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Benchmarking can play a Critical Role in Identifying and Prioritizing Analytics Projects
By Jim Linn, CIO, American Gas Association
Jim Linn, CIO, American Gas Association
My role provides a broad view into how utilities have approached the integration of data and analytics into business processes and where they are individually, and as an industry in this evolution.
Utilities that are investing both functionally and culturally in the use of data and analytics are realizing significant gains. As the utility industry continues its journey towards analytics maturity, deciding how to integrate analytics into business strategies and the prioritization of these opportunities has moved front and center. Whether analytics are used to reduce churn in a deregulated environment, market energy efficiency or payment programs, control billing exceptions, or provide restoration times, these projects must be identified, scoped, evaluated, and prioritized.
In its recent Customer Experience Metrics survey, utility industry research firm Chartwell, Inc. asked utilities, “To what degree do analytics drive your company's customer experience strategy/initiative(s)?” On a 1-10 scale, with a “10” representing “We involve analytics to drive every aspect of our customer experience strategy/initiative(s)”, only a third of utilities answered 8 or higher, with the average being 6.2. Examples of analytics projects cited by responding utilities suggest that this number is probably closer to a 4 as most utilities described projects that are closer to the reporting and analysis end of the analytics maturity spectrum than the predictive and prescriptive end.
Benchmarking and networking can provide considerable momentum for utilities that are working hard to integrate data and analytics into strategy. Comparing your utility to others in the industry, especially those considered “peer” utilities in size, geography, regulatory environment, and type of energy provided, can greatly assist in identifying potential areas where analytics can improve results and play a critical role in the identification and prioritization of use cases.
Discovering that a peer utility has a much higher distribution of automated calls while maintaining higher-than-average customer satisfaction leads to a conversation about their IVR structure and containment rate and possibly developing a strategy for voice analytics. Identifying a utility that has a high engagement rate in eBill can help inform the business case and creation of a propensity model and personalized marketing messages.
The American Gas Association (AGA) and Edison Electric Institute (EEI) have partnered for over 20 years to assist their member utilities in benchmarking themselves against other utilities in the gas and electric power industries. The DataSource customer service benchmarking survey is completed annually at no cost to AGA and EEI members and includes many areas that can be improved by analytics, including contact center, billing, payment, field services and many others.
The information provided in this annual survey enables participating utilities to understand their processes and view their results in relation to others in the industry. This exercise informs the conversation of which use cases have driven down costs and improved the customer experience, and the role that data and analytics have played in these achievements. Benchmark data can also provide input for business cases to help estimate potential impacts and value associated with projects in order to prioritize appropriately.
Utilities that are members of AGA or EEI and would like information about participating in the DataSource survey may contact Jim Linn with AGA, email@example.com, or Adam Cooper with EEI, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.