Unpacking Vulnerability: Insights from Utility Week 2023

Utilities 2 Jun 2023 by IOTICS News

Last month at Utility Week Live 2023, the topic of vulnerability was once again a top agenda item. Jonathan Brearley, CEO of Ofgem, rightly highlighted it as one of the industry’s key challenges, further reinforcing the notion that the return to profitability for the sector is directly tied to improving the customer experience. His complete speech can be viewed here

Vulnerability isn’t a concept that’s tied exclusively to service disruptions or power cuts; it encompasses many forms and impacts everyone differently. It’s ever-present, affecting some on a daily basis while others encounter it temporarily. Regardless of its form, one truth remains: when vulnerability strikes, the last thing consumers need is an increased administrative burden.

‘Tell them once’

A long-standing ambition within the utilities sector has been to create a data sharing framework that allows customers to ‘tell them once’. And while significant strides have been made in this direction as of March this year, there remains a palpable sense of disappointment at the time taken to reach this point and the limitations of the results achieved so far.

It’s not that the data doesn’t exist – it’s that it’s typically siloed and challenging to share. And surprisingly, this isn’t a technological problem. The cultural and social dimensions of this issue are often underestimated, despite the sector’s agreement on the idea’s merit. The protracted discussions about data sharing agreements and data standards have unwittingly become a case study for the need for autonomous interoperability. The focus should be on embracing the inherent chaos of the task rather than seeking perfect solutions.

Value exchange data sharing

One aspect that’s been noticeably underplayed in these discussions is the value exchange accompanying data sharing. This becomes apparent when transitioning from innovation pilots to business-as-usual scenarios and when the focus shifts to the individual experiencing vulnerability rather than the ‘how’ of data sharing.

If we could map out persona diagrams to understand how individuals in vulnerable circumstances should interact with the services provided to them, we would find that the focus needs to be on increasing customer service standards and less on the technical aspects. We need to remember that pace often trumps perfection, especially when it comes to delivering the support our customers need when they need it most.

Unlocking the true value of data

As we reflect on Utility Week 2023, let’s keep the conversation going. By embracing the challenges, engaging with our customers, and striving for progress rather than perfection, we can start to unlock the true value of data sharing for both our sector and the people we serve. 

To find out how IOTICS is working with utilities companies to solve some of the challenges around customer vulnerability by allowing providers to share essential data with their ecosystem partners only when needed, contact me at gemma.beard@iotics.com 

Read more:

The identification of customers in vulnerable circumstances.


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