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If you’re an energy supplier in the UK market, then you won’t be immune to the impact of strict regulation, margin pressures and meeting consumer demands; all which create a challenging environment to make a profitable business model.

Whilst trying to keep their heads above water, suppliers are also trying to keep one eye on the future and the changing landscape of energy supply. For many, it’s an overwhelming task to future-proof their business whilst trying to achieve a cash-positive balance sheet today.

How do energy suppliers sustain and grow, amidst these challenges?

According to Rob Gildert, CEO and joint Founder of energy software innovator Gilmond, the supplier of tomorrow has to be smart and dynamic, thinking beyond the provision of traditional energy as we know it. “The energy supplier of yesterday is the boring corporation that doesn’t speak and doesn’t engage with its customer base.

Gone are the days when the energy supplier dictates to the consumer. You can no longer get away with super-high tariffs and a one-dimensional customer relationship. You can’t just issue a bill and expect a payment – without any further engagement with the consumer.

The survivors in this market are the smart suppliers who are proactive, energy-saving and cost-saving. These suppliers will already be thinking – and taking measures – beyond traditional energy, as we know it. As home technology becomes smarter, so must the future energy supplier”.

The future is smart

Rob goes on to explain, “A glance into the future home-tech environment paints a picture of the fridge, the heater, the lighting all talking to the smart meter. It will be the role of the energy supplier to take all of that data and manage the end-to-end process.

The supplier’s technology will need to be interchangeable with every touch point. Some suppliers will fall short if their technology can only communicate with their own devices. What the consumer will judge you on is the seamless interaction as well as the energy cost and carbon savings.

The consumer will expect one centralised hub in the home that controls everything. Today water meters have to be read manually. Tomorrow, consumers will control their own heat pump. Software automation that seamlessly interacts through one central hub is how the future energy supplier will operate”.

Self-sufficient smart homes

The effect from this evolving change is a continuum. When smart home technology becomes common-place, the service will begin to expand.

Rob believes energy suppliers have an opportunity to transition from a commodity supplier to an essential home solution. “The next phase after the smart home hub will include home security, EV charging, providing and controlling heat to the home, connecting with local wind farms and even consumer energy exchange.

This could involve consumers renting batteries from the supplier – renting and discharging overnight – and buying and selling as a commodity”.

Decentralising energy

This will all be supported by a different geographical network of energy. “The need for big nuclear power stations has gone,” explains Rob, “local energy farms will become the norm as they are environmentally better and the losses [of unused energy] are lower.

Local energy will be produced not only by businesses but even by households and smaller organisations such as schools. Suddenly, not only is the consumer self-sufficient, local households and businesses will have more control – producing, storing and even selling their energy supplies”.

UK Power Networks, a leading UK electricity distributor, are preparing for this change and actively investing in a decentralised physical infrastructure; they currently have more than 200,000 local generators connected to their network.

The UK energy network in 2040

Fast-forward twenty years and the energy landscape is greener and economically different in every way.

With self-sufficient, self-generating local businesses and households across the UK operating interchangeably between each other, the flow of supply will be no longer one-way but a matrix flow of energy, data and billing between consumers. “Throw into the mix potential new energy types, such as fusion and Exxon algae, which could be on the scene by 2040 and you have an entirely new landscape compared to 2020,” says Robert.

“Being an energy supplier will completely change. Their role will be to facilitate supply and not just to supply. It’s absolutely essential that they develop an infrastructure and a proposition that enables the smartification process.

They need to start investing in technology that can communicate with multiple devices and exchange the data through the smart hub, enabling their consumer a smart and seamless digital customer experience that puts them in the driving seat to control their own energy supply”.

To discover more about Gilmond and our energy technology solutions, please get in touch

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Meter readings, half-hourly readings, user behaviour… some of the info that a supplier may wish to extract from a smart meter – but, as an energy supplier, are you really getting the most out of your smart meter estate?

