Maximizing Beyond-The-Meter Revenue Opportunities: An Expert Roundtable
Mark Wilkinson Joins an Energy Central PowerSession Series to Discuss The Benefits of Beyond-The-Meter Programs to Utilities & Their Digital Customers
Jan 6, 2021
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Mark Wilkinson, SVP Products at ibex Digital, joins an Energy Central PowerSessionTM Series, along with Russ Henderson, Senior Research Manager at Chartwell, Inc. & Rob Gilpin, Director of Business Development at American Water, as they form an expert roundtable to discuss how Beyond-The-Meter programs can maximize revenue opportunities.
If you missed it, click to watch the informative webinar and below are Mark's best bits, selected just for you.
The Best Bits:
Mark Wilkinson: We see a lot of Utilities starting to embrace the marketplace ideal and being somewhat disappointed with the results, or they have an expectation of a certain amount of customer acquisition or customer integration, then being disrupted a little bit by regulatory regimes and their ability to actually connect with customers. We look at the Beyond-The-Meter programs, especially on an on-going basis throughout a lifecycle as a perfect incubator for customer engagement and CSAT programs, and enhancement of energy efficiency, and demand response, and other program enrollments to connect the Utility more closely with their customers and develop real insights into how the evolving customer base wants to interact with Utilities.
Mark: Having a Beyond-The-Meter program, having an off-bill or on-bill non-commodity revenue, means that there’s a different level of customer service expectation and it’s a great place for everyone, both the Utility and the consumer, to learn how to interact in a modern fashion because those customer expectations keep amplifying.
Mark: We see this as great platform for customer expectations to be fulfilled in new ways for the Utility as well.
Mark: The idea of retention is not the issue, but it’s really about loyalty. It’s about the customer who is loyal to the brand and isn’t going to be dis-swayed just about price.
Mark: When we use the term ‘marketplace’, we’re really talking about an ecommerce site that’s been branded or offered in partnership with a Utility.
Mark: 30% of Utilities have some form of a marketplace. Zero of our participants (according to Quick Poll slide) are actually thinking about marketplace sites, except that they are thinking of other products that you would generally want to offer. The question becomes, ‘what are the right products and services and how do you engage with customers?’ Customers are looking for marketplaces – they’re looking for a quick, easy way to get connected to a service provider to find what they’re looking for and the Utility has an incredibly credible voice in that. What we always advise customers is, our Utility clients, you’ve got to find a way to leverage that first critical experience with the consumer, your new connection.
Mark: You’ve got to create an ecosystem where the customer can come back and re-engage with the brand on a repeated basis and the only way to do that is if you’ve got a place for them to go – a destination portal, like an ecommerce site or a marketplace and then have a range of new products and services often interconnected that the consumer can trust, coming from the Utility.
Mark: It’s not surprising when you think about the number of people that really are using mobile apps to pay their bills, but it’s almost always the banking app – it’s almost never the vendor app. It’s almost always the banking app because they make it really easy – it’s very seamless. And banks are on the forefront of that. Financial services and internet companies are some of the most highly aligned to what their digital-enabled customers want. And that’s an area that Utilities have struggled with.
Mark: There’s always a ‘buy’ versus ‘build’ question and having been in the industry on both sides of the equation for a long time, I can generally say that no one should ever try to build something unless it’s their core competency.
Mark: What Utilities need to focus on, and what we advise, is to always try to make the interaction that the customer has as seamless as possible – it’s just got to be easy. So, making it easy to find products and services, making it easy to find information to help advise, help make a purchase decision or make a claim if you’ve purchased a solution. It really becomes a whole ecosystem that customers are expecting.
Mark: We, generally from a technology perspective, would recommend that a client that is new in the space, look to lease these options through some sort of SaaS (software as a service) play or work with a dedicated partner on those types of solutions, than try to build it themselves.
Mark: If you sold the product, can you support the customer through that lifecycle? That journey is essential – it’s the first question that we recommend Utilities start thinking about when we do discovery. We start doing journey exercises to understand what is the vision to support that customer? What does that ecosystem begin to look like? And then we layer in the care and support, and ongoing engagement with the customer – that turns into how you plan for scale.
Mark: I think there’s going to be some companies that seek to disrupt and maybe disintermediate the relationship that Utilities have with their consumers, but actually to be successful in that space is going to be hard – I mean, it’s tough. And Utilities have some advantages that those companies don’t have.
Mark: I think COVID has done 3 things for the Utility industry and each of which is opportunity mixed with the craziness. COVID has given Utilities an opportunity to engage very, very differently with their customers.
Mark: Ecommerce is not going anywhere. It’s now become a definitive and disruptive force in a way we buy things and COVID’s actually changed that, again we think, on a permanent basis.
Mark: We recommend to all of our partners that they do an internal discovery session. Talk about what the goals and objectives would be.
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