There’s been a lot of discussion around customer experience transformation, which aligns all facets of the utility to better meet customer expectations. There’s no need to cover the same ground; I think that we can all agree both with the need of this transformation and with much of what has already been said. Yet, there is much disagreement on how exactly to deliver it. While this is a complex topic to discuss, I wanted to share my thoughts on a different approach that I’ve have seen gain traction.
Capturing Value Instead of Protecting Silos
Every utility is different, but there are clear commonalities in the customer experience transformation journey that resonate with everyone from program managers to chief customer officers. Right now most utilities are using antiquated, siloed systems that don’t talk to each other. Processes and departments within utilities are compartmentalized; deepening this divide.
Rather than encouraging the opportunity to capture value across the organization, standard procurement practices and regulatory strategies more often than not contribute to the difficulty in integrating information, solutions, and processes. Most utilities are not yet taking full advantage of the unprecedented amounts of customer and operations data they are capturing—something that other industries such as retail, banking, and logistics have all done.
Transforming the customer experience can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to involve a complete overhaul of all of your systems, tens of millions of dollars, and dozens of partnerships. Utilities should create a thoughtful and systematic approach and thoughtfully invest in one project at a time.
Taking it One Step at a Time
Beginning with initiatives that create immediate customer and economic value such as redesigning the online user experience or streamlining call center operations will provide the foundation for success. It’s also essential to establish one strategic partner and build additional partnerships around that; this simplifies the process.
By taking it one step at a time and partnering smartly, utilities can self-fund the transformation by reinvesting savings as they go. Smart executives are using this opportunity to realign resources, reduce waste, and realize efficiencies across departments. This is also the perfect time to replace on-premise solutions with cloud SaaS technology to speed up delivery time, increase security and scalability, and lower lifetime costs.
Regulators are recognizing the importance of this, with NARUC recently passing a resolution calling on state commissioners to allow a rate of return on cloud software, just like on-premise solutions are able to do.
By thinking about systems, people, and processes together, utilities can unlock a holistic approach to developing insights, using them to better engage customers, and improve operations. These insights are available in all areas of the organization, enabling utilities to better enroll, manage, and quantify distributed energy resources. Two practical applications of this data could be stopping wasted truck rolls and reducing inspections in energy efficiency programs with remote monitoring and troubleshooting.
The impacts of this holistic view are wide reaching, ultimately improving customer satisfaction and in turn, return on equity through successful rate case proceedings.
Like any transformation, the customer experience transformation journey has many challenges to overcome. The journey doesn’t need to be overly complex or expensive. By developing a strategic roadmap, picking value-driven projects, and picking the right partners utilities can better reach their customers, upgrade operations, reduce waste and increase customer satisfaction. I’d love to hear your thoughts on your experiences, and if any of this rings true for you.
About the author: Jim Madej was chief customer officer for National Grid USA for 6 years where he overhauled all customer facing functions including restructuring the sales force, analyzing and revamping customer service, developing a reputation tracking scorecard, and creating a new supplier strategy. Now he is the chief customer officer Advisor at EnergySavvy and president of Madej Core Consulting.