Award entries prove utilities are swinging for the fences

By Suzanne Haggerty, Senior Industry Analyst —

After two years in the driver’s seat for Chartwell’s Best Practices Awards, I’m certain that today is my favorite day of the year, job-wise.

Sure, everyone likes the folks handing out awards (at least the people who win those awards are pretty fond of us). But my contentment today involves much more than being the center of attention onstage during the awards luncheon at EMACS (as a former newspaper copy editor and semi-introvert, I assure you that I’m much more comfortable behind the scenes than in the spotlight).

A few years ago, I taught an upper-level technical writing course at a state university. The pay was terrible and the hours were ridiculous, but the satisfaction I derived from seeing students steadily improve their skills throughout the semester was unparalleled.

Similarly, the entries for the Best Practices awards get more impressive — and more numerous — every year. Customers are expecting more out of their utilities, and companies are striving to meet those expectations.

This year’s slate of winners is an impressive lot. Avista Utilities, our Brand Marketing Gold Award winner, has really broken new ground with its 125th anniversary campaign, which celebrated its historic, continuous partnership with Spokane, Wash., as well as its role in economic and community growth and welfare.

TXU Energy, our Customer Service Gold Award winner, implemented a one-of-a-kind natural-language IVR solution that represents a bold step forward into the future of easy and efficient self-service interactions.

SCE will bring home two gold awards today. Its Outage Improvement Initiative, a data-driven strategy designed to minimize customer frustration while enabling field crews to seamlessly complete vital maintenance activities, is providing an industry standard for outage communications. And the utility’s customer-centric My SCE app took top place in Chartwell’s new Billing and Payment Programs category.

Attendees at EMACS will enjoy presentations about all four of these award-winning programs and campaigns, and Chartwell members will hear more about all winners and finalists over the next few months through case studies and webinars.

Don’t think that the entries that didn’t make the Top 3 in each category were anything less than impressive. When I say that the decision-making process was difficult this year, I’m not just being polite. I have a folder full of attention-worthy efforts that you’ll want to hear more about — some of them may very well be next year’s winners.

Stay tuned.

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