Our entire lives now fit into the palms of our hands, and our preferences have changed along with this new reality.

SP Group, Singapore’s utility provider, is all too aware of this. The power company wants to create digital services that cater to tech-savvy millennials and how they lead their lives, Samuel Tan, Chief Digital Officer of SP Group, tells GovInsider on the sidelines of the Asian Utility Week (AUW) Conference on 24-25 May.

“As the customer expects a higher quality of life, a sustainable lifestyle, their requirements and needs are very much different than before,” says Tan. SP Group has had to change its services, driven also by a deregulation of the markets that means this monopoly will now face competition.

The mobile millennial

The profile of the millennial customer, according to Tan, is that they are always connected; they want to pay for their bills on the go; they expect on-demand customer service; and they seek sustainable solutions.

As utility providers around the world evolve to meet their needs, the “immediate trend” is that “mobility and mobile solutions are growing”, he says. “I think consumers and millennial customers—not even millennials, I think even my grandmother now, is using a mobile phone,” Tan points out.

Earlier this year, SP Group launched a smartphone app that allows users to pay their utility bills, register accounts, and log in with their fingerprint rather than a username and password. And just last month, they team unveiled a live chat feature on the app, through which users can connect with customer service representatives. “Now as you know, millennials are used to social media, instant messaging. Social media chat,” Tan says.

The app was “designed and developed internally” by SP Group’s own engineering team, which allows them to focus on the needs of the customer while building it. “User experience is the cornerstone to how we build key solutions,” Tan adds.

Reimagining digital utilities

On average, a customer in Singapore experiences one outage every 90 years, according to Tan. So the question is not grid reliability, but rather, how to “reimagine digital utility in Singapore”, as Tan puts it during his speech at AUW.

In the past, utilities would view users as “a payer or an endpoint”, Tan says. Now, SP Group is gearing towards supporting lifestyles by looking at how users consume energy and pay for it. “How are we going to meet new needs? And how are we going to pay for use in the future?” he asks.

Essentially, the power of choice is important to the consumer of today, and Tan’s current focus is on developing solutions that “enable and empower customers to have more choices”. “We want to build services that empower them to choose the way they want to pay by,” he adds.

As the utilities space goes into mobile apps and digital solutions in a big way, paying for your electricity bill through your smartphone is just the beginning.