Skating to Where the Puck is Going

Anyone who has followed the career of Wayne Gretsky knows his answer to why he plays better than others:  Others skate to where the puck is … he skates to where the puck is going.

Today’s customer engagement game is a lot like this.  Most of today’s progressive energy companies are busy diagramming and analyzing the customer’s journey as if that was the true target.  They are not studying where the customer is going, at least certainly not as carefully as true competitive businesses.

Utilities should be studying today’s connected home as an early adopter indicator of where the energy relationship is going.  Anyone who does quickly learns that energy efficiency and even demand response is not where customers have interest.  It is all about convenience and control.  It is all about life simplification.

But, anyone who does study this also finds that today’s technology is way too complicated to get “over the chasm” as the book about this marketing challenge analyzes.  We have to get past today’s technology … and we are.

You probably did not notice that AT&T and Verizon have just released an alternative to our Wi-Fi dominated perspective.  There is absolutely no reason for a thermostat or any in home control to rely on such a high bandwidth approach.  This new communication channel is going to revolutionize our approach to everything the energy industry cares about … everything.  Wi-Fi is overkill for our industry.  And, by the way, the data costs for these services will be less than a $1 a month and almost all of the US is covered by this service … right now!

Customers are also on a rapid migration away from desktop and laptop devices to mobile … everyone knows that.  But the way they use the phones has eluded most … they are no longer “keyboarding” to interact.  They are now mostly voice based.

Check this out in your own life.  See how you use your phone to find things.  Study how you check on flights, find restaurants and businesses and even navigate traffic.

We have been busy getting ready for this next puck location using an easy common vehicle to learn how customers want to interact on energy issues.  We now have a skill for the Amazon Echo which is conservatively estimated to be 10 million devices in the US.

So, the puck is moving in very different directions.

Hitting the Mark or Marking the Hit?

A LinkedIn posting from one of my friends had this picture in it indicating that his firm “hit the mark!”   That made me think of some funny stories of people seeing where the arrow landed and then painting the bullseye around it … marking the hit.

Cute as this might be, managers learn very quickly that employee morale and productivity depend heavily on an identifiable and achievable goals and objectives.  They use the term stretch goals to specifically identify things that are possible, but would require extra levels of effort.  Over time, as the team sees progress and refinement of the way they work together, short term tracking against these goals and objectives can be extremely beneficial.  Working smarter, not harder, is of course necessary and uplifting in this model.

Unfortunately, not everyone is necessarily on board.  Some may want to coast and let others do the work.  Some may even resent the goal setting process and want to sabotage the team so that the expectation is lowered.  Good leaders will not stand for this and normally will confront these bad actors, counsel their behavior, and where necessary remove them from the team.  As the phrase goes, one bad apple can ruin the barrel.

All this can get tiresome in a business world where everything seems uncertain and changing.  Customer expectations keep rising and shifting.  They don’t seem to appreciate all the hard work that went into attempting to make them happy.

So, when all else fails, is the best thing to do is to paint the bullseye around wherever the arrow landed and declare that success?  After all, finding all the things that are moving in the right direction and weaving them together as a narrative indicating how that was a result of your good work can seem to make sense.

When this is simply creative writing, the team scoffs and will rebel.  If this is simply to bide time until something emerges as a productive strategy, it can be beneficial.  But, the key here is that it is the creative point of view looking at what moves the organization in the right direction … which then leads it further down the road to what really does work.

Small steps, but steps never the less.  Sitting still and painting the bullseye on a stationary point of view is deadly.