At the beginning of this century, the California electricity crisis left consumers with a lasting negative impression of utility companies. Trust was at an all-time low. In subsequent years, utility providers suffered an additional blow as consumer behaviors and expectations changed drastically. Consumers became accustomed to ultra-convenience and personalized communications. Meanwhile, many utility companies continued to operate on a “pay-your-bill-or-we’ll-disconnect-you” basis.
 
The belief that utility providers don’t care about customer experience persists to the present day, and not without reason. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, as Loyalty360 learned from a presentation at Forrester’s CX SF 2019 conference. Michael Williams, Principal Manager of Customer Engagement, Customer Programs, & Services for Southern California Edison, and Nancy Porte, Vice President of Global Customer Experience for Verint,  showed how the utility space can embrace customer centricity.
 
Williams noted that Southern California Edison made the change out of necessity. With new utility options appearing on the market, consumers and businesses in his state have unprecedented choice. In addition, California’s energy regulations have put a great burden of liability on energy companies. These companies are held responsible for wildfires, and if state regulations deem a consumer at risk, Southern California Edison is required to disconnect service. The company is stuck explaining this disconnection to its paying customer.
 
Williams summed up the challenge, saying, “How do we enable customers, give them a phenomenal experience while at the same time maintaining relevance in a space that, while we are not supposed to be competitive, we feel the competitive forces coming against us?”
 
The answer was heavy investment in customer experience initiatives, and Verint was brought on board to help Southern California Edison achieve them. When Williams first arrived at Southern California Edison, the company’s focus was limited to traditional metrics such as JD Power Score, which he said simply does not paint a full picture. Now, the company puts great emphasis on VoC.
 
However, hearing VoC has proven difficult, as the company’s business and consumer data have largely been separated on different platforms. Williams noted that Southern California Edison is now aggressively working toward data centralization, including both data governance and data acquisition.
 
Williams also noted that Voice of Employee data has become an absolute necessity to achieve a customer experience transformation. The company took the initiative to empower employees to give feedback so that leadership could get a better sense of where the snags in the customer journey lie.
 
Porte asked Williams what his advice was for getting executive buy-in on customer experience initiatives when resources are limited. He replied that the right metrics make justification by ROI perfectly clear. At the end of the day, customer experience is about the bottom line.
 
Williams noted that customer experience transformations have seen excellent results. Notably, consumers are taking to enrollment in automatic payments, which is up 72 percent. This increase shows both an increase in consumer trust and an improved customer journey.
 
Interestingly, Porte noted that 65 percent of customer interactions now see first-time success. That figure is quite high, but she stated that she and the Verint team maintain that the most successful companies look at the remaining 35 percent and figure out why they didn’t succeed and where they went. Southern California Edison is now dedicated to regularly analyzing the customer journey and adjusting as needed.
 
 

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