With the energy and utilities sector in the midst of regulation and disruption, providers such as E.ON are facing up to the need to re-imagine ideas of customer engagement.
That’s one of the principle drivers behind E.ON’s Digital Attacker program, pitched by Lee Durham, Digital Attacker Business Partner, as one of the key digital transformation initiatives underway within the company:
What we want to be able to do across both our business and residential operations and organizations is to really give our customers a more personalized service and adapt to their needs and, and give them a more integrated end-to-end energy solutions service as well.
The concept of solutions is an important indicator of the changes underway. Durham expands:
We're a multi-national organization and a leader in energy solutions. We're no longer just about core power and gas. We see ourselves as an end-to-end solutions provider for our customers across a number of different solutions areas. We absolutely see ourselves as a customer centric organization, putting the customer at the heart of what we do. We now focus primarily on the downstream elements of the energy supply chain. We also focus on digitization.
Against that backdrop, Digital Attacker sets out to address a specific problem statement, he adds:
How do you compete with new entrants in the market? New entrants are able to adapt and innovate quickly. They're able to operate through digital channels...really able to operate at a low cost-to-serve. I work in the IT organization within E.ON. How can we build a platform that can compete in the same way? Ultimately, how do we build an organization that can operate in that way?
Among the KPIs against which success would be measured was cost of change, specifically how could that be driven down? Durham says:
We have a legacy IT estate that has developed over a number of years within the UK and also within the group. What comes with that is complexity and we all know complexity, and driving change through those complex areas, adds cost into that ecosystem.
A similar challenge was how to drive down cost-to-serve without losing the customer satisfaction levels and Net Promoter Scores that E.ON has worked to put in place:
Ultimately, how can we use technology to drive out more automation, more opportunity to serve our customers in the right way and maybe try and drive and operate through digital channels, but also maybe be more proactive about the way that we service our customers? How can we identify those real opportunities to both delight the customer, but also almost second guess where they're coming from. Smart Metering and Smart Data gives us opportunities to do some of that. Through our Digital Attacker platform, that's one of the things that we're keen to try to drive out [through the organization].
There’s also a desire to get to a position where near real time implementation of customer propositions can be achieved. Durham explains:
What we really mean by that is innovation. How can we drive innovation, whether it be in our tariffs, whether it be in our solutions, how do we drive that into the market? How do we offer that to our customers? Actually how do we have an IT estate that can support the rapid changes in that and adapt to the customer's needs?
The Digital Attacker transformation began about a year ago, starting with a small team which then expanded out across the UK and Germany. It is a multi-regional program for a good reason, says Durham:
Part of the rationale for that is the lean IT platform. We were looking to try and realize the synergies that in the technology stack and in the architecture across multiple regions and to again drive out some of the cost of changes and the cost-to-serve the customer, but still focusing on the customer centric nature of the offerings.
E.ON is now building out a componentized architecture, running integrated Software-as-a-Service components, with Salesforce being used in the technology stack to address sales and services functions. This is a work in progress, says Durham:
We're on a journey. That’s a bit of a cliche, but we are quite early in that journey. But we’re looking to leverage more and more opportunities that Salesforce can offer to us. It's key that through this platform that we get to the point [of greater] personalization. More and more the expectations of customers are increasing. The data that we're able to gather, in a GDPR-compliant way, around those customers is ever increasing and we need to make better use of that.
We started with our acquisition journey, trying to make it simpler for our customers, trying to reduce the amount of touch points, trying to use digital channels wherever we can. One of the key tenets is make it look maybe not like a typical energy retailer now and make it more like a retailer. You know, what is a consumer after? What Salesforce is offering us at the moment is that 360 degree view. We need the opportunity to understand out customers needs, adapt to that and also take opportunities to cross sell, to take the opportunities to move into other markets. And this is when the 360 degree view is critical.
As with any journey, there have been some stumbles on the way. Durham explains:
We're delivering in an agile way. So we now have a fully operational scaled agile framework approach we're running. It wasn't easy in the first instance is when we first got in there with small teams There were a lot of teething problems. Working across multiple regions with multiple suppliers, it's difficult. But we're learning as we go and we're adapting. I think the learning to me was that we didn't learn the lesson of process over people. We were too heavily focused on the process, not on the teams and the people. But we're absolutely working in a stable, agile way with Salesforce as one of those providers.
As to where E.ON is now on the journey, on track appears to be the best descriptor. Durham says:
We started small, we built out. We probably lost our way a little bit around this because we started to get dragged back into the big organization that is E.ON. Our strategy started to move a little bit. [We were asked],‘Can you use this as an overall re-platforming, what can you do?”. But we are trying to hold the course now…The future road map is strong for us in terms of making more use of social media, making more use of real time even triggering of marketing campaign opportunities and greater use of the data that we capture and use in our propositions. So I'm really positive about the direction that we're taking.