, security and communication networks. Michele holds a B.S. in Management and Information Technology from Daniel Webster College and a M.B.A. from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.More Articles by Michele
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