By Scott Braynard, HP
Technology today is advancing faster than the blink of an eye. Bills from utilities are no exception. Technological advancements are making bills more accessible, convenient, reliable and informative for the utility companies and users. There’s no denying advancing technology and today’s evolving customer.
The New Wave
Leaders within the utility industry are excited about the new wave of technology known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (or AMI for short). This new system allows utility companies to measure, collect and analyze meter data on-demand. Advancing beyond the traditional Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), the AMI system enables two-way communication with the meter which inevitably results in the utility providers’ two-way communication with their customers.
Through this communication exchange, the AMI system provides utility companies with real-time meter readings which, in turn, allow the utility company the ability to provide real-time billing to their customers. Imagine the value of a utility provider being able to initiate a dialogue with its customers with an e-mail that let’s the customer know how they can lower their bill by using less energy during the peak-demand periods of the day.
Furthermore, savvy utility companies are encouraging their customers to invest in the advanced technology of intelligent appliances. From fridges to home heating and cooling systems, intelligent appliances are fitted with, among other smart features, sensors that enable the devices to determine the time of day when it is most likely to be opened or turned on, and to then self-alter and run at lower power-settings (e.g., warmer temperatures). The result? Customers are now fitted with the convenient capabilities of lowering their energy consumptions.
But how does this really translate to billing?
Billing on a Mission
Because the AMI system includes the ability to communicate directly with customer information systems (CIS) in addition to its meter data management software, utility companies can now begin to monitor customers’ energy usage in real-time and reflect this usage in customer bills.
In line with the ever-growing trend of TransPromo messaging – that’s promotional messaging included in customers’ transactional documents – utility companies are now using this meter data in combination with their document-creation software to initiate a dialogue with customers and drive effective campaigns and programs.
As utility providers know, green initiatives are gaining great momentum within the industry for many reasons –
customers are becoming more conscientious of their carbon-footprint, traditional energy resources are becoming less reliable/accessible and more – and, as a result, many providers are jumping on the bandwagon and including TransPromo messaging on how customers can save money by reducing their energy consumption or timely tips on adjusting the temperature setting as the season’s change. Where lawful, some utility companies are even including advertisements from partnering companies that offer intelligent appliances or water heater blankets.
Whether it’s green messaging, seasonal messaging or broad messaging encouraging customers to sign up for e-billing, the most beneficial gains of TransPromo messaging is the utility companies’ ability to facilitate customer-centric communication.
A Billing Evolution
The billing evolution is upon us. With these advancing technologies, utility companies can now communicate more effectively and directly with their customers.
Beyond the content of the bill, the overall layout of many providers’ bills is changing. More and more providers are moving towards the standard (8 ½” x 11”) document and even dividing the transactional information in one column of the document from the customer-centric, TransPromo messaging on the other column. This simple change is resulting in not only more dynamic and personalized billing statements for the customer, but a reduction of customer calls to the call center as customers are able to more easily read and understand their statements.
Additionally, when one Northern California-based, utility company decided to migrate their old system to the newer, advancing technologies, they were able to reduce their bill processing time by more than 80 percent by creating multiple customer billing cycles each month and eliminating the need to pre-process data.
By utilizing advanced technologies, utility companies can evolve with their customers. And, thereby, providing accessible, convenient, reliable and informative billing statements to their customers, utility providers can continue to retain and grow their customer base.
Scott Braynard, HP IPG’s Director of Sales, Utilities and SLED. Scott has more than 21 years experience in the document management industry, including his work with HP Exstream, enterprise document automation software. HP Exstream allows businesses around the world to streamline document creation processes and produce more effective, relevant communications of all types for delivery through print/mail and online channels.
HP, the world’s largest technology company, simplifies the technology experience for consumers and businesses with a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure. More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is available at http://www.hp.com/.