Sustainability, the customer is key
The times when energy consumers were called users are over: today they are customers, and they are increasingly well-informed and discerning in a competitive market. At the heart of Enel’s activity are its 73 million global customers, a number that we are planning to increase. The central role of the customer is a cornerstone of the Group’s vision and perfectly in tune with Enel’s Open Power approach: being open to input from both the inside and outside means participating in dialogue and listening to customers in order to understand their needs, and identify efficient solutions. Customer care becomes a key element in accelerating the process of creating shared value.
Today’s energy model is no longer a centralised, single-direction producer to consumer paradigm, but it is now a network where customers play a key role. As Cinzia Corsetti, Head of Electricity and Gas Markets Innovation at Enel, explains, today our customers are an active part of an increasingly interconnected ecosystem. These are technologically evolved customers who are increasingly aware of new opportunities and cutting-edge technology, such as Big Data, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Virtual and Augmented Reality. Given its history and vocation, it was inevitable that Enel would be both a driver and an integral part of this change. It has chosen to do so with an Open Innovability approach that means it not only reacts efficiently to changes in the market, but also guides and anticipates them.
Indeed “What’s your power?” is the question that Enel asks its customers, both present and future: every one of us has a potential to express, an ambition, a dream. With this open question, we try first of all to understand the personality, potential and creativity of people: “What’s your power?” is the symbol of a new relationship with our customers and, more generally, with the world around us.
Quality of service and customers in a key role
One important aspect that requires attention in this “new” relationship with our customers is undoubtedly the quality of service. We were the first to provide and complete the pioneering installation of smart meters for all customers in Italy. As Cinzia Corsetti explains, the smart meter project was then extended into Spain, with a model that continued to develop, while other pilot projects are on-going in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru. In the meantime, we have moved further forwards in Italy, providing second-generation smart meters that offer our customers increasingly advantageous, technologically advanced services that not only meet their expectations, but go beyond. We find this process of innovation and continual improvement to be essential.
We do all this with a strong emphasis on the sustainability of our actions, especially the economical and social development of the communities where we operate. Our work in this sector follows the guidelines of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a particular emphasis on these three: SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), as outlined in the Enel Sustainability Report 2017.
The Marcus Garvey Village in New York is one of Enel’s innovative sustainable community projects: a self-sufficient energy neighbourhood that uses an intelligent, digital and distributed microgrid running on renewable sources and managed by an advanced information system. In Savona, Italy, an Enel microgrid feeds the Living Lab, a student campus and, in particular, the Smart Energy Building which is self-sufficient and has zero emissions. In Costa Rica, Enel created a similar microgrid for Establishment Labs, a company producing medical devices, which keeps the industrial plant self-sufficient during energy blackouts.
"The leadership of a company like Enel must hinge on customer care and attention to providing quality service"
Seeding Energies – Sustainability Report 2017
As well as developing technology for energy production and distribution, Enel’s innovation also focuses on energy services, a sector that is becoming increasingly essential. For example, our demand response system allows large consumers (usually companies) to reduce their energy consumption in certain moments in order to stabilise the electricity grid. This way the customer is a key player not only in the market, but also in managing the grid itself.
Environmental and social sustainability
Enel believes that improving the electricity system to benefit customers must keep step with respect for the environment. A case in point is the Nueva Esperanza project in Colombia where construction of a transformation cabin, to modernise the grid and meet a growing demand, was carried out alongside interventions to safeguard local flora and fauna and the archaeological remains found during the work.
Enel offers customers energy-saving services and promotes responsible consumption to safeguard the climate. We strongly support the uptake of electric vehicles, the most promising solution to sustainable mobility. Changing to an electric car is a customer choice, so what we do is to try to remove the obstacles that could deter some consumers, starting from the charging technology. Enel reached the quota of 1,100 public and 25,000 private charging infrastructures in 2017, while Enel X, the subsidiary focussed on the development of innovative products and digital solutions for cities, homes, industry and transport, has created innovative solutions for smart and fast charging.
"In all the countries where Enel operates, it has launched a wide range of high energy performance products to ensure savings in terms of both consumption and emissions"
Seeding Energies – Sustainability Report 2017
Alongside environmental sustainability, our approach also aims at promoting social sustainability. In all the countries where the Group is present, Enel works closely with residents and offers special support for the most vulnerable members of the population. In Italy, there are discounts for customers in financial hardship; in Spain, Enel has joined a programme that avoids cutting off supply to customers who are energy poor, and in Romania the company has set up special projects for disadvantaged neighbourhoods and areas, offering the local population energy-saving light bulbs and extension cords with switches.
In developing countries, Enel works to improve the access to electricity for an increasing number of people: for example, through the Liter of Light project where people learn how to make small solar plants using recycled materials. In Chile, Enel has involved our customers in initiatives, such as the establishment of mobile offices in the poorer neighbourhoods in Santiago.
Customer relations: transparent and digital
In today’s world and, naturally, in the energy sector too, communication is increasingly important. In our relationship with our customers, we focus the dialogue on clarity, in both directions: by offering corporate communication based on the principles of transparency and information accessibility on the one hand, while on the other monitoring customer satisfaction and feedback with the greatest care.
Innovation provides an important contribution to communication too. As Cinzia Corsetti explains, customer communication is a sector where our choice of digitalisation is increasingly effective. We have made our websites even more user-friendly and digitalised our energy bills, making them more interactive, to provide customers with greater transparency and information. Enel organises appointments with customers in Colombia, also employing the use of virtual offices, while in Romania Enel’s “Live Agent” assists in customer management on the Internet.
And then there are the technological innovations based on web applications: from the software that predicts customer behaviour to apps which allow the hard of hearing to communicate with customer services; from time- and paper-saving digital signatures on contracts to the automated stipulation system that is aware in real time of the prices and margins for negotiation. Many more, increasingly advanced, innovations will be presented in the near future.