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How to make your utility customer love you lots (while also being strategy clever)

“Electric vehicles will be the biggest new load since air conditioning,” said Wayne Greenberg, CEO of E Source, during the opening plenary session for E Source Forum 2017 in Denver today.

“It is a coming thing. It is a real thing. So, the transformation from oil to electricity is coming to you.”

Other major paradigm shifters Greenberg noted: autonomous vehicles, smart homes, integrated solutions, disrupters out to do just that—disrupt your business model—who “couldn’t care less that you work in a regulated environment” and a group of companies that is pushing to running at 100% renewables.

“Some are companies you’d expect like Google and Apple. But they also now have Walmart, Lego, and Bank of America. You need to be aware of this shift. Is it a threat or an opportunity? Something to definitely think about,” Greenberg added.

Greenberg set the stage for finding the balance between end-customer wants, utility needs, industry research and what’s possible during this session titled “The 30-year journey of customer inspiration—where do we go next?”

He went on to note that utilities have been working from moving to demand-side management for customer-side management for years, and that journey continues—a journey he labels “the energy experience.”

“We can see a future where you’re both trusted by your customer and wanted by your customer to supply their energy needs,” he added.

He suggests your utility needs to focus on new products (and bringing those to market), data (and leveraging your massive data stores to your advantage), and partnering with those disrupters with you in their sights. Doing those three things, Greenberg advised, will spark that customer trust and then build it up and out the same way utilities have always through about reliability and outage planning.

Along with this forward thinking, Greenberg also lauded the good work the utilities industries does today, especially given the hurricane issues with Harvey and Irma recently. (In fact, he noted that the conference itself lost about 50 attendees and speakers from utilities that stayed home and pitched in with recovery and repair efforts in Texas and Florida, whether they were personally from those areas or among the legions of repair crews from outside the ravaged regions who are simply pitching in to help. And that includes, in fact, crews from this hometown state of E Source, Colorado.)

Bill LeBlanc, Chief Instigation Agent at E Source, followed Greenberg with ideas on how utilities can change their world and create a new one where utilities are a treasured brand for their customers for a variety of energy services, not just the simple delivery of power.

In polling the audience on the spot about this creation, he noticed a few trends. First, that utilities were more concerned with changing internal culture than they were with regulatory restrictions. Second, that creating new products and services is imperative to creating that new world.  Third, that energy efficiency and revenue generation are their important areas to focus on when crafting the strategy for that new world.

“We have to design the future we want, and we have to do it with our customers, not for our customers,” LeBlanc added. “We get into personal and corporate habits that distract us, though.”

“In the end, we’re talking about designing for empathy,” he said.

So while we’re thinking about those disruptors who don’t care about our difficult environments, our strategy for new products and our need for culture change, the first and most important point to making that future customer culture work for everyone: empathy.

Indeed: Let’s all think about that.

Other reads from the E Source Forum:

 

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