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On the back of Utility Week Live 2022, Utility Week editor James Wallin sat down with Aimie Chapple, Capita Experience CEO, to gauge her thoughts on the challenges discussed over the two days and solutions presented.

JW: Do you have any key takeways from the content?

AC: What has been very interesting is that people are really seeing the possibility of how we can shape solutions with data.

We’re still at the real infancy of using consumer data and metadata in shaping the future and we see in other industries people are starting to use that unstructured data to try and find structured answers. And my guess is, we could be on the brink of that needing to happen in a utilities setting. There’s a really urgent need to understand the customer and how their needs are changing in a really rapid way. What’s clear to me from the conversations I’ve had and heard at Utility Week Live is that companies really want to embrace that.

JW: Do you see progress being made?

AC: Definitely. And I know it’s not an easy process. There’s a real mentality shift that is happening in utilities. Historically it’s perhaps been viewed as a bad thing if a customer is getting in touch because that probably means something has gone wrong. But there’s huge value in what we call frictionless experiences with consumers that can provide value to them and help utilities learn and adapt. Then the next step is to create partnerships where utilities can work with multiple parties – telecoms, local authorities – to use that data to provide people the support they need holistically.

JW: Which brings us to the headline theme of collaborative innovation. Do you see this happening in practice?

AC: I’m really encouraged by things like Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival and I think there is a real sense of that collaborative innovation across the water sector. I’m not as convinced that we’re seeing that in all parts of the utilities sector. We need to look at stitching the whole supply chain back together and ensuring that there’s collaboration all the way along. And that’s right through to what’s happening in the house. We need to be heading towards the connected home. But that’s going to need more than just collaboration in small units, it has to be collaboration across a community.

JW: Do you worry about the focus on affordability detracting from the need for utilities to innovate?

AC: That’s come up quite a bit hasn’t it but I’ve been really reassured by how people have answered it. Sul Alli at UK Power Networks talked about having a product mindset. That’s really important because while people are going to be affected by the macro-economic environment, they are still going to have to make choices and we’re going to need smarter innovation cycles to identify unmet needs and develop products for them.

Save the date! Utility Week Live 2023 will take place on 16 and 17 May 2023 at the NEC in Birmingham.

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