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Are the CIS and the CRM a strategic business pairing?

Customer experience is becoming increasingly relevant for utilities, leading them to define a strategy to deliver more value to their customers and a significant experience. Consequently, utilities are assessing the solutions they need to support their business strategy. In the middle of the CRM hype, it is necessary to explore the choices utilities have to leverage their CX strategy.

Are the CIS and the CRM a strategic business pairing?

As decarbonization and democratization advance, utilities are reshaping their businesses to raise the customer experience to a new level, not only to satisfy customers’ needs but also to create significant benefits for them. With this goal in mind, utilities are looking for systems that help them address this challenge through new customer experience and engagement features, including a complete view of the customer, new digital communication channels, self-service portals, and other advanced customer-facing capabilities. By using these capabilities, utilities will enable customers to gain more autonomy when interacting with their service providers and make more informed decisions about their service.

However, most CIS providers are not addressing these needs in their CIS offer, but in a new corporate product on the CRM side. Consequently, utilities are foreseeing two possible choices: On one hand, they are looking for a CRM system as the base of their CX strategy; on the other, they are focusing on finding a CIS system that enables a customer experience platform. Although searching for additional functionalities on the Customer Relationship Management system seems to be a reasonable idea, utilities (especially those that recently purchased a new CIS or are in the process of purchasing one) need to assess whether this investment is worth it. They should keep in mind that customer experience is not something that utilities can buy from one software vendor. Additionally, some Customer Information Systems have began using built-in CRM capabilities that provide utilities with the tools to improve customer satisfaction and engagement, support omnichannel communication strategies, and promote self-management through customer self-service portals and apps.

According to TMG, conversations around the CIS of the future focus on whether the scope of the CIS should be expanded rather than integrated with other systems1.

This new generation of Customer Information Systems, which we refer to as extended CIS, goes far beyond the traditional Meter-To-Cash process to help utilities address the customer experience challenge at a lower total cost of ownership. Moreover, the extended CIS leaves the challenges associated with CIS-CRM integration in the past, as as it provides a full view of the customers and facilitates utilities to connect with their needs and wants without bringing all this data together from disparate systems.

Additionally, utilities must not only offer new products and services but must also ensure that these new offers can be billed. As the CIS remains the core of the billing process, the approach “you cannot sell what you cannot bill” boosts the benefits of the extended CIS. By being able to define the features of a new offer and the way they are going to be monetized in a single system, utilities ensure that customers will enjoy the service while also being properly charged for it.

With an extended CIS, utilities start implementing their CX strategy with low upfront effort and reduce IT complexity, resulting in a lower TCO. Utilities are empowered to provide customers with new product offers, effective customer service, greater autonomy, and real-time data for them to make better decisions about their service. As these benefits continue to be exploited by most CIS vendors, utilities must explore the capabilities of their CIS system to support their CX strategy before searching for an edge CRM solution.


(1) TMG, “Utility Industry Disruption: 5 Profound Trends Impacting IT Modernization Projects”. 2018. Available in: http://www.csforms.org/Conference42/Workshop%20pdfs/TMG.pdf


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