We at BlastPoint are still buzzing after an awe-inspiring week in New Orleans at the energy industry’s leading annual conference, DistribuTECH 2019.
Because we’re an analytics company that’s committed to making big data available to everyone, we’re proud to serve the power sector in a unique way—helping utilities provide better customer service using fresh, instant insights. And yet, we know there’s always more to learn.
Since we continuously strive to deepen our understanding of the energy industry in order to meet our clients’ needs, we knew DistribuTECH would be the place to go. From the moment we touched down on Louisiana soil, we dove headlong into All Things Energy, learning everything we could from the biggest influencers in the industry while sharing what we know about leveraging data to benefit the greater good.
Keynotes and workshops on everything from microgrids and clean energy to cybersecurity and vegetation management dazzled us all four days (Feb. 4-7). Networking opportunities with representatives of the biggest electric, gas and telecomm companies took place over every delicious meal in the vast, sunlit halls of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
We spent time in the Knowledge Hubs — specialized zones dedicated to in-depth exploration of niche power grid issues, and explored the Initiate! floor, which showcased new energy startups and student innovation. There were offsite field trips to solar farms and over 500 exhibitors offering more leading-edge products and services than we could possibly digest.
Over the course of our visit, we made connections that opened up opportunities, like an exciting partnership with our new friends at SECC, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, with whom we’ll participate in a research program studying customer segmentation later this year.
We’re invigorated by the people we met and the projects we’ll be tackling. But we also took away valuable lessons about the utility sector that will shape the way we think about our business and how we connect with our customers going forward.
Below are the five greatest lessons we learned at DistribuTECH 2019:
1. Establishing and maintaining customer trust continues to top utility companies’ list of priorities.
Every energy provider wants to leverage the powerful benefits of data. Many are already using it to enhance the customer experience and optimize service delivery. But as our society throttles ever more deeply into the global information revolution, we all must reckon with one, unavoidable reality: critical, and often personal, pieces of data about customers are already circulating in the ether.
That data is available to companies to use to their advantage, but it’s up to those companies to guard and protect people’s private information. If they don’t do so responsibly, they’ll lose customer trust. At BlastPoint, we believe the key to maintaining customer trust will be through responsible information stewardship, and we can help companies establish protocols to achieve that.
2. Analytics is the underlying force driving operational & financial outcomes.
Utility companies are seeing incredible growth opportunities open up—and they’re experiencing quantifiable results—when they utilize data to make strategic and budgetary decisions.
But there is so much data being generated. Overwhelm and confusion seem to set in at the point where companies try to figure out what to do with it all. Which means that analytics support teams like ours at BlastPoint are fulfilling a growing need. The more data that’s available, the more companies will want to access it; and the more companies access it, the more they will need to organize and understand it.
3. Analytics make it possible for companies to understand their customers—and therefore their industry—as dynamic and continuously evolving.
People’s lives are constantly changing, which means the customer journey is constantly changing. Utility providers can aim to regularly augment their data in order to keep up with those ever-developing customer stories. That will allow them to, more easily and effectively, meet shifting industry and public demands. For those of us in the data aggregation business, that means we have a responsibility to our utility partners to foster long-term relationships that are built on trust.
4. There is a huge potential for utilities to grow their product and service offerings.
Energy efficiency, demand response and customer convenience are easier to improve upon and spread to new customers when companies use data analytics strategically. Targeted marketing through customer segmentation is one-way proper data usage makes that possible. Responsive engagement is another.
But the sky is truly the limit; once utilities see the value in analytics, they understand its potential. As the market shifts, companies can generate new ways of using data to keep up with developing trends.
5. Bad data is just a fact of life. That doesn’t mean you have to live with it.
Utility companies often possess quite a bit of data. Unfortunately, they apply it narrowly and in specific situations. Take the road crews who fix power outages at specific street corners, for example. Perhaps companies don’t realize they could use the same geographic data across departments (for Marketing and Sales, e.g.) to enrich the level of personal service they could be offering.
Utilities recognize the disconnect between operations data and marketing teams. What they haven’t taken advantage of yet is the power they wield that would allow them to fine-tune and augment the data they already have—even if it’s messy, and even if there are glaring gaps in the information. They can update and organize it using sophisticated analytics culled from various public sources, through the support and guidance of companies like ours. And when they do, new possibilities for projects and new sources of revenue reveal themselves.
We exist to position utilities so they can quickly embrace and respond to these new opportunities as soon as they arise. And we’re excited to be a part of this moment in history as the zeitgeist in the energy industry takes hold, guiding utility teams as they converge with data analytics.
We look forward to deepening the connections we made at DTECH, collaborating with new friends from around the globe, and putting the lessons we learned to work over the course of the coming year.