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The Evolution of the Customer Experience

Takeaways from the 2019 EMACS Customer Experience Conference

If you attended the EMACS Customer Experience Conference this year, you were treated to insight from professionals in the utility sector stemming from a combination of real-life experience, technical expertise and forward-thinking strategies related to improving the customer experience. If you skimmed the titles of the 30 sessions offered over the course of three days, you quickly concluded one thing: The customer experience now requires a convenient means of communication (digital, social, media); and a personal touch (data, insights).

Things are changing in real-time and keeping up with expectations has never been harder for utilities—whether you’re a utility that has already adopted and started implementing changes around these ideas; or you’re a utility that is just getting started.

At Mower, our team works with utilities on both ends of the spectrum, and we are constantly seeking and reviewing trends that impact our clients in the energy and sustainability space. Following are a few of the most interesting takeaways from this year’s event.

Tricked Out Technology

XcelEnergy presented its voice app, encouraging customers to “Manage Your Account with Voice Control.” Through the app, customers can check account balance and payment due dates using voice control, or use their voice to make a payment on the go. As part of the panel presentation “New and Emerging Technologies: How Utilities Can Stay Ahead of the Curve,” the company stated that now was the time to implement a voice control solution because of the massive adoption in smart speakers, the ability to partner with leading companies like Google HOME, and the importance of allowing customers to interact with them in a new channel.

In the future, could Alexa suggest that your bill is on track to be more or less than previous months based on usage? Could she encourage you to turn your thermostat down two degrees in order to meet energy goals or save money that month? XcelEnergy thinks so.

Southern California Edison was featured at the conference, with an award for best practices in self-service. Its social media chatbot, which helps customers resolve issues without assistance from a human agent, enables them to meet an ever-increasing demand for social customer care without increasing resources or sacrificing customer satisfaction. The utility shared that in 2018, that 1 in 4 (nearly 8000 customers) interacted with the chatbot and of those, 25% were able to resolve their issue without assistance from a human agent.

Recruiting and Training for Changing Roles

Arizona Public Service Electric (APS) presented their journey to becoming more digital in order to provide better service to its customers, and created a Digital Customer Care Team devoted to its digital expansion. The team was born in April 2019, after a careful process to evaluate digital customer service options, determine role responsibilities and needs for employees in digital customer service positions, specifically recruit and hire employees for the team, and then provide training and onboarding before deploying the new tech. Once the team was ready, APS was able to successfully extend its service hours and provide a better customer service experience (and they have the metrics to prove it!).

Better (More Engaging) Social Media Content

Mower client FirstEnergy’s social media game might have you wondering how you can get a big enough budget to create effective and awesome content online. The truth is, it’s not the size of the budget—or even the size of the team—that matters when it comes to great content. FirstEnergy’s social media team is comprised of two women, a lot of solid strategy and easily accessible resources. As they stated in their session, “A smartphone is a production studio in your pocket!” By investing in a few additional items (such as a tripod and some microphones), capturing footage for video is easy and cost-effective. The technology is the easy part—the strategy is where you need to invest the time. FirstEnergy looks for ways to humanize the company through real stories that resonate with their audiences. Knowing your audience (through insights, segmentation, and analysis of customer data), is a critical first step to finding ways to authentically connect with customers.

Meaningful Marketplaces

The conference wrapped with a closing session about online marketplaces. As utilities look to evolve away from traditional business models (only providing power), to nurture an expanded relationship with their customers (as energy advisors), marketplaces are becoming a necessary part of the shift. Chartwell shared compelling data from their survey, stating that customers who use marketplaces were more satisfied with their power company than the general population; and that more than half of consumers have used or are interested in marketplaces. While these online stores most frequently feature energy efficiency products, some utilities are exploring other ways to use the platform to create a bigger dialogue around energy.

Alabama Power is using its marketplace as a platform to promote a lifestyle of energy efficiency, that spans beyond simply purchasing energy-efficient products. To that end, it offers a much wider selection of products than most marketplaces, with camping gear, polaroid cameras, printers and slow cookers. Captured under the idea of “Smart Neighborhood,” the marketplace also shares tips, hacks and simple ideas on how to live an energy smart life.

The Mower team left this year’s conference electrified (yup, it’s a pun) with inspiration for the utility space. It’s an exciting time to be in the business, taking part in this evolution while partnering with our utility clients along the way. We’re excited keep driving forward to see what the future brings.

Want to explore the energy future with us? Contact Stephanie Crockett at Mower.