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Cognizant 20-20 Insights

Digital Transformation for Utilities:

Creating a Differentiated Customer
Experience Through Mobility
In todays deregulated marketplace, utility companies can gain
sustainable competitive advantage by embracing a mobile-first
mind-set to differentiate the experience they deliver to customers.
Read on to see our framework for getting there.
Executive Summary
Its hardly news that the unrelenting convergence of communication and computing capabilities in mobile consumer devices is transforming customer experience and user expectations
for nearly every service and function across
In fact, smartphone subscriptions will achieve a
compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25%
between 2010 and 2020, according to the Ericsson
Mobility Report.1 While only 10% of the global
mobile phone subscriber base had smartphones
in 2010, by 2020 penetration is set to reach 70%,
or 5.6 billion subscribers worldwide. This change
in consumer behavior, complemented by the rapid
evolution of mobile operating systems (OS) and
product features, has resulted in a new multiscreen world.
For both sequential and simultaneous screening,
smartphones have become the backbone of daily
media interactions for most consumers. Conventional wisdom says smartphones are the most
used computing/communications device on a

cognizant 20-20 insights | september 2016

daily basis and are the common starting point for

users multiple screen experiences.
As modern digital technologies influence
customer experience, expectations and behaviors,
the utilities industry needs to respond in kind.
This white paper explores the opportunities
and proposes a framework for utility companies
seeking to transform their business by taking
advantage of mobile-first thinking and multiscreen preferences to create tangible differentiation in a crowded marketplace.

Emergence of the Multiscreen World

In todays multiscreen world, context drives the
choice of device. The decision is affected by
time of the day, objective to be accomplished,
location of the user and the users state of
mind. On an average, 38% of daily interactions
with the Internet happen via mobile. Mobiles
emergence as a preferred screen is the result of
its on-the-go convenience and growing communications and connectivity capabilities, as well
as users lack of time to use other devices. In
this multiscreen world, most users have strong

Starting Online with the Smart Phone




Location of User
State of Mind
Time of Use




Use in office and home

On-thego and home

Used in office


Communicate and connect

Entertainment and browsing

Need quick info

Relaxed and leisurely approach

Short burst of time available

Unbound sense of time

Serious and research intensive attitude

Requires lot of time and focus





Search Activity








Online Shopping




Travel Planning




Banking and Finance




Social Networking




Source: Google
Figure 1

preference for mobile to either initiate contact

or accomplish an objective. Figure 1 uses Google
research2 to explain why users prefer multiscreen engagement, while demonstrating that
mobile is the most preferred point of initiation
for all online activities.

Embracing Mobile as a Primary

Customer Engagement Channel and
Ducking the Delete Syndrome
This dynamic shift in consumers digital behavior
has triggered a strong realization among utilities
that they need to pivot towards mobile as a key
element in their digital strategies. However, most
companies have yet to fully embrace mobile as a
self-service channel.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2016
Utility Website Evaluation Study, although many
utilities have extended their mobile offerings,
most customers are not satisfied with their performance.3 Out of all utilities companies in the U.S.,
approximately 29% have dedicated apps, leaving
a large upside for tighter customer engagement
and satisfaction improvement. Companies that
do not have dedicated mobile apps offer mobileenabled websites to deliver a mobile-optimized
cognizant 20-20 insights

There are 136 investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in

the U.S., held by 69 major utility companies of
which 17 are in the West, 20 in the Midwest, 16 in
the South and 16 in the Northeast. Our analysis
shows that the geographic distribution of utilities
that have a dedicated mobile app for customer
service varies from 23.5% to 37.5% averaging
29% for all of the U.S. (see Figure 2).
According to customer reviews, most of these
apps have failed to live up to user expecta-

Dedicated Customer Service

Mobile Apps by Region




Utilities - 17


Apps - 4


Figure 2

Utilities - 16
Apps - 6




Utilities - 20

Utilities - 16

Apps - 5

Apps - 5

Transactional and Engagement Features: An Illustrative Example

Contact Us
My Balance
> Account Balance
> My Energy Use
> Payment Arrangements
> Online Payments
> Service Order Status
> Outage/Gas Leak Status
Account Alerts (e.g., Bill Due,
Overdue, Outage Alerts)
Outage/Emergency Reporting

Personalized Tips and Advice
Related to Energy Efficiency
and Clean Energy
Decision-Making Tools Like Best
Rate Selector or Useful Add-On Savings
Gamification Like Goal-Based
Savings Target and Incentivization
or Games Linked to Energy
Proactive Alerts and Notification
Including Weather and Storm Advisory
Active Outage and Storm
Emergency Support
Social Media Connects

