hero

Taking MIA to EUW, and what we’ve learned

Leslie de Cuyper
Leslie de Cuyper
Product Manager MECOMS
· 7 min read

Like every year, our team visited the European Utility week – and introduced MIA to her first big audience! As always, we’re returning home with fresh inspiration for our roadmap…

As a provider for utility companies, we’re regularly confronted with certain perceptions outsiders have about the industry –mostly, that it’s a little boring. The general public feels that the industry is slow in adapting to new technologies, and that it’s isolated from its customers.

Contrary to that idea, in our experience the utility industry is pretty diversified in terms of the solutions it offers, and has many more opportunities ahead. The generation, storage and supply of utilities involves several stakeholders, which leaves a lot of room for new, digital and automated solutions.

Big players like Microsoft, Oracle, and Siemens are all investing in solutions better suited for the fast changing needs of utility companies; and conventional utility solution providers themselves are increasingly collaborating closely with technology companies, like us at Ferranti and our partners at November Five.

Many utility companies still struggle with adopting a customer-centric mindset. Thinking from the product or solution offering is a hard tradition to part with, and often, the tools they’re offered from the software providers for the industry don’t alleviate the problem. There’s a need for an outside perspective to put the focus back on the consumer and end user, which is why we at Ferranti are collaborating with November Five as a strategic digital partner.

All of this is bringing a lot of positive changes, and these are never more apparent than at EUW!

The European Utility Week

EUW is the annual landmark event for the European energy sector. With more than 500 exhibitors and 12.000 visitors, it brings all the significant market players together under one roof. Of course, this is an event we at Ferranti never miss!

With such a presence of stakeholders, many of them C-level, it’s the ideal opportunity for us to present our innovative solutions to the right target audience. We can show our innovations and get the right people’s initial impressions. And of course, we find a lot of inspiration by learning more about the problems or needs of utility companies from around the world.

Speaking of innovations: we were very proud to announce MIA at the EUW this year!

Who is MIA? Our MECOMS™ Interactive Agent! She is your next generation cognitive call center agent, or as we like to say it, your Innovation Assistant. As a chatbot, she can help customers with most of their questions, taking unnecessary load off companies’ call centers.

MIA

We’re pretty proud of what we’ve been able to do with MIA, taking it from an idea to a demo-able concept in 6 months, and we were excited to show our bot off to the EUW attendees. We were eager to see people’s reactions after the hands-on sessions, and are pleased to say they were overwhelmingly positive.

Our face time at EUW confirmed that there’s wide support and interest in bots as the next customer-facing solution, with many leading suppliers mentioning bots were on their roadmaps for the coming years. This should not come as a surprise: according to IDC’s research, for instance, a tool like MIA could mean a back office cost reduction of between 20 and 30%! It’s all about reducing the cost to serve, without compromising on service quality, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that bots are the way of the future.

Many of our hands-on crowd were impressed by MIA’s learning model, which uses Microsoft Cognitive Solutions, and saw her fit into their own systems. Their primary concern was, unsurprisingly, security and privacy, since utilities have been under threat of cyberattacks and phishing scams for years – countering these threats is on most companies’ minds. But they also understood that a “digital customer journey” was really important to introduce MIA correctly within their company or brand.

MIA is being productized as we speak for one of our trusted clients, where she’s set to go live in Q1 2017. This will be the first deployment of MIA in the real world, following which we will make the finished product available for purchase.

Want to book a workshop to find out how MIA can help your business? Click here .

Live to learn

Presenting MIA to the public wasn’t the only purpose of our trip to EUW: we’re also there to listen and learn.

In our booth and on the floor, we talked to researchers, utility companies, and providers from all over the world – from our core markets in Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK, through European markets like Italy, Finland, Sweden, Slovenia and Croatia, and even far-off locations like Iraq, Australia, and Cameroon. We see the opportunity to talk to network and build more personal relationships, by hosting demos and visiting the many events, as the best way to keep a finger to the pulse in the utility community. And what we heard and learned made us eager to explore the next opportunities.

Importantly for MIA, the impact and possibilities of IT investments in automation and bots on utility companies’ bottom line was much talked about during this edition of EUW. We had the opportunity to chat to researchers from IDC about MIA, from which we gathered a number of interesting takeaways. For one thing, they confirmed that while bots are gaining ground in other industry segments, Ferranti is one of the first to introduce a bot in the utility industry. They also shared our view that the fact that MIA is platform-agnostic will be a big advantage in the future, and wondered if she’ll help companies improve their NPS scoring once she’s rolled out in 2017.

idc
Roberta Bigliani, Gaia Gallotti and Jean-François Segalotto from IDC watching MIA in action.