Here we explore the capabilities of smart meter technology and how suppliers and consumers can leverage it to gain better performance and user experience.

The challenges of a smart meter estate

For many suppliers, it’s been a race against time to install as many SMETS meters as possible to satisfy the requirements of OFGEM. What this has generated is a colossal number of smart devices installed in homes across the UK, which we’re not necessarily tapping into and getting the most from – in order to benefit both the supplier and the consumer.

Shaun Dodimead, CTO at Gilmond, explains how his team set out to build a technology that enables a supplier to do more with their smart meter estate, “When we began developing our DCC Adaptor, we looked at what technology was already out there.

What we discovered was that most smart meter technology will allow a supplier to connect to the smart meter, via an adaptor. However, there seemed to be limitations on what they could do – either by the provider, the adaptor technology, or by the way the technology was integrated.

For example, usually the technology is pre-determined and will extract from the meter what has been prescribed. This means the supplier is limited to what data and insight they can get from the meter”.

Shaun believes that, not only does this stop a supplier [and consumer] getting the most from a smart meter, but there are some short-term and potentially [very] costly impacts to the supplier, such as simply maintaining the smart estate as well as accessing usage information at a time when the supplier needs it.

Smart meters should play a pivotal role in future smart homes

Consumer attitude is changing and it demands technology to keep up, as the future definitely presents a greener, smarter, more sustainable home setting. The question is how will smart meters operate in the smart home?

“The smart meter shouldn’t be left behind in a smart home, it has to be integrated”, insists Shaun. “This device should be a conduit for a supplier, enabling them to do smart things in an integrated way and the smart meter must therefore be seen as a pivotal part of the future smart home”.

“Suppliers with a long-term view of the future [and future technology] will have one eye on this already. They’ll be thinking about how smart meters can play their part in enabling consumers to generate their own energy, such as electricity and heat, and being able to communicate with the grid.”

With this in mind, we’ve carefully designed a DCC adaptor that digitally enables smart metering into a supplier’s own software estate and IP. It achieves two objectives for energy suppliers. Firstly, it allows the supplier to orchestrate the meter. Via the Gilmond adaptor, a supplier can integrate their own technology to the meter, enabling the meter to communicate to them in the way they wish to be communicated to.

The second thing it achieves is simplicity; by connecting your IP and leveraging your smart meter estate, a supplier can interrogate the data in the way they want to [as opposed to a defined set of criteria that might be predetermined], giving them the opportunity to do more with the insight.

Immediately this can provide the consumer with an improved user experience, whilst longer-term it can support their evolution to a smarter home. This will inevitably help the supplier to sustain a loyal customer base with the end user.

An innovative supplier needs the software infrastructure that supports their vision

The benefit of advanced smart metering technology, such as the Gilmond DCC adaptor, is it accounts for supplier innovation and brings this into play.

“Smart meter technology that isn’t adaptable is a big frustration for forward-thinking energy suppliers”, says Shaun.

“Our adaptors make it easier, less expensive and less onerous for a supplier. This is balanced with enabling more data interrogation, more flexibility and more supplier innovation, giving the supplier the best of both worlds. As the supplier looks to grow and extend its service provision, the smart meter shouldn’t get left behind. It should be the connector to the smart home”.

For energy suppliers looking at innovative ways to improve consumer experience, don’t discount the smart meter and its pivotal role in the future smart home. Instead, make plans to ensure you have the right smart meter technology that will evolve with your business.

If you’d like more information from Gilmond about our software, or for a free demo, please contact us

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How to really drive down your cost to serve

As energy suppliers continue to seek new and innovative ways to drive down their cost to serve, they’re faced with an amalgamation of challenges that can make realising this objective quite difficult.

What really is cost to serve?

