6 June 2012 – IDC Energy Insights estimates that the global market for energy utility customer care and billing applications for 2012 will be US$913.9 million, with a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9% between 2011 and 2015. Customer care and billing systems absorb a significant portion of utilities’ IT spending, second only to enterprise resource planning systems.

The introduction of competition in the supply of energy commodities together with the unbundling of the value chain significantly reshaped the energy sector and impacted how utilities interact with their customers. More recently, the implementation of smart metering for residential customers, demand response and customer engagement programs, electric vehicles and other innovations are increasing the functionality, scalability and flexibility required of customer care and billing systems.

Consequently, energy retailers in competitive markets are looking for solutions to help reduce costs to serve and manage their customers and go-to-market expenses. In addition, they seek to protect their revenues by more efficiently selecting the right customers to engage, while improving customer satisfaction and complying with market regulations.

"The selection of a customer care and billing solution, as well as the approach in the implementation needs to be evaluated in the context of each company’s own IT enterprise architecture," Roberta Bigliani, head for IDC Energy Insights, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, says. "Overall, customer care and billing applications that can effectively support customer targeting and acquisition, provide rating and billing flexibility, enable converged and complex billing, excellent customer self-service, provide quick and solid analytics following the entire contract-to-cash process, and are smart meter ready, will best serve competitive energy markets."

Customer care and billing applications automate the customer-facing business processes and collectively serve to manage the entire lifecycle of a customer. They include customer self-service channels, automated customer access channels for sales, initiation of service orders, credit and collections, billing and payment management – including pre-payment – customer sales and switching, and contact centre management. In addition, capabilities to support demand response, energy management services, and plug-in electric vehicles billing are considered.

Customer care and billing may also be referred to as customer relationship management (CRM) and customer information systems (CIS).