Value-Added Services and Products: A Thing of the Past
I`m sure you have all been told in the last couple of years that in order for utilities to succeed in the upcoming deregulated environment, they must change the way they do business and begin to think more about, not only their customers` needs, but also their wants. I, like many others, believed this to be true. And while I am not arguing that utilities do need to rethink their business processes, I`m not sure they haven`t always considered their customers` needs and wants.
At the recent DistribuTECH `98 Conference and Exhibition, Girard Anderson, TECO Energy Inc.`s president and CEO, said that TECO (Tampa Electric Co.) is currently working very hard to understand its customers in order to offer energy related goods and services. However, Anderson also pointed out that TECO was doing the same thing 100 years ago when the company was very young. In those days, TECO was not only in the business of providing electricity, but it also provided another very valuable commodity to Floridians–ice.
The concept of value-added services is not new. As Anderson illustrated, utilities have long focused on providing valuable products and services to their customers. Whether utilities were delivering ice to customers` homes, teaching them about microwave ovens or helping them select the correct electric heat pump for their home, they were consistently providing something more than just kilowatt hours.
These examples may seem relatively trivial compared to the value-added products and services being considered today, however, they were pretty important in their day. At the beginning of the twentieth century, not only was ice a product of electricity, but it was also a product of advanced technology, similar in that respect to the products and services electricity providers are offering, or are at least considering, today.
So, even though the business environment for electricity providers is much different today than it was a century ago, the concept of providing customers with high-tech, value-added products and services is not. As utilities approach the changes deregulation is sure to bring, they should realize they are already one step ahead of many of their competitors–they have a long history of providing value to their customers.