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Energising the Chatbot Revolution for Utilities

It’s good to chat. It’s even better if you find the conversation helpful. But what if the person you’re talking to isn’t a person after all… what if in fact it’s a robot? Welcome to the world of chatbots.

Of course, chatbots aren’t really robots like we’d imagine in the movies.

Of course, chatbots aren’t really robots like we’d imagine in the movies. There’s no cute little guy with metal fingers tapping away at the other end of the Internet. What they are are increasingly complex Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms that can be programmed to respond and assist with tasks that meet a customer’s needs. It might sound simple, but it presents an opportunity for a revolution in business communication within the energy industry and beyond.

The rise of the chatbots

The rise in popularity of these artificial helpers has accelerated greatly in recent years. You’re as likely to interact with a chatbot on the social media page of your local restaurant as you are on the website of a giant multimedia company. In fact, analysts Gartner predict that by 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will be spending more each year on bots and chatbots than on traditional app development.

Chatbots come in all shapes and sizes. The most common form, and the one most people will have seen, are those of simple conversation bots. These kinds of helpers can be found widely on social media, providing basic answers to common customer questions. The more complex forms include interactive voice-operated assistants like those forming the foundation of Amazon Echo or Google Home. The ultimate goal remains the same – providing a helpful function in response to human queries – but the way we interact with these assistants is different.

So with all these home helpers and conversational computers, what do chatbots mean for the energy industry? There are already companies exploring that frontier.

Chatbots in energy

The energy industry is one driven by innovation, from emerging smart grid technology to the increasing adoption of renewable technology. Combine this spirit of innovation with a service that is universally essential, and you can see why the industry is perfectly suited to join this chatbot revolution. Here are three innovations and innovators leading the charge.

1. PowerScout Messenger – Solar Energy Estimates – PowerScout, USA

Renewable energy, like chatbots, is on the rise. But the pace of technological change has often outstripped that of customer knowledge and understanding. PowerScout Messenger aims to support the growing number of people exploring the potential of switching to cleaner energy sources, or even producing solar energy to power their own homes. It is designed to connect customers with certified local contractors based on key customer requirements, helping make it easier to link people’s solar ambitions with the companies that can make them a reality.

2. Sam – Account Management – E.ON, UK

Moving home is already stressful, without the challenges of organising information about utilities and arranging for changing supplies at a new address. UK energy firm E.ON have created a chatbot, the pleasingly named Sam, specifically designed to simplify this process, offering a convenient way to manage and transfer electricity accounts during a move. With house moves widely identified as one of the most stressful life events, E.ON are clearly hoping to capitalise on the benefits of simplifying this process and assisting customers.

Virtual assistant ‘Sam’ is a chatbot created by UK power company E.ON

3. Project EcoBot – Energy Efficiency

Project EcoBot is being billed as the world’s first energy efficiency chatbot, empowering consumers to monitor and manage their energy use. The project is designed to provide targeted advice to customers on the energy consumption of specific appliances, providing an easily referenced source of information on how best to manage their electricity consumption. With the growing focus on energy efficiency, this provides a powerful and accessible tool to support informed energy consumption for customers that also helps save them money.

The next step for chatbots in Southeast Asia

Chatbots offer a powerful new tool for utility companies, providing the opportunity to improve everything from front-facing customer service to the crucial promotion of improved energy efficiency. In an industry committed to customer experience as a measure of success, chatbots are an opportunity which certainly seems to measure up well. As AI and technology continues to advance, so too does the potential for the services that chatbots can deliver.

Southeast Asia’s internet population is projected to reach 480 million by 2020, up from around 260 million in 2017. That substantial growth in users also means a substantial growth in opportunity for accessing the functionality that chatbots can offer. As connectivity becomes more widespread throughout the region, so too does the potential for utilities to greatly improve customer experience. It seems clear – the chatbot revolution is underway.


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