Figure 3

tions. Apps built on the Android platform have

better ratings compared to those that run the
iOS operating system. The average rating for an
Android app4 is 3.59 while it is 2.62 for iOS apps.
iOS apps5 received a below average rating on
customer experience, according to our analysis.
User ratings in both platforms are found to be
skewed towards the average, leaving a major
opportunity for improvement. This disconnect
with users results in the inevitable: The utility app
is among the first to be deleted.
So, how can utilities duck the delete syndrome?
While conceptualizing their mobile service and
engagement channel, utilities need to understand
the synergies across channels. They also need to
ensure their overall digital strategy is built on a
meaningful and relevant customer experience.
Another pertinent question to ask early on is the
purpose of the mobile app. Existing mobile apps in
the market can be classified into two buckets (see
Figure 3). The first bucket includes transactional
apps built to help a customer complete a transaction from a mobile device. The second is the transformational group and consists of engagement
apps that are built to encourage and maintain user
adoption. Utilities should look at features that help
engage customers and drive meaningful connections.6 It is important to get it right from the start,
and then enhance key capabilities over time. This
drives the long-term adoption of the app.
It is essential to identify the key customer
engagement and transactional feature for the

cognizant 20-20 insights

mobile app in the strategic planning phase.

Along with the regular transactional features,
its important to focus on critical customer
engagement functions such as empowerment
tools, necessary tips and gamification (see
Figure 4, page 4).
Figure 5, on page 4, offers a few examples of
winning features that can make utility industry
mobile apps7 into an exceptional user experience.

The Move to Mobile as a Self-Serve

Digital platforms and devices have become an
integral part of our lives across industry segments,
and will continue as such for the foreseeable
future. We do so much online now buy stuff, plan
holidays, manage funds and frequently from our
Research suggests that utility companies lag
behind other industries in the adoption of digital
technologies, and particularly so in the mobile
channel.8 Strong regulatory controls and lack
of incentives for competing in the digital space
have kept utilities away from embracing digital
technologies as much as other industries have. In
recent times, however, rising costs of acquisition
and competition in the deregulated market have
incentivized utilities to look towards adopting
customer-connected technologies. With the
advent of smart grids and free markets, utilities
are undergoing not only a technological shift but
also a strong shift in customer dynamics. With
this shift, the voice of the customer and driving

Key Customer Service Functional Modules and Activities:

An Illustrative Example
User Experience
Journey Modules

User Experience
Journey Modules

Module Features

Meter reads submission user form

Log in registration

Submit meter read photo


Forgotten password email journey


Create account

Mobile number verification and SMS


Account summary

Scheduled alerts

Link delink accounts

Manage multiple accounts

Real-time alerts


Usage tips

Preference center

Push notifications

Real-time consumption report


Create service appointment

Spend to date & prepaid

Job tracking view status of service


Usage analytics graphs & charts

Outage reporting


Outage status

Create move-in/move-out requests

Report a problem

GPS location finder to report an



Contact us connect to call center

Service chat with support center

Google map Integration for

outage center

Enroll in demand response



Make payment card

Make a payment direct debit


Manage programs and offers

Green button data integration
Help & advice service

Make a payment direct debit


Voice recognition for app navigation


Paypal & Kubra payment gateway


Choice of configurable modules

Cloud integration

Auto debit facility wallet

View bill details


Electric vehicle charge points



Add and control smart home


View payment history


Module Features

Integrate with social media platforms

Figure 4

Standing Out from the Pack

Account Summary
Name Here

My Usage



Home Account

Compare Your Usage


Due in 3 Days

Payment Successful
Nov 12

Payment History

58 Bedford Street, NY


An engineer has
been booked for service

Submit Meter Read


Your usage is alarmingly high

until September 13

Outage report received

We are working towards
resolving it.


Last Meter Read

Restoration time: 18:35

12% more than last month

View Usage


58 Bedford Street, NY

1 Unpaid Bill


Current Bills




Account Summary

Bill Period Nov 15 to Dec 15 2015


Nov 12

Book an Engineer

Emergency Contact:
1 800 120 0009

Contact Us

View consolidated

Use Springboard to

Design for

Use icons to

Use metaphoric
progress status

Accordion view to
avoid clutter

Combine with
horizontal swipe

Use concise graphs

Show time of arrival

Ease to return to
home screen

Provide read/
unread status

Show transaction

Ability to swipe
between views

Use filters and time


Figure 5

cognizant 20-20 insights

Push notice for


Accessing the Mobile Imperative in Todays Multiscreen World

Business Driver





Traditional View

New Age Imperative

Case for Mobile

Regulated markets.
Customer stickiness.
Limited switching

Market deregulation.
Seamless switching.
Multiple operators and

Ability to develop an

Locked customers.
Traditional channels

Extremely flexible

Ability to provide all


for negative feedback


customer with multiple

options to switch.
Information and negative
experiences flow rapidly

relevant information to
the customer to reduce
information shocks.
Ability get proactive with

