A large and engaged group of industry professionals from across North America gathered together for inspiration and shared insights at the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) Member Meeting in Minneapolis on October 1 and 2 and by all accounts, it was a resounding success. Over the course of the two-day event, attendees heard from leaders and experts on a range of topics – with a few key themes and dynamics arising as a focus in 2020.
1. Customer satisfaction vs. customer centricity
It was great to see customer insights and research becoming more central to decision-making. As an industry, the focus on the customer is moving beyond just CSAT scores towards true customer centricity. This means that there is recognition that future success and growth will depend on engagement, co-creation and openness to market forces. After all, the customer’s frame of reference is the relationships they have with their telco, their grocery stores, their social media platforms and other organizations that offer best-in-class experiences. With the bar always rising, satisfaction with the service a utility provides is one thing – building trust, loyalty and engagement is quite another.
2. Segmentation vs. personalization
The research panel on day one included a lot of conversation about how to apply customer segments – especially in the digital world. The utilities sector is looking to move towards increased personalization, not only in marketing and communications, but also in the products and services they offer. The consensus seems to be that segmentation gives us a framework to increase customer understanding by “boiling the ocean”, which is an important step towards personalization. While personalization might be the goal, we’re just not there yet as true personalization is entirely dependent a quantity and quality of data that most utilities do not currently have access to. And so, we leverage proven and up-to-date segmentations to better organize and prioritize the multitude of attitudes and patterns of behavior that exist in the market.
3. Threats vs. opportunities
Throughout the sessions, there was some discussion about threats to the traditional business model for utilities across North America. While this isn’t news to anyone in the industry, it was pleasantly surprising to hear how many future-forward leaders are turning these threats into opportunities through innovation and partnerships. This new way of thinking allows utility companies to focus on customer needs and evolve to meet expectations while satisfying the business through continued earnings growth and streamlined operations. Going forward, it will be fascinating to watch how these partnerships and innovations revolutionize the industry – and will be great case studies for future learning and sharing.
4. Traditional vs. agile processes
Real transformation requires a different approach and a new way of getting things done. Gone are the days when decisions are made in months or even years. It used to be that when the CEO asked a question, it could take months to answer – a research brief needed to be written, vendors procured and customers sourced. Nowadays, many utility providers have agile customer communities that they can tap into for ongoing insights, trend-spotting, deep dives and – perhaps most importantly – lightning fast feedback from a large number of customers across key segments… all within a matter of days. It could be argued that, without these types of solutions, true transformation can never be achieved as utilities become victims of their own processes.
5. Employee engagement vs. inertia
This one surprised us a bit – especially given the number of speakers that mentioned the need for increased employee engagement – from the highest levels of leadership and all throughout the organization. There seems to be general recognition that, for great transformation to happen, utilities will have to overcome one of their biggest barriers – employee inertia. Part and parcel with adopting agile processes and solutions is the willingness to act and change – and this often involves a significant cultural shift and a willingness to embrace new ways of working. Back to threats vs. opportunities, employee inertia may be one of the biggest threats to transforming the industry, while employee engagement is one of the biggest opportunities.
For more information about customer or employee engagement communities or other agile solutions in the utilities space, please reach out to Stacey.Kinley@MaruMatchbox.com.