How Digital Transformation can Help Utilities Retain Customers

Read time 5 mins

utilities digital tranformation

From droughts to hurricanes, heat waves and wildfires, there’s no doubt about it, 2022 was a very tough year for the utilities industry. When winter approached last year, people across the UK faced fuel poverty as gas and electricity prices soared – an occurrence only escalated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which rages on. 

Furthermore, the latest Which? consumer insight tracker paints a rather concerning picture for the utilities industry (particularly energy suppliers) when it comes to public perception. Even for those able to pay their bills with relative ease, consumer trust in the gas and electricity industry has fallen dramatically from +23 a year ago to -21 now. Most of the consumers surveyed referred to unexpectedly steep price rises and the perceived prioritisation of profits over the cost-of-living crisis as reasons for losing faith in utilities organisations. 

Looking ahead as we advance into 2023, providing reliable, affordable, and clean utilities to consumers could become even more challenging.  Supply chain snags, further rising costs, climate/extreme weather woes, and cyber security threats are likely to continue plaguing the power and utilities sector, with no immediate respite in sight.  

All of this may lead utility organisations to wonder just how – as industry policymakers work to increase reserves, deploy energy storage and microgrids, and bolster infrastructure – they can also concentrate on retaining customers and restoring public trust? 

All is not lost, though. It seems that promising trends in digital transformation and tech innovation promise to ripen opportunities for the utilities sector in 2023, helping the industry achieve its goals and reposition themselves in the eyes of their customers. 


Utilities sector and digital transformation

We use the term ‘digital transformation’ to talk about the integration of digital technology into our everyday lives – but also to understand the way that technology creates, or reimagines, processes and customer experiences, helping organisations to meet business requirements and changing consumer expectations.  

More than this, though, digital transformation also denotes a cultural shift. This is because it requires businesses to continually challenge the status quo, adapt to changing trends, and provide added value and better digital experiences to consumers and employees alike.  

In the world of utilities – following the examples of banking or telecommunications – it is vital that these businesses can offer customers a smooth, convenient, and personalised digital experience. Indeed, as price hikes continue (customers can expect a further 20% increase in energy prices in April 2023), the public – quite rightly – will expect more of their suppliers. We saw an example of this take place back in summer 2022, when energy regulator, Ofgem, demanded a number of energy suppliers take immediate and urgent action following a review of direct debit charges.  

Out of a total of seventeen large suppliers in the market, the majority were found to only have minor issues. However, five were found to have ‘moderate or severe’ weaknesses. In response, Ofgem required all suppliers that increased their customers’ direct debits by more than 100% (impacting over 500,000 customers) to review them and, where appropriate, to immediately adjust any miscalculations and make repayments and/or goodwill payments.  

Although this is just one example, in an industry where uncertainty and volatility has become the new normal, efficient and effective digital transformation can really help utility companies to be more agile, flexible and responsive to customer or regulatory demands. 

Implementing effective managed infrastructure will also improve the overall efficiency of these types of organisations by empowering members of staff to work smarter (automating repetitive tasks, for example), impacting overall productivity and allowing for more flexibility for the modern, ‘work from anywhere’, workforces.   

Whether companies are responsible for electricity, gas, water, or waste utilities, they must strive to develop intelligent solutions and digital efficiency in their own operations in order to be able to adapt to the sector’s challenges. Of course, whilst each organisation’s digital transformation plan will depend upon its own unique goals, pain-points, and requirements, most digital transformation strategies share commonalities associated with the below:  

  • Customer experience
  • Operational agility
  • Culture and leadership
  • Workforce enablement
  • Digital technology integration

Before moving forward with any digital transformation programme, then, it will be important to discuss and understand your organisation’s expectations and aspirations for each phase. A transparent and collaborative managed service provider will ensure that impactful, measurable, and concerted efforts are made toward key business goals in the initial planning stage. 

The benefits of digital transformation for utilities sector

Whilst 2022 was an exceptionally negative year for the utilities sector, 2023 could be a real opportunity for it to step up, with digital innovation providing a much-needed boost. Many utilities organisations are already turning to digital technologies to improve customer service, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.   

Below we examine some of the main benefits of digital transformation for the utilities industry in 2023: 

Enhanced consumer and employee experience 

Inside any industry, one of the main goals of digital transformation is to enhance digital customer and employee experience – and this is a key element for utilities given their need to remain competitive and build consumer trust in 20203. By digitising processes and leveraging data to personalise interactions, utility companies can provide a better overall experience for their customers. Doing so also allows utility companies to continue improving digital customer service channels, e.g., mobile apps or live chat features, thereby making it easier for customers to access information and communicate with their supplier. As a result of better service and more transparency, customer loyalty and satisfaction are strengthened. 

Improved use of big data  

Big data refers to the large, diverse sets of information which are collected through various digital channels, e.g., social media, e-commerce, online transactions, and from other internet-enabled devices. Indeed, many utilities now collect hundreds of millions of readings every day from various sources including:   

  • Meters (utilisation, status, manufacturer, purchase date, events such as reprogramming notifications and tamper alerts) 
  • Transformers (ID, circuit section, circuit ID) 
  • Service points 
  • Customer accounts (type, status, billing cycle) 

Big data analytics enabled through digital transformation means this data can be used to provide strategic insights when it comes to systems planning and operations, helping to streamline processes across the board and remain responsive to customer patterns and trends.  

Better security 

Enhancing security is one of the most important goals of digital transformation for utility organisations. Indeed, as the decentralisation and interconnectivity of smart energy assets creates ever-more cyber security vulnerabilities for utilities, digitising operations and upgrading security features can help create a more secure environment for everyone involved. One way that digital transformation can enhance security in utilities is by providing real-time data monitoring. This allows utility companies to quickly identify unusual or suspicious activity and take appropriate action to investigate and resolve the issue. 

Increased sustainability 

There are many ways in which digital transformation can increase sustainability in utilities. For example, by automating energy-intensive processes, digitising customer interactions, and improving asset management through the use of data, analytics, and technologies such as digital twins. Data and automation can be utilised to reduce energy consumption by optimising power consumption and effecting preventative maintenance, while digitalisation can improve customer engagement and enable two-way communication that can help utility companies identify and rectify issues. 


If you’re considering a new digital transformation journey and would like to discuss how Littlefish can help you enhance service quality and cyber security, feel free to get in touch through the contact button. 

Get In Touch