Traditional mechanisms Loss of the traditional

Ability to cater to modern

Supply-driven market. Market for demand

No incentives
for consumption
Home-to-grid models.
Emergence of
SMART devices and

Ability to enable real time

Driven by regulatory

Ability to engage and get

for bill collections.

Standard payment

network and devices.


flexible customer base.

engagement strategy for

customer segments and
have meaningful connects.
Ability for utility to shift
from being a necessity
provider to value
enhancing partner


wallet and advent of new

payment platforms.
Need to do better energy
cost analysis to drive
affirmative actions.


Need to be driven by

customer experience.

payment methods.
Payments anywhere

responses and call to

Ability to keep track of
savings and usage on the
feedback at every stage
based on scenarios.

Figure 6

While mobile is on the roadmap of most

utilities, many are far from achieving
a fully transformational state where
multiscreen and mobile-specific
interactions feel seamless and serve as a
market differentiating factor.
customer engagement have become paramount
to win new and retain existing customers.
Platforms such as social media and mobile apps
are rapidly becoming the preferred means for
customers to communicate with their providers.
An estimated 624 million customers will engage
with utilities via social media by the end of 2017.9
While mobile is on the roadmap of most utilities,
many are far from achieving a fully transformational state where multiscreen and mobile-spe-

cognizant 20-20 insights

cific interactions feel seamless and serve as a

market differentiating factor.
While utilities include mobile apps as a part of
their digital roadmap, few have successfully
deployed it to their consumers. But utilities
believe that with millennials being the priority
customers10 in years to come, mobile as an alternative channel would be a faster way to increase
adoption by leveraging the benefits of availability (anywhere and anytime) and personalization
(relevant to the customer).

Transforming Customer Engagement:

Making Business Sense of the Mobile App
Coupled with smartphone features, many of
todays advanced mobility solutions in our view
provide an engaging user experience (UX) to
utility customers. These solutions eliminate multitouch-point interactions between the company

Comparing, Contrasting Mobile Apps vs. Mobile-Optimized Websites

Mobile Website

Accessed through browsing

Mobile App

Accessed after installation

High personalization

Minimum personalization
Static, navigational
user interface
Requires connection

Interactive user
Available offline
and fast

Marginal performance lag

Limited features

Can use phone features:

e.g., camera, flash torch, location service

Figure 7

The Customer Service Business Case for Mobile Apps


Service Needs & Pain-Points

I want to report an outage.
Phone line in call center is busy cannot report the
In a meeting. Cannot talk to the customer service
Its already been an hour since I reported the outage
I dont know what action they took!


I want to pay my bill.

Travelling next week; if I miss the utility bill payment,
I have to pay a penalty.
Just came back from Walmart, visiting the utility bill desk
slipped my mind.
Paying utility bills can be auto debited from my

Bill Payment

GPS, map and camera features.

GPS location finder to report an outage.

Google map integration for outage center.
Make payments on the go through secured

Make payment, with a card or direct


Auto debit wallet facility.

Check old bills at ones fingertips.
Enter the meter reads in app forms.
Submit meter read by clicking a photo.
View meter read using flashlight torch.
Verify mobile number and SMS reads.

I want to book an engineer for a breakdown.

Phone line in call center is busy cannot report the
In a meeting. Cannot talk to service support immediately.
Its already been a week. I reported the annual check; no
update on status yet!

Create service appointment through app.

Job tracking: view status of service request.
Create move in/move out requests.
Service chat with support center.
Location identifier of service agents using GPS

How can I reduce my electricity, water and gas consumption

and save money?
I want to save money by smartly using electricity and water.
But I forget to keep a track of offers and programs.

Enroll in & track demand response programs.

Manage and use offers from the service


the customer to reduce information shocks.

Outage reporting: call center & chat support.

Outage status monitoring dashboard using

I want to submit monthly meter readings so that there is no

estimated billing.
Cumbersome process. Note reads, go to online portal,
enter reads; time-consuming.
I dont know how to read a meter.

Meter Read

Mobile App Benefits

Ability to provide all relevant information to

Energy Efficiency

data sharing.


Notifications using push alerts feature in

mobile app.