In the context of the energy sector, we’re talking about the overall cost to serve and manage the customer base.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the true cost to serve, which include: the costs of the actual systems you’re operating on (and the interface with the customer); the cost of the people to resource and operate those systems; the time factor, for example how long they’ve spent during those interactions and even the quality of work executed by all of the above resources.

Margin pressures

A highly regulated industry, high customer expectations and strong competition are all key drivers that put the pressure on margin for energy suppliers who need to respond in order to profit. This has become increasingly challenging, especially when you’re unable to influence or change some of these factors, such as regulation.

However, one thing a supplier can control (and not fall fowl to legislation) is the software platform they operate on and this can make a significant difference to your operating costs, and ultimately your true cost to serve.

Price versus cost: the supplier dilemma

Suppliers in different stages of growth have different views and needs when it comes to software solutions. It’s typical that a new entrant will opt for the apparent ‘cheaper’ option, but this tends to be unsustainable as the supplier ‘outgrows’ the solution. It’s a false economy because as the supplier scales, the cheaper price quickly becomes costly as staffing, operational and management costs increase.

As the saying goes, cash is indeed king and so it’s understandable that businesses will opt for the lowest apparent cost. The total cost inevitably becomes painful as many processes are manual and this can quickly become ‘unmanageable’, and the supplier will have to, at some point, make the transition to automation.

There are also suppliers who have grown and their seemingly ‘automated’ technology has not evolved with them. Debt management processes plus the challenge to achieve ‘first time right’ resolution in a fast and efficient manner, can quickly become a drain on a company’s resources; costs spiral and customer retention is a problem.

How can software really impact the cost to serve?

There are immediate cost savings that are realised with highly automated software. Automating processes that have heavy manual involvement not only make a significant resource saving, but there are significant time and quality benefits too.

By its pure nature, automation achieves a consistency that is unrivalled, removing room for human error and other environmental elements such as shift changes and breaks as well as varying levels of experience and competence. So straight away, a process that was once costly, timely and painful becomes automated, fast and error-free. The chain of benefits continues – resolution times improve, bills are more accurate, customers are more satisfied (and pay their bills on time!).

How to get the most out of your software

When you’re investing in automated software, look beyond the apparent software capabilities. Software is only as good as the operators – and the data – so you need a solutions partner who is proactive, hands on and takes you through the process of software implementation, starting with the scope.

Together with the business, the first important step the partner will take [in the process] is identify all the key customer interactions throughout the business. These will be identified so they can be streamlined as much as possible. Around those, a solutions partner will work out exceptions and address how to manage them, to reduce any cases where there isn’t a path.

Secondly, the software will only be as good as the data. Cleansing and managing your data at the start of the project will give you a better user experience throughout.

It’s an iterative process so the idea is that there will be a phase one of implementation, followed by a phase two, possibly three and then regular management reviews to ensure that the software is performing optimally for the business.

If you’re looking to introduce a new process or service, it’s very important to engage your software partner at the start of the process, so they can help ensure this is optimised from a technology perspective.

A good software partner can help to future-proof your business

Cost to serve benefits aren’t only short-term. When you’re working with a software solutions partner who is committed to your success, they will help you to continue realising cost savings and benefits throughout the lifecycle of your software. This is a continuous programme of review and development.

As your business scales, evolves and even diversifies, the software needs to grow with you. It’s about future-proofing and good technology investment will serve you cost effectively and efficiently as your business scales, whether by volume, through additional services or both.

Think beyond cost to serve [as we know it]

It would be remiss not to mention the significant cost savings a company can make from brilliant software automation – that go beyond the traditional ‘cost to serve’. For example, we’ve helped customers reduce the time it takes to close their month from days to just a matter of seconds – just by automating the financial data.

Not only does this save significant time (and resource), but also further enhances the cash flow process. The main point here is that brilliant software solutions can drastically improve a business’ capability to function more succinctly, greatly improving the customer experience and significantly reducing the operational costs.

If you’d like to discover more about Gilmond software, please contact us