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A colleague that I know for a long time, Jürgen Kuhmann, expert in Customer Experience for Utilities, made me aware of a session he recently recorded:

The name of the session sparked my interest: “Turn your customers into fans – Is it doable by a utility company?” The first part of the title alone is challenging enough for most companies across all industries. Actually, which company still has “Fanboys/Fangirls”, Apple for sure, maybe Nintendo, Sony and other brands that push out highly successful (and beloved) products. Or provide services, or better to say: create unforgettable memories. Here Disney comes to my mind with their amusement parks and of course all the brands they inherit. But for a “normal” company it is hard to keep their customers happy and loyal, but there is a huge step to make them “fans”.

As with each other journey it begins with a first step, and I do acknowledge that there are enough companies out there that are already quite advanced. But then my mind comes back the second part of the title: “Is it doable by a utility company?”. Forgive me for being very direct: in my many years of working with companies in this industry I have not seen numerous outstanding examples. Too many of them are still stuck in the rut of doing the same they did for so many years. Sure, everyone claims to put the customer at the center, but the reality looks different. This shall not become one big rant about the status of the industry, don’t worry. So back to the topic: is it doable by a utility company? Yeah, of course. Why not? Customer Experience and to build up strong customer relationships is, first and foremost, a mindset. And Utilities directly interact with their customers, so there is this direct interaction between both parties that can be used to convert them into fans.

But: In these modern times the interactions between humans are vanishing even more. We live in a digital era; I have a lot of experience with chatbots in customer service situations and they were pleasantly positive. So, it is still a mindset to drive customer experience and creating raving fans, but technology plays a bigger role. From building up these digital interaction channels to engagement anytime anywhere and, of course, helping with agility and speed. Even in these rare moments when I need to have an extensive discussion with a customer service agent about an incorrect energy bill, I am not willing (or at least not excited) to wait for several minutes until all necessary data about my profile, consumption etc. has been compiled. Everything needs to be quick and fast and, on the spot, not only for me the customer, but as well for the agent and the utility. Time is money, friend. The next customer is already in the queue and waiting to be served.

Coming back to the recording I mentioned in the beginning. The session was part of a bigger initiative, the “Intel & SAP Business Transformation Tour”: Feel free to have a look at the other sessions as well. So, in the session my colleague Jürgen created, he had Harman Sandhu joining him. Harman works for SEW; a company specialized in the digital Self-Service domain in Utilities. Watching the session and listening to some of the great customer stories made me change my mind: Yes, it is doable for a utility company. But not only that, it is very realistic, you just need to start on your journey with a first step. Pick some everyday customer interactions and make them ridiculously pleasant. That will grab their attention for more.