How can I control energy consumption of my devices from

a remote location?
I left for the office an hour early today; did I switch off my
room heater?
E-Car & Smart Home
Where can I find charge points for my electric vehicle?

Figure 8

cognizant 20-20 insights

Add and control smart home gadgets

through app.
Dashboard for in-home electronic appliances.
Electric vehicle charge points integration
in app.

The Customer Service Mobile App: Three-Step Approach

Digital Strategy & Roadmap

Marketing & Service Support

Gap Assessment Customer Service Model

Align Marketing Plan with Strategic Goals

Consumer Analysis & Feature Selection

Digital Marketing Campaign Management

Competition Analysis & Product Selection

Performance Measure Metrics Dashboard

Requirements Management & UX Plan

App Usage Analytics and Upgrade Planning

App Development & Testing

Requirement Analysis and Use Cases
Design and Development
Product Integration and Testing
Social Collaboration and Security

Figure 9

There is a compelling business case

for utilities to explore a mobile app as
a channel for customer service operations. A mobile app has the capability to
be a one-stop solution for the customers
seeking to manage their utility needs.
and its customers by offering a single window
platform that improves process efficiency,
reduces system cost and enhances brand
loyalty by giving customers an engaging digital
experience. However, the biggest challenge for
utilities is deciding whether to build a full-fledged
engagement module (a mobile app), extend their
website suitable for a mobile (responsive design)
or use a combination of both. It is important to
understand the difference.
While the mobile app has a certain edge over
responsive websites, for utility companies that
want to improve customer service, they must
assess the pluses and minuses of providing such
capabilities via an app or the Web (see Figure 7,
page 6). For example, if a utility wants to provide
the capability to operate the flashlight feature
as a torch for meter reading, a mobile app is the
better option.
The utilitys mobility strategy should govern
the adoption of an app-based solution over a
responsively designed Web approach. Starting
with a responsive design of an existing portal,
utilities need to focus on developing dedicated
mobile apps that can leverage the best of both
worlds Web content such as map-based outage
reporting and native mobile features such as
sensors, geolocation services, push notifications,

cognizant 20-20 insights

real-time updates, etc. There is a compelling

business case for utilities to explore a mobile app
as a channel for customer service operations.
A mobile app has the capability to be a one-stop
solution for customers seeking to manage their
utility needs.
But the question is whether the customer is ready
for the mobile channel. In a survey by Clickfox,7
77% of respondents find a customer service mobile
app from their utility service provider a useful
proposition. The insight also suggests that over
90% of respondents would replace some or all traditional customer service channels with a mobile
app if available. Today, while the Web self-service
channels struggle to meet adoption targets of
upwards of 30%, mobile as an alternative channel
would be a faster way to increase adoption.

Unlocking the Different Stages:

A Framework-Based Approach
The utilities journey for mobile app development
for customer self-service has three distinct stages
(see Figure 9).
Phase 1: Building the Digital Plan
The first step, or the initiation phase, is to develop
a strategic plan to develop the mobile channel.
This phase identifies the needs gap in current
service channels and creates the input for the
next phase product development and testing.
Once the app is developed, the utility needs a
marketing plan to increase adoption through
promotion and incentivization beyond offering
seamless service support.
We propose a framework to be adopted in the
strategic planning phase that guides the organization through strategic visioning, business capability

The Strategic Planning Progression







Understand and
Agree on
Why an App
Makes Sense

Review Existing
Self-Serve Channels
& Understand

Understand Voice
of Customer &
Voice of Business
to Formulate
Future State

Plan on
How the Vision
Will Be Realized

Decide and
Agree on KPIs
That Will Establish
Success or Failure

Figure 10

modeling, target modeling, creating a roadmap,

milestone identification and benefits realization planning. The approach is to understand the
utilities customer service strategy and identify the
gaps in the customer service model with a focus on
the why questions around the need for a mobile

The strategy should focus on driving

meaningful conversations and providing
avenues for customers to transact and
interact whenever they need, from their
device of choice the mobile.
app. The exit criteria would be to have a clear
understanding of the how.
Utilities need to consider what elements in their
app will drive engagement with the customer
so that the app is viewed as a value-enhancing
element in the crowded mobile ecosystem. The
strategy should focus on driving meaningful conversations and providing avenues for customers
to transact and interact whenever they need,
from their device of choice the mobile. The
apps goal should be to drive stickiness and be an
integral part of the utilities service proposition.
Phase 2: App Development & Testing Phase
One of the key challenges in the development
phase is to ensure an intuitive design and
usability aspect. However, the development
phase has a unique attribute specific to the
utility industry. Utility companies typically face
a challenge in that their main product (electricity, gas or water) is not seen as cool as, say,
ordering a pizza or a movie ticket online. To

