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I recently attended a Utility Executive Summit hosted by Five Points in Denver, Colorado and had the opportunity to talk with Todd Arnold, Managing Principal of Smart Customer Insights.  He also gave a keynote presentation titled “Rethinking Customer Care For A Digital World”.  Todd talked about how the smart phone, beginning with the iPhone in 2007, really started the Utility customer transformation which is at full speed today, especially after catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy. 

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The 3 things I learned from Todd:

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Utilities Need to Rethink Customer Service

“It’s all about ME!” – Utilities need to understand that, from the customer’s perspective, they want specific information pushed to them in real-time. Technology can help Utilities put the “ME” at the center of operations.

Easy” Wins the Customer Relationship

Interaction between the Utility and the customer must be convenient, simple, work and make a difference.  A package delivery service can text you when a package arrives or is undelivered; Credit card companies send a text when on-line or gas pump transaction occur to prevent identity theft; Airlines can alert you when it’s time to check in.  Utilities need to think “Easy” for their customer interactions./wp-content/uploads/2012/10/easy_button_151826.jpg

Focus the Entire Enterprise on Understanding the Customer

It’s all about taking the Enterprise to the Individual or “E2Me”.  For example, Utilities should alert customers via smart phones when an outage occurs, when service will be restored and/or of excessive energy usage resulting in a higher bill.  There is technology in a water meter called a “low flow indicator” to detect the slightest leak.  I bet customers would love to monitor their water meter with a smart phone to see if water is still flowing even when every faucet in the house is shut off. Even a small drip can waste over 500 gallons per month!

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Todd shared a quote which, having teenage daughters myself, hit home: “Whenever teenage girls and corporate CEOs covet the same new technology, something extraordinary is happening.” Michael Saylor, The Mobile Wave.

Todd stressed that the customer is now a “Powerful Me” voicing their opinions on social media and once it’s there, it’s there! 

The best, although maybe not as appealing, quote was “You can’t take something off the internet.  It’s like trying to take pee out of a large swimming pool.” Quip from News Radio TV Show; Groundswell: Winning in a World of Social Technologiesby Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff. 

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Utilities need to monitor their “social community hygiene” and leverage these new technologies to ensure the focus is on “E2Me” and that customers feel they are not just another squirt in the pool!

What do you think?  Let me know your ideas to improve Utility customer service.

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