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Two weeks ago, I was sitting in the living room reading a book when the light above my head went out. I thought I may have blown a circuit, so I went downstairs to flip the switch. When that didn’t work, I peeked outside and noticed that all my neighbour’s lights were off as well, and made the assumption that the power must be out on the entire street. Instinctively, I logged onto Twitter from my mobile device to see if my utility provider had posted a service outage update; as someone accustomed to consuming updates in real-time, I thought it was logical that an explanation would be posted online. However, the hydro company had nothing posted on any social media outlet, or on their website itself. I decided to send them a tweet in hopes that they would provide me with information on the extent of the outage, but did not receive anything back. I ended up lighting candles and waiting out the out the outage with no information.

It is no secret that there is a disconnect between energy companies and their consumers, and the story I shared is just a small example of such. The relationship model that kept the consumer and his or her voice at arm’s length away is outdated. More than ever, consumers have a voice on the rates they pay, and the way they consume energy. With social media channels so easily accessible, it is virtually impossible for energy companies to ignore what their consumers are saying. While improving consumer engagement in energy company operations seems like a natural, constructive step forward, there is still a disconnect. According to The Economist report Utilities and the customer connection, while 46% of utility executives see a critical need to engage customers, only 36% say their companies have near-term investment plans.

The Consumer Connection

Working for a company like SAP, I have been conditioned to think differently about the ways mobility is able to transform traditional practices for industries. It is obvious that energy companies need to be more responsive to customer’s needs, and I think that mobility has a significant hand in making this happen. By putting active social media channels and mobile apps in place, energy companies would be able to transform themselves into a consumer-facing business, thus opening up the gateway for consumer engagement and satisfaction. While the value proposition of using mobile is clear to me as a consumer, it must also be clear to industry executives. Here, The Economist helpfully breaks down executive’s views on increased mobility:

Mobility has begun to positively change the landscape of consumer-company relationships. After all, the numbers speak for themselves – 80% of utilities executives believe that mobile strategies can improve field-force efficiency, productivity and capacity. In an era of mobile-empowered consumers, utility companies are being faced with the responsibility to reinvent the ways they engage with consumers; I truly feel like this is an exciting time for consumers, energy companies, and mobility.

Access the report here.