The Mobile App Software Development Lifecycle


Testing &
Go Live




Mobile App

App Module


Security Design


Figure 11

cognizant 20-20 insights

The Path Towards Digital Marketing Excellence

Determine marketing
and promotional

Identify App marketing
benchmarks and
best practices

Measure KPI against
the stated goals
and objectives

Integrate results
and plan course
for the future

Outline campaign to
promote mobile app
to the target group

Analyze App
download, trial,
adoption & usage

Figure 12

overcome this challenge, utilities must adopt

a structured approach to combine the transactional and engagement features specific to their
customers needs. Making the customer central
to the design will ensure that the resulting app
is an engaging and intuitive solution for their
customers problems.
Phase 3: Marketing & Service Support Phase
Developing a mobile app and making it available
in an app store is only the journeys starting point.
Utilities understand how and why digital marketing
can drive awareness and build adoption. The most
critical success parameter for a mobile app is the
total number of downloads and the engagement
duration of consumers.
Digital marketing plays a key role to ensure that
customers are aware of the app, interested in
downloading it, have a desire to try the app
features and want to develop an engaged
and sustainable relationship. To succeed, it is
essential to identify app marketing benchmarks
and continually enhance the engagement with
consumers. Utilities face their biggest challenge
in this phase in terms of devising mechanisms
to prevent the delete syndrome. Utilities must
continuously manage customer engagements
and evolve features and functionality to remain
relevant in a space where the frequency of
usage of a utilities mobile app is low compared
with other aps. It thus becomes very important
to make every touch point as meaningful and
as value-adding as possible to avoid the delete
syndrome (see Figure 12).

cognizant 20-20 insights

Looking Ahead
Technology capabilities are impacting utility
customer service by creating a differentiation in
user experience. As a starting point, the mobile
app UX provides a transition from multiple touch
points between customers and the utility to
a convenient single window solution at users
fingertips. In addition, there is a wider scope
of mobility applications in the utility customer
self-service channel as digital and industry
boundaries become seamless and smartphones

Utilities must continuously manage

customer engagements and evolve
features and functionality to remain
relevant in a space where the frequency
of usage of a utilities mobile app
is low compared with other aps.
become the digital link. Utilities are exploring
the mobile channel for engaging consumers with
energy efficiency initiatives through gamification
and other advanced engagement principles.
By leveraging the power of social, mobile,
analytics and cloud solutions (known as the SMAC
Stack), utility companies can develop an Internet
of Things ecosystem where consumers can use
mobile apps not only to manage their smart
home devices but also to engage with the utility
seamlessly, through a window of their choice.










Pike Research Survey, Social Media in the Utility Industry Consumer Survey.



About the Authors

Sayan Ghosh is a Consulting Manager within Cognizant Business Consultings Energy and Utilities
Practice. He has over 11 years of consulting experience advising utility companies across the U.S. and
UK in areas focused on customer experience, smart metering, billing and digital transformation. Sayan
has an MBA in operations from SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, and a degree in
computer science engineering. He can be reached at Sayan.Ghosh@cognizant.com.
Arindam Mandal is a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Business Consultings Energy and Utilities
Practice. He has over seven years of consulting experience in the energy and utilities domain in the
areas of digital transformation, business roadmap planning, developing product strategies, driving
business change and business process transformations. Arindam has an MBA in strategy and operations
from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode, and an engineering degree in electrical engineering. He can be reached at Arindam.Mandal@cognizant.com.
Debroop Sengupta is a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Business Consultings Energy and Utilities
Practice. He has over seven years of experience in strategy and transformation projects across domains
including business strategy, process optimization, performance improvement, strategy for market entry,
customer experience and digital transformation. Debroop received an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur,
with a major in operations, marketing and strategy and a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering.
He can be reached at Debroop.Sengupta@cognizant.com.

About Cognizant
Cognizant (NASDAQ: CTSH) is a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business
process services, dedicated to helping the worlds leading companies build stronger businesses. Headquartered in Teaneck, New Jersey (U.S.), Cognizant combines a passion for client satisfaction, technology innovation, deep industry and business process expertise, and a global, collaborative workforce that
embodies the future of work. With over 100 development and delivery centers worldwide and approximately 244,300 employees as of June 30, 2016, Cognizant is a member of the NASDAQ-100, the S&P
500, the Forbes Global 2000, and the Fortune 500 and is ranked among the top performing and fastest
growing companies in the world. Visit us online at www.cognizant.com or follow us on Twitter: Cognizant.

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