Online trading provides the model
Is digitalisation changing the way in which customers interact with energy providers? “We certainly think so!” says Jens Michael Peters, CEO of innogy subsidiary eprimo and Mr. needs and period after. “It starts with the way in which customers access services and ends with companies leveraging new retail and marketing opportunities.” Peters points to the example of major online mail order companies who have used digitalisation to focus on customer benefits. “Ever since they emerged, the sector’s internal rules of engagement have radically changed, as all competitors now have to measure themselves against the digital standard.” Peters now sees a similarly competitive situation in more and more sectors – especially the energy sector. “Here we see an opportunity for our business and want to help shape this trend from the very beginning”.
70 percent of all business now online
It pays to gain experience at an early stage. In the case of energy utility eprimo, where Peters is the CEO, 70 percent of all business is now online. “The main by-product of this for us has been learning. The dynamics and rules of the internet present very different demands in terms of the functionality, performance and scalability of an organisation.” How did we get there? By consistently leveraging digital technologies such as data and applying the principle of test, retest and test again.
“Look around you to see how customers and entire industries use the internet to their advantage, and then identify your own action areas,” is Peters’ advice to all followers on the path of digital transformation. “What are really smart customer experiences? What benefit do they offer the customer? What does this mean for your products or services and your processes? And what opportunities does it present for you? Always bear in mind too that whatever can be digitalised will be digitalised,” says Peters.
We will have to adapt to the trend of customers taking matters into their own hands.
Digital thinking needed
At the same time, Peters warns that there is no magic formula. Anyone wanting to offer customers a consistent purchasing and service experience, online or offline, must make a point of digitalising all processes at the customer interface. “But it is not simply a matter of putting all existing processes online. Instead, the entire sales logic has to be radically rethought, with no regard for any “sacred cows”. The deciding factor should always be the data. Only when all processes from start to finish have been “digitally thought through,” will you end up with a useful result.” Digitalisation is not an end in itself but a means of providing greater customer satisfaction, improving business performance and achieving leaner processes.
Peters is convinced that the energy sector will rapidly change as a result of digitalisation – not just because the government has already opted for it. “We will have to adapt to the trend of customers taking matters into their own hands.” With a few clicks they can switch energy providers and, in an increasingly decentralised energy world, many businesses and households will produce and manage their own power, as some already do. He cites products like SmartCompany, Shine and SmartHome as early examples of the kind of services that will be driven by digital technologies.