Public Power Perspective: What Do Customers Expect from Your Utility?
A keynote expert panel at American Public Power Association’s November 2016 Customer Connections Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, focused on the question: How do public power utilities adapt to changing customer expectations and new technologies?
A review of the panel’s four experts provides good perspective on a range of experiences in public power.
Panelist Julia London, senior project manager at Oracle (formerly O-power) discussed how her company has seen a significant shift in terms of utility customer priorities. According to O-Power, only 55% of the customer perception of value is driven by affordability and reliability. The biggest single indicator of value is customer service.
The average utility customer places much importance on understanding how their bill is calculated and the services they receive, rather than on the price tag alone. Therefore, London said, providing personalized and easily accessible information to customers should be a priority for public power utilities.
Steve Collier, vice president of business development at Milsoft Utility Solutions, reiterated the need for utilities to adapt to customer expectations. Utilities can no longer rely on just wired communications and billing to effectively engage with their customers. Instead, utilities must take advantage of evolving technologies — including social media — to ensure that customers receive the same quality experience from their utility as they expect and get from popular services like Netflix, Uber, and Amazon.
Collier also identified renewables and energy efficiency as a particularly important area of improvement for utilities. Customers see renewables and similar technologies as appealing not only because of their newness, but also in part because of their convenience. Utilities need to ensure that all services maximize convenience to customers, and simplify their daily lives.
Teresa Broyles-Aplin, Executive VP and CFO of Nashville Electric Service, discussed how her utility is taking steps to meet changing customer expectations. In the past year, NES not only updated their website and mobile app, but also recognized the need to expand customer access to multiple physical locations around Nashville. Innovation doesn’t always need to be high tech – it just requires adapting to what customers expect from your utility.