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New Approaches for Customer Experience Innovation

Uplight 2019

Concrete Takeaways for Utility Leaders at the Inaugural Customer2030 Event

New approaches for empowering customers through innovation, illuminating what’s really behind the gold-standard Amazon customer experience, and getting to concrete ideas for putting innovation in action were just a few of the themes that emerged from the first Customer2030 event, hosted by Uplight at the beautiful Source Hotel in Denver, Colorado. Attended by nearly 100 senior utility industry leaders from 38 utilities, attendees had the opportunity to ideate on customer-centric solutions to challenges facing the energy industry. Through keynote sessions, panels, and workshops, attendees discussed how utilities can develop deeper customer relationships as they tackle a once in a lifetime shift in how energy is delivered and consumed. 

The event’s name, Customer2030, is a reference to the date by which most extreme effects of climate change will no longer be avoidable if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate they are today–increasing the global temperature by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news is that utilities are stepping up to slow these global trends. By changing their customer relationships and empowering customers to take their own energy actions, many utilities are already leading the way in the clean energy transformation. We heard from Leo Moreno of AES, who said “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if we are successful in this transition, we can improve lives.” 

“Customer2030 wasn’t just another conference with a podium, endless PowerPoint slides, and speakers. The hands-on design thinking sessions enabled participants to tackle big challenges such as rate adoption, electric vehicles, and in-home devices and bring home learnings and tactics they can immediately put in action,” said Justin Segall, Chief Strategy Officer of Uplight, “Best of all, the conference created meaningful conversations where utilities could learn from each other.”

The conference featured renowned speakers and panelists, but the highlight for many were the interactive workshops around transportation electrification, emerging rate designs and rollouts, and grid optimization. From these workshops, participants were able to take learnings from their peers to create connected energy actions and experiences at their own utilities. 

Here are a few select takeaways from the conference in case you didn’t make it this year. (And there is always next year!)

This is the Disruption of the Century

Leo Moreno, SVP Strategy and Chief Commercial Officer at AES describes the unique time we are in, “What we’ve seen in the past 10 years in the utility industry is more relevant than what has happened in the previous 100 years. And it’s only just beginning.” He continues, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if we are successful in this transition, we can improve lives.” To do this, utilities should allow innovation to touch every level of the platform and recruit partners to help when needed. 

The Secret Sauce of Amazon

When looking to the gold standard of customer experiences, we frequently look to Amazon. Blake Morgan, futurist and author, did extensive research on the Amazon customer experience only to find out….there is no secret sauce. Though there is something we can learn from the culture at Amazon, according to Morgan, “Jeff Bezos wakes up excited to serve a customer. And everyone else there is the same. Mindset is Amazon’s competitive advantage and it’s absolutely free.”

Listen to Your Customers (Really)

Ryan Braas from SMUD described his process around building a Marketplace after listening to SMUD’s customers. He said, “Our Marketplace evolved around what our customers wanted. They are the ones that built it.” His advice? “Keep tabs on your customers and make sure they are driving the decisions you are making. A customer-facing program, service or tool should represent the customer and their needs, rather than be a reflection of an internal utility idea.”

And Make Every Second Count

Accenture called out the well-known stat that customers only spend 62 minutes a year interacting with their energy provider–an alarming statistic for most utilities! According to Jim Lazar from the Regulatory Assistance project, “This may be enough, especially if it is broken up into seconds and we can make every second count.” 

Utilities can Catch up Like Microsoft Did

With all of the work that needs to be done, it can be easy to be intimidated. As Microsoft did after Satya Nadella became CEO, companies can always catch up. Jeff DeGraff, the self-proclaimed Dean of Innovation, says, “Even if you miss the interesting turn, you can always come back and pick it back up. We may be behind in customer experience, but we can catch up.” If utilities get started right away–no matter how much they are lagging–it won’t be too late.

Did you attend Customer2030? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 3, 2019 1:36 pm GMT

“What we’ve seen in the past 10 years in the utility industry is more relevant than what has happened in the previous 100 years. And it’s only just beginning.” He continues, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if we are successful in this transition, we can improve lives.” To do this, utilities should allow innovation to touch every level of the platform and recruit partners to help when needed. 

Inspiring and almost relieving to hear this. I agree wholeheartedly that we're at a point of unprecedented evolution in the industry, and if leaders want to stay leaders then they need to embrace, not push back on, change. This goes beyond just business, but like he notes improving lives: more affordable power, less environmental harm from power, stability and reliability. It's all in the cards

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