The drive for greater transparency and improved customer experience – along with cheaper bills – are at the heart of the unprecedented scrutiny facing energy suppliers. Despite industry initiatives to reduce the number of tariffs on the market and make energy simpler, customers still bemoan inaccurate bills and lengthy switching times.
The biggest problem holding suppliers back is data – there’s a lot of it, it often goes wrong, it is the major cause of customer complaints and it can be incredibly difficult to fix.
If energy suppliers are to truly become customer-centric and improve their service, they need to fundamentally change their approach to data management.
Data – it’s a complex problem…
The whole energy industry is reliant upon a large number of complex messages being passed between those involved in getting energy across the network and the homes and businesses that use it. Individual data flows detail every event against a meter, from supplier changes to the recording of actual data use – which are used by suppliers for customers’ bills.
Without an efficient operating model, suppliers will struggle to achieve the reduced switching times by the end of the year and generating accurate bills will continue to be a challenge that trigger thousands of complaints every year. With the full roll-out of smart meters edging closer, the volume of data flows is only going to increase – and suppliers can’t afford to ignore the data problem.
…and it’s about to get even more complex
The majority of energy suppliers tackle data from the top down and it’s only later that they try to reconcile at a customer-level; what they’ve been charged for supplying energy to a property against what that property has actually been billed for. Often, this results in a disparity between purchased and consumed energy.
To prevent the imbalances ever becoming an issue, suppliers need to take a bottom-up approach in order to get an accurate view of their true settlement position. Basing demand forecasts and purchasing strategies on pure assumption-based profiles is both out-dated and risky.
Urgent need to take control of data
Energy companies have been called on to halve the time it takes for customers to switch suppliers yet this will prove a significant challenge for those that are still reliant on their legacy practices: without a transparent and accurate view of customer data, they will find it hard to track the switching process for individual accounts and rectify any issues.
Smart meters are painted as the panacea to billing and switching issues, yet under smart, the volume of data will increase to literally millions of data flows every day. If suppliers don’t have a smart operating system, they won’t be able to manage the data or enjoy the opportunities it presents.
Data is the foundation on which the energy industry lies, so good data management is fundamental to a supplier’s success. The future differentiator in the market will be customer experience and the simplicity in dealing with an efficient energy supplier that has mastered data and develops truly customer-centric strategies.
Addressing back office industry processes that are constructed around a meter and not the customer is crucial in being able to drive this step change. Suppliers simply can’t afford to ignore the data problem any longer.
Jon Slade is the CEO of ENSEK.
This is a sponsored article.