EMACS 2018 is in the books! Here are the highlights

The utility industry has a reputation for being, shall we say, a bit dry and numbers-oriented.

Average cost per kilowatt. SAIDI. SAIFI. Return on capital and cost effectiveness.

This focus on practical, measurable detail is understandable, since the industry’s job is to maintain a massive globe-spanning machine that is arguably the single greatest achievement in human history.

Increasingly, however, customers expect the companies they do business with to be relatable. Even funny.

The keynote speakers at this year’s conference showed how leading utilities are rapidly adapting to this new reality.

In the conference’s opening session, Monica Whiting, Vice President of Customer Experience for Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, shared her experience on what it takes to transform cultures to be customer-centric. Utilities need to adapt to a “new paradigm of feelings, perceptions and journeys,” she said.

This requires leadership. Whiting said that when she arrived at TECO, the company lacked a single vision of what excellence in customer service means. To build this vision, and to promulgate it within the organization, the company built a customer experience council.

One of the hardest ideas for the engineering-heavy culture of TECO to adapt to was a commitment to “leave customers with a smile,” she said.

Barbara Higgins, Chief Customer Officer at Duke Energy, spoke along similar lines in her own keynote address, with an emphasis on using data and analytics to improve satisfaction.

Duke developed a new survey, which found that the driver of customer satisfaction was engagement with the utility in the past 12 months. A big takeaway from the research was that customers “wanted to be treated like a person.” They felt that the utility was often cold and distant, focused on process and procedure.

Chick-fil-A provided valuable perspectives from outside the utility industry on not only using sophisticated analytics to improve the customer experience, but also on how to use humor to acknowledge mistakes and connect with customers.

After the company’s now-infamous decision in 2016 to change its much-loved barbecue sauce, Chick-fil-A produced a popular video that made fun of the company’s own mistake.

The conference included too many other excellent examples and case studies to mention here, but here are a couple:

Swee Shetty, Senior eChannel Program Manager at PECO, discussed the company’s successes in designing and marketing its mobile app. Swee walked the audience through the design phase all the way to PECO’s current marketing efforts to improve customer awareness and adoption of the app. By leveraging an agile methodology and continually engaging customers to determine feedback and preferences, PECO designed an award-winning, highly-rated app that has exceeded its adoption targets and continues to grow in popularity.

Ryan Harris, Manager of Customer Care at Hydro One Networks, broke down the company’s award-winning Robotics Process Automation journey for a roomful of attendees looking to launch RPA journeys of their own. Kicking off the presentation with a few seconds of Mr. Roboto set the stage for his description of the automation opportunities that Hydro One has found and continues to explore.

Chartwell looks forward to seeing you at our next EMACS, Oct. 21-24 in San Antonio!

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