AESP insights: Start disrupting your own industry

By Suzanne Haggerty, Research Manager –

The underlying theme of this year’s Association of Energy Services Professionals Conference and Expo: The future is now. Catch up.

Janet Lapp, a rapid change management and organizational transformation expert, kicked off the conference with a rebuke of the utility industry’s tendency to embrace slow, plodding change management models.

“Be the disruptor, not the disrupted,” she advised, adding that this means embracing “right now improvement” rather than waiting for some big-bang strategy to come to fruition all at once in a few years.

Top among her recommendations was to “upgrade to awesome,” making sure your company keeps up with the technologies customers are using in other industries, including mobile/wearable devices and services and features powered by artificial intelligence.

Her point: Don’t make yourself obsolete by rejecting technology.

A theme that Chartwell hears about again and again from our members is the urgent search for new sources of utility revenue, and I overheard the same chatter at this conference. Offering products to customers through an online marketplace seems like a no-brainer; if customers are going to buy smart thermostats, light bulbs and wireless security cameras, why not let them buy these products from their utility?

The online marketplace turns out to be a more complicated concept than many of us imagine, however. Possible problems associated with launching a marketplace include losing the goodwill of the retailers you’ve worked with over the years, who may well be your biggest community champions of energy efficiency. Also, the prospect of competing with Amazon is daunting — utilities that want to move products in volume may find themselves cutting prices so much that their profit margin disappears.

One of the more significant benefits of an online marketplace may be its potential as a fundamental customer engagement channel, offering customers a curated shopping experience and a simplified rebate structure. Additionally, a well-run marketplace offers utilities the opportunity to rack up high net promoter scores.

Chartwell will share more insights as we go through conference notes and identify topics pertinent to our members. We are also scheduling a roster filled forward-thinking speakers for our annual fall conference, EMACS, which will take place Oct. 22-25 in Tampa.

In the meantime, keep this quote from Udi Merhav, CEO and founder of energyOrbit, in mind for your daily inspirational quote: “You can be an agent of change.”

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