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What I Learned at Chartwell’s EMACS Customer Experience Conference

This was my first EMACS conference and I came away impressed with all the initiatives to help energy customers be more engaged and save money, and the drive to make customer experience the number one focus for utility companies.

The first day I heard several ideas around new branding and vision; put the customer first, be a trusted energy adviser, speak plain English (not industry jargon), be a good custodian of data (privacy and security of smart meters), tweeting is here, and speed of responses during an outage are relevant.

San Diego Gas and Electric went with a unique approach to research their customer experience using mystery shopping. This involved going to several branches, opening up an account, and paying bills online. The company wanted to compare this experience with other top customer-centric companies like Fed-Ex and Apple.

The speaker from Zappos astounded the audience with his description of the positive customer culture—how they use live chat, VIP programs for repeat customers, the building of loyalty between call center reps and their clients, examples of custom-made personal artistic thank you cards, flowers to customers in the hospital, and a record 9-hour call for one pair of shoes—proving that Zappos does not incentivize their team for quick transactions.

The utility Entergy set the bar very high with their customer experience goal of “Wow!” results with virtual focus groups and research in 3 states. The top 4 insights were:

  1. Outage communication (keep people better informed)
  2. Save the customer money
  3. Simplify the bill
  4. Be the customer's energy adviser

Once they had this research complete, the project was only 50 percent done. This major cultural change only works if all the employees are on board.

Next, they surveyed employees to find out current attitudes around customer service and how the new “Wow!” message should be taught. The result was a series of road shows to all the senior VP’s, middle manager, and front line employees to make sure that the new mantra would stick to a 100-year old energy company.

Additional EMACS topics

Customer analytics: energy companies are struggling with all the numerous systems (as many as 30) that contain customer data. How can energy companies provide the right info to the right customer through the right channel and at the right time?

Green Button Program: the DOE is enticing energy companies to provide apps to customers that show their energy usage at a touch of one button.  Over 23 energy and numerous software companies are on board.

Smart meter roll outs: use segmentation, adoption profiles, barriers to participation, scoring all your residents, email and text alerts to answer “Who is going to buy these programs?”

Gamification: research shows energy companies get 6 minutes a month to engage residents compared to 30 minutes on Facebook. This will not increase so the ideas are to provide value, fun, and contests. ONCOR launched a 3-month contest for the biggest energy saver. The best match for these contests and programs are females age 46, and the fastest growing segment are the females over 60.

Webinar on customer satisfaction and outage communications