How AI can enhance utilities’ billing performance

The energy sector is evolving. From a highly traditional environment to a technology-driven, modern marketplace, embracing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions in a quest to continuously improve customer experience and services.

Advances in predictive analytics, AI and data science mean you can streamline your billing functions, automate error-prone processes and accurately forecast revenues at the same time as transforming your relationship with customers and/or brokers. These are enablers on your journey from commodity seller to customer centric service leader.

There are many interesting use cases for AI in utilities but in this brief overview we focus on how AI can enhance your billing performance.

This article will give you thought-provoking insights into:

  • The 5 factors that influence your billing performance process.
  • How predictive analytics can enhance revenue forecasting and expected payment behavior.

  • How AI helps to minimize your cost-to-serve and maximize your added value for end customers.

What determines your billing performance?

The billing performance process is influenced by 5 factors:

  • Educating your customer/broker
    Your ability to educate your customers and brokers will result in greater customer satisfaction. By providing real-time insights and advising on their consumption profile, potential energy savings and how they can reduce their CO2 emissions you can empower them to control their own usage long before the bill arrives.

  • An accurate and real-time bill
    Your ability to model every bill component accurately by collecting and analyzing real-time data from smart meters, generation sites and other sources across your network.

  • Selecting the right communication channel for billing and collection letters
    Your ability to build a strong customer profile based on historical data, customer behavior, and demographic data will result in you being able to employ the most beneficial communication channel for sending invoices and notifications. Using the correct communication channels will radically increase your chances of getting the bill paid on time to improve your cash flow position.

  • Forecasting revenue and cash flow
    Gaining detailed insights into not only revenue forecasting but also on expected payment behavior will allow you to optimize your cash flow position. Providing brokers with specific commission forecasts will result in a positive long-term relationship.
  • Planning of your customer service & support resources
    By pro-actively forecasting the amount of billing exceptions and customer enquiries following bill creation, you can confidently allocate resources where they’re needed. So you’re always prepared for the right number of queries on the right channels.

How can AI improve your billing performance?

On the one hand, with the proliferation of smart meters, electricity usage is increasingly recorded in real-time. On the other hand, the energy market has become increasingly complex with multiple generation sources. Industrial and Commercial (I&C) customers are becoming Prosumers (think about solar & wind energy, and batteries), and they might sell some of their energy back to the grid (reverse billing). Their bill needs to reflect that. I&C customers also require billing across multiple sites and potentially multiple currencies. . The result is more data points than ever thus bringing new opportunities to improve your billing performance.

The value of AI-powered technology for enhancing billing performance lies in accurately forecasting the outcome of a bill before it has even been created by leveraging historical data points and customer behavior.

More specifically:

Invoice outcome

  • How many customers will pay their invoice on time?
  • How much outstanding balance is to be expected?
  • How many customers will dispute the invoice?
  • How many customers will contact your customer service team with additional questions?

Revenue outcome

  • Are your customers consuming as you were expecting / how you estimated?
  • What is the performance of the portfolio management: procurement versus sales?
  • What is your cost structure per customer to secure the expected margin?
  • What will be your cost-to-serve of every individual customer and/or customer group?

During every billing cycle more and more data points will be available that will feed the AI-powered technology to ensure even more accurate results in the future.

All data insights captured during the customer life cycle will be used to create a strong customer profile. AI-powered technology will use these customer profiles to ensure maximum added value for your end customer and minimize your cost-to-serve by anticipating your customer’s needs.

Final thought

Utilities have been using AI and machine learning with the clear objective to do things “smarter, better and faster”. Done well, this is a foundational business tool to improve your billing performance, have a positive impact on your customers’ satisfaction and improve your bottom-line financial results.

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