Cracker Jack Moments-The Con Edison Story


by Penni McLean-Conner, Northeast Utilities

This article continues building the Cracker Jack moment series. Chip Bell describes the Cracker Jack Principle in his latest book, “The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service” published by Simple Truths in 2013.

“Service with surprise is like a box of Cracker Jack,” Bell writes. “It was not the cool box or the caramelized popcorn we craved-it was the free prize inside. While the prize had little economic value, its emotional value was priceless. Surprise breaks the monotony of ho-hum, communicates a caring attitude, and fosters an infectious spirit that customers cannot wait to narrate to others.”

My most recent column explored what San Diego Gas & Electric is doing in this area. This time, let’s explore the Cracker Jack moments at Con Edison.

Senior Vice President of Customer Operations Marilyn Caselli described these moments at the recent 2014 CS Week Executive Summit.

She highlighted three areas in which Con Edison provides customers with a surprise: mobile Web and applications, the new customer relationship team and the municipality dashboard.

Mobile Web and Applications

Caselli discussed the need to meet customers in the channels of their choice. Customers, she said, want to do business via mobile devices.

Recognizing this growing customer demand, Con Edison invested in providing customers with robust functionality via mobile Web and downloadable applications.

The investment in supporting the digital channel increases customers’ satisfaction with their utility and increases self-service adoption. Con Edison’s application lets customers make payments, report outages and check outage status via mobile transactions.

The mobile website traffic is growing and has had more than 1.5 million visits during the past 12 months. And customers are talking about their experiences. Caselli shared a tweet.

“#Utilities more into social media than ever-Congrats to our friends @ConEdison for their mobile app!”

Enhancing the Customer Relationship Team

Con Edison, in response to its goal of enhancing customer focus and stakeholder relationships, formed the Enhance Customer Relationship (ECR) team in 2011. The team’s mission is to “develop a proactive, customer-centric culture, which fosters trust and confidence among customers, and to improve value for all stakeholders.”

The team has had great success. It launched a series of initiatives designed to enact culture change, including training employees to put customers’ needs first, improving external communications to be customer-centric, and soliciting customer feedback to ensure continuous improvement. Thanks to the ECR team, nearly all company employees have participated in e-learning modules on enhancing customer relationships, and more than 10,000 customers have been reached proactively via outbound email campaigns that notified them of upcoming work in their neighborhoods.

Similar to the mobile Web, customer feedback is positive. Caselli shared several customer letters and emails, including this one:

“I got an email today saying your crews will be working on my block,” the customer wrote. “Thanks for the info! It’s nice to know what’s going on.”

Municipality Dashboard

Caselli said Con Edison recognizes that municipalities are an important customer and stakeholder group. Con Edison realized after experiencing some significant storm events that a more customized channel of communicating to municipalities during large-scale emergencies is vital.

Con Edison invested in developing a municipality dashboard. They worked with external municipal stakeholders and with a team of talented folks from Con Edison.

They created a pin-based dashboard for the municipalities that allows them to see the customer outage details, input priority customer orders to be addressed, and view restoration progress via an outage map.

The feedback from municipal leaders was overwhelmingly positive. Several municipal leaders were featured on a video that touts the new tool and benefits.

Con Edison is delivering Cracker Jack moments, and its customers are narrating their great experiences with others loudly and frequently.


Penni McLean-Conner is the chief customer officer at Northeast Utilities, the largest energy delivery company in New England. A registered professional engineer, McLean-Conner is active in the utility industry, serving on several boards of directors including CS Week and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Her latest book, “Energy Efficiency: Principles and Practices,” is available at Reach her at

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