Establishing the link between customer service engagement and its effect on utilities' bottom line, Patrick Mwesige, the project manager at Infrastructure Advisory Services, explains that generally there are two opposing views.

Mwesige notes: “We see those that are working conventionally, which is just to supply the energy and the customer pays the bills. But then we are increasingly seeing many utilities advancing as technology has advanced, moving towards customer engagement and actually putting a lot of facilities in place to enable the customer to choose how they want to be served, and at what price.”

According to him, this enables the customers to decide what they want to do with the service as opposed to the utility dictating what the service is.

In this context, he says many utilities are now optimising their asserts. “Typically many utilities tend to have fixed costs either in generation or those that are purchasing energy – they have fixed power purchasing agreements, so the more they sell the more they make.

"However, it is increasingly evident now that the more they engage the customer they can have better sales even at a lower cost.”

So it is a question of increasing revenue while minimising the cost exposure that utilities tend to have, he points out.

Challenges related to customer service engagement

Responding to a question on what the impact is on the utilities' staff will be when giving customers more freedom, he admits that it’s a big challenge for many utilities.

However, he cautions utilities to remember that "the entire customer service engagement has changed, customers are questioning why utilities don’t operate like a bank or be like a telecom company. With these firms, the customer has a choice of what they do and when they do it".

In the interview below, Mwesige explains further on customer service engagement.