I have recently attended numerous customer experience events, speaking with a variety of utilities people with a vested interest in this area. My observations include:
– Utilities are not good at customer experience, but do understand this by virtue of the fact we are bottom of most league tables that compare us with other industries.
– Our initial response to this is ‘People are not interested in utilities – hence our customer experience ranking will never be good’… followed by posing with furrowed brows to contemplate the severity of the situation.
– We believe the best way to improve utilities customer experience is to improve our processes.
More on this later… but firstly my golfing exploits. I am terrible. In an attempt to improve I focused on process. Attitude on the course… the way I approached the ball… visualisation of the ball soaring into the air, landing within inches of the pin… the satisfaction I felt when this happened. You get the picture. This is best practice in many golf ‘self-help’ books.
I recently got particularly fed up being terrible, and enlisted a golf professional to help me improve. Instead of talking process, he took a video of me hitting the ball and overlaid this with a video of a good golfer hitting the same shot. Instantly you could see my swing was too steep, and to improve I needed to stand further back from the ball. This was a revelation. Suddenly the ball flew far, and straight. It was suggested I take further video analysis sessions, but I declined under the assumption all was now well after one session.
So why discuss golf and utilities customer experience in the same breath? Firstly improving process is no longer the best way to improve in either case. Like a golf book that was good ten years ago, this has had its day in customer experience. Technology is now king – it no longer ‘just supports processes’.
The potential of technology in this area now exceeds what defined processes are capable of. Forward thinking industries drive customer experience by interacting with customers on free flowing social, data rich platforms instead of reengineering regimented processes. Interpreting, and contextualising dynamic customer data in a variety of formats as information quickly is essential, and technology does this.
The replay of my golf swing was useful, but it was the instant analysis alongside a better golfer that created the insight I could act on there and then. Substituting my golf swing for the experience of a customer, you begin to see the value of data and analytics in a customer experience context.
Outwith customer experience, utilities are getting better at using data to sell, and market to new customers in particular. This use of data needs to extend into customer experience. Utilities need to generate and interpret customer data by initiating regular customer interaction to maintain a consistent high level of customer experience.
I took one video session initially improving my golf, before getting progressively worse as I started to stand too far away, and other problems crept in. Regular sessions and analysis would have enabled continues identification of new points to focus on as they arose.
Golf and customer experience are very similar. You never truly conquer either, and it is an on-going challenge to stay ahead. The power of data and analytics, not process improvement coupled with furrowed brows, is essential in driving continuous improvement in utilities customer experience.
Iain Stewart is the principal utilities expert for Teradata in the EMEA region, with over 13 years of experience in utilities sector.Iain also has in depth experience of both smart metering and smart grids, including how these link to and support the wider sustainability agenda. Other areas of experience include renewable energy, and smarter cities.
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