Our chats with IDC also gave us food for thought regarding the future: we learned that some companies are experimenting with AI to process consumers’ interactions with call service representatives on the phone, in order to detect if any of those interactions are leaving a negative image of the company on the client. This is another way in which artificial intelligence can help improve customer relationships.

Another main themes at EUW was standardisation and an ecosystem-based approach to digital solutions. More and more providers for the utility industry are promoting plug-and-play solutions and modular systems, rather than all-in-one suites. Additionally, producers of hardware products like smart meters – which used to come with their own mdm – are now focusing on establishing a viable ecosystem with maximum inter-compatibility.

In terms of digital products, there is also a shift in focus: utility companies are increasingly looking at the impact their digital product have on the consumer experience, and his perception of the brand. To achieve this, the industry’s digital service providers are increasingly stepping into a partnership mentality – an evolution we’ve experienced at Ferranti as well. It’s a win-win situation for us and our partners – like Microsoft Dynamics, Adacta d.o.o, November Five, Digia and Formpipe – whose strengths help us deliver stronger solutions to our clients.

It’s not all work…

As we said earlier, the face-to-face contacts are the most important part of EUW. That’s why this year, we organized three events to let our partners get to know each other. We hosted a welcome drink on the night before EUW kicked off, to jump-start the socialising before we set foot in the booth. The second evening, we took everyone to the magnificent Palau de la Musica for a classical Spanish guitar orchestra, followed by a great dinner and drinks… eventually ending up in Barcelona’s Hard Rock Cafe. And on our final night, we went fine dining at one of Barcelona’s most popular restaurants, El Principal del Eixample. We spent the rest of the night in a local club to dance and unwind – but we’ll keep the details of the early hours to ourselves.

We had a great time together, and were very happy to celebrate our partnerships and our shared drive to make the utility sector more friendly and engaging… and ultimately, more fun.

Welcome drinks

Welcome drinks

Our partners from Hitachi systems enjoying a drink

Musical dinner

Musical dinner

After a classical Spanish guitar orchestra at the Palau de la Musica, it was time for dinner.

Happy hour

Happy hour

Serving Belgian beers at our booth

Networking outdoors

Networking outdoors

Basking in the great weather of Barcelona in just the right ambience

Would you like to become part of our in-crowd? Get in touch to learn all about MIA, MECOMS, and our company.


Leslie de Cuyper
Leslie de Cuyper
Product Manager MECOMS
· 7 min read

Related articles

Introducing MIA - your innovation assistant

Introducing MIA - your innovation assistant

If you follow the tech news, you’ve probably picked up on it already: bots are the interface of the future. They’re increasingly intelligent, and they’re here to stay. Thanks to technological improvements and some hefty investments from the world’s biggest technology players, (chat)bots or conversational interfaces are ready to revolutionise the way we communicate digitally. At Ferranti, we’re always looking into the ways technology can improve utility provider’s communication with their customers, so it should come as no surprise that we have an announcement to make!

Leslie de Cuyper
Leslie de Cuyper
Product Manager MECOMS
· 5 min read
The chatbot customer service revolution

The chatbot customer service revolution

In science fiction, the rise of the robots is usually a doom scenario. Today, however, chatbots are rising to great popularity in all kinds of customer-facing platforms – and for utility companies, they might be the answer to their customer service problems. Digital and mobile technology have changed the world – you’d be hard-pressed to find someone denying it. It’s changed the way we work, communicate, and act.

Ronnie Dibbaut
Ronnie Dibbaut
Subject Matter Expert
· 6 min read
The utility industry and the millennial struggle

The utility industry and the millennial struggle

Everyone in the working world has noticed: the workplace has been changing drastically. The rise of technology has brought a lot of advantages and challenges to which companies have had to react. And those same technologies have created a generation of digital natives, the millennials, who are challenging old expectations and norms in the workplace. There’s been ample writing in the past few years on the impact millennials are having on the workplace, and the utility sector is no exception to this evolution.

Leslie de Cuyper
Leslie de Cuyper
Product Manager MECOMS
· 6 min read