Freddie Tilbrook explains why networks must deliver greater clarity for customers on the rules of engagement for new grid connections.
Digital disruptors such as AirBnb, Zopa and GiffGaff manage to deliver impeccable customer service and remain within arm’s reach of their customers at all times despite changing expectations. What lessons can we learn from them and how do they relate to network asset performance?
Where these digital natives strive to deliver quality, stay relevant, build trust and keep it simple, the energy sector struggles to engage and educate customers, and help them to take action.
From a network asset perspective, this means that millions of pounds are invested across the networks without customers’ knowledge or necessarily a knowledge of what customers want. This can result in missed opportunities for customer connections and even worse, mismanaged expectations down the line if, for example, a community wants to connect a large asset to the network.
In the majority of cases, customer expectations of energy networks range from low to zero. This is mainly because many customers simply don’t know that anyone exists beyond their supplier. That, however, doesn’t stop customer decisions and desires affecting the energy networks.
Customer expectations around connecting to alternative sources and distributed generation are increasing. But what happens when one farmer plugs in a wind farm and starts generating money, but his friend down the pub asks to do the same thing, only to find the grid is now at capacity and he needs to pay extra to do the same job?
From a customer perspective, this situation is not fair and it creates a barrier to building trust. From a network point of view, the connection request needs to be quoted even though the network knows that it can’t be actioned.
For those responsible for managing network assets, providing absolute clarity to the customer before a request goes in is vital. It ensures that expectations are managed and customers can work together to support the network in order to deliver the multiple connections they desire, before they happen.