Who are the customers of the future, what do they want, and how can water utilities best serve them?
A recent report “Customer of the Future” discussed at this week’s OzWater 2019 Conference by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and KPMG answers key questions about how urban water can best be delivered today and tomorrow.
“Working with WSAA and its members, KPMG has identified key trends around the customer of the future – and with that, a focus on water utilities moving from a reactive to a proactive business model,” said Cassandra Hogan National Leader Power & Utilities at KPMG Australia.
Together with Evelyn Rodrigues, Manager Customer and Community, Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), KPMG reviewed existing segmentation research and interviewed a range of customers to create six personas that represent the urban water customers of the future.
“We have seen increasing interest in customer with water utilities realising they must place the customer front and centre of the price setting process – and design outcomes and performance measures that reflect customer priorities,” Ms Hogan said. “These range from the ‘mindful millennial’ – an individual interested in technology and less concerned about her consumption levels – to the ‘stable and secure pensioner’ who is actively engaged in the community.”
Ms Hogan said that the world had moved to the “age of the customer”, where industries that not only meet rapidly changing customer expectations, but can pre-empt their every need, will be the ones equipped to survive as automation and smart infrastructure reimagine cities and experiences.
“This is a watershed time for the utilities industry and especially water given the impacts of climate change to the liveability of our cities and communities,” she said.
“No matter the demographic, the future customer will expect an empathetic, personalised service from a proactive service provider who supports their local community and protects future generations.”
She emphasised such water sector developments as the uptake of digital metering as providing a further rich source of data on customer behaviour in the sector – which in turn will drive improved choice, efficiencies and a better customer experience.
“We are definitely in the age of the customer, where industries that not only meet rapidly changing customer expectations, but can pre-empt their every need, will be the ones equipped to survive as automation and smart infrastructure reimagine cities and experiences,” Hogan said.
Ms Rodrigues said it is important for water utilities to understand their customers’ needs in order to find the friction points that matter most. This helps businesses hit the ‘Goldilocks zone’, where resources are spent addressing issues that will give the best return on investment.
“For the water industry, shifts in social, economic, technological and environmental factors are impacting the operating model and customer experience,” she said. “Advanced utilities are moving from reactive to proactive business models to anticipate customer enquiries and resolve them quickly.”
She said utilities needed to plan for Australia’s changing population, which will see a generation of baby boomers retiring, the growing influence of millennials and new migrants settling in some regions.
“Very different services and infrastructure will be required to accommodate retirees, immigrants and millennials,” Rodrigues said.