The digital communications revolution allows utilities to offset the public’s frustration with roadworks. By simply telling people what’s going on, you can do a lot to assuage their concerns.

Streetworks are one of the most fundamental challenges facing utility companies. They are disruptive, unpopular and rather unfortunately, the most visible touchpoint that many customers and stakeholders will ever have with utilities. This may go some way to explaining why the industry can get a bad press when it comes to levels of customer service. After all, nobody likes unplanned interruptions to their daily commute.

By their very nature, streetworks can create many problems, some of which lie beyond the control of the utility company. But what is in their control is the way in which these works are communicated.

Managing this effectively is not without its challenges in a heavily regulated industry that is measured on its ability to improve speed and service while also cutting costs and improving efficiency. However, technology presents an opportunity to grasp control of customer engagement on streetworks and opens the door on a new customer-centric era.

Statistics show that eight in ten adults have access to devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets. Making information accessible digitally therefore plays a crucial role in keeping customers informed about what is happening. Technology based on new and existing digital channels like Elgin’s, for example, is helping to transform this communication by allowing a clear picture of all streetworks happening across the UK, via a real-time map.

Wales & West Utilities and National Grid are both pioneering such technology and have seen a notable improvement in customer satisfaction, improved stakeholder engagement and a more co-ordinated approach on the highways. Wales & West Utilities has made a remarkable commitment to integrating the full range of’s communications and traffic management workflow systems, thus facilitating roadworks planning and co-ordination. Wales & West Utilities and National Grid have incorporated QR codes on roadworks printed materials and signage. Both have also integrated the platform into their customer-facing community websites to increase public visibility and accessibility to their works.

Within the context of RIIO and SIM, the industry is already making great improvements in customer service delivery and this, along with increased levels of digital engagement, is clearly having an impact. The latest research from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) shows utilities have improved levels of customer satisfaction more than any other industry in the UK over the past year. And Wales & West Utilities score of 91.8 positions it among the leading companies of any sector in the UK – not just utilities.

In light of what improvements can be made, the digital revolution of today must be embraced.

Shane O’Neill, chairman, Elgin

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