The Cost of Raising Customer Satisfaction

elecmanRecent news coverage from around the world certainly points out how good we have it here in this country. Yet, despite that, people are getting less and less tolerant of even the smallest inconveniences. For example, take a look at this recent article on mobile applications in the US by .

Utilities Enter the 21st Century with Mobile Apps

Sarah Battaglia | Aug 05, 2014
Picture this: you’re in the kitchen assembling a tasty sandwich. You pull out the turkey, unscrew the mayo jar, and start to slice the tomato. Just as you begin to un-twist the bag of bread, your electricity goes out, leaving you utterly ravenous and perhaps a bit frightened. You should be making your way to check the fuse box, but all you can think is, “Damn you, power companies. I didn’t toast my bread!”

We have become an entitled society. We don’t want to wait, work, or even earn our rewards. We now expect them in real time and for free. The brief Facebook interruption recently had people calling 911!

Watch how intolerant people around you have become when the Internet is slow. See how long you can go without the electronic feedback in your life. Try to put your phone down and avoid being on your computerized devices for a day … all of them. You probably will feel like you are in withdrawal from a drug like caffeine or something. If you think you are strong, stop watching TV as well. Just sit somewhere without the electronic bombardment. Hard, isn’t it!?

All of this reminded me of a comment I heard about 20 years ago from a senior electric utility executive at a national utility conference who pleaded with the audience that we really needed to teach customers to expect less. Otherwise, we were going to get on a steep upward costing slope. Perhaps he was right. We are locked onto that path for sure.

Do we dare to confront this entitled generation or are we going to continue a hands off role? Do we think the next generation is going to get better or that any of these trends will reverse? I am beginning to think we are happy about all this … yet will we be happy when the bill arrives?

Maybe it’s time for a bit of tough love on customer satisfaction … to keep future costs in line.

Does Strategic Alliance Matter?

appliancesRaising children teaches you things about life that few other experiences can convey. One of my daughters has followed pretty closely in my footsteps … kind of always been a techy person. We always seemed to have techy discussions, so the following will probably not surprise you … especially when I tell you when it happened.

It was during the ozone depletion scare days when all kinds of fuss was being made over Styrofoam because the blowing agent was a CFC and therefore was destroying the ozone layer. It was during those days that McDonalds branded their packaging as McRecycle. They have changed the name but the agenda persists.

I was out with my daughter and suggested we stop at Burger King because I kind of like their Whopper. She blurted out, “No. They are environmentally irresponsible! I would rather eat at McDonalds.” As any dutiful father would, we found a McDonalds. But, I was struck by the visceral reaction about the sense that a fast food company should be supported or shunned based on their environmental messaging.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. General Electric started out in the power business providing large generating equipment and soon realized that utilities needed smaller things for customers to own that used the electricity their turbines created. So, under the banner of “live better electrically” and the TV personality Ronald Reagan they proceeded to drive new products into the market. It worked, and in fact, many electric utilities bought GE power producing equipment in part because they felt the strategic alliance.

Similarly, DuPont used to publish huge amounts of information about refrigerant properties and the performance with lubricants, etc. because they knew refrigerant equipment designers needed this information. Sure, DuPont had patents on many refrigerants so choice wasn’t evident quite yet, but customers felt confident using their refrigerants because they knew what to expect.

GE just sold off their appliance business. The patents on DuPont’s refrigerants have run out. Is this a sign that differentiation is gone or that the sense of strategic alliance doesn’t matter anymore?

I wonder. No, I don’t. I believe it still does. It’s something worth watching. Time will tell.

“Weird Joel” Gilbert?

almast_main_000Our son loves “Weird Al” Yankovic’s songs and videos. He memorizes them and performs them for us and our friends. They are always funny … that is, if you are a bit of an intellectual and don’t mind the derision of potentially sacred things. Al’s latest hit, according to our son, is a play on grammar called Word Crimes.

If you haven’t seen and heard it, click here: Word Crimes

At the time I wrote this blog, there were more than 16 million views of this video. Think about that. There is a lot to be learned here about what people are paying attention to. I guess the real question is whether we learn from these. As I watched this, I realized how many of these mistakes are made. But, really, why do we watch? What are the outcomes and value for doing so?

Do we learn? Are we getting better? Or, are we simply amused by our fallibilities? I am not sure.

I also like the one Mission Statements. It sounds way too close to what I hear today.

Do we have a sense of humor when things cut this close to home?

I guess my favorite has always been Dilbert, written and illustrated by Scott Adams. That inspired me to write tongue-in- cheek pieces like this blog. For a while, we created illustrated cartoons for our Apogee newsletter. I penned it under the name “Gilbert,” harkening back to Adam’s brilliant work. It was always the most viewed section of our newsletter.

So, let me ask you … are we learning from anything from all this or are we simply being amused?

F220px-dragonconlogo_000.jpginally, Susan just walked in and told me that Dragon Con was this weekend. Stephen loves that. So, she saw there was a pocket guide just covering the highlights written in 8 point type to keep it compact. It is 127 pages long.

I am sure some don’t think this is very funny … or interesting … or relevant. Yep, but this is the stuff that seems to interest way more people than our stuff. That is not funny, but, terribly interesting to me, and I believe it is relevant to all of you to ponder.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

What a tangled web we weave

sir_henry_raeburn_-_portrait_of_sir_walter_scottHave you noticed that our news cycle emphasizes what will shock us? It seems to be all about selling airtime … getting our eyeballs … and certainly not about educating us and making us better-informed citizens, is it? Nope, it seems to be about pandering to our worst traits. Let’s focus on the injustices that rile people up, rather than the more subtle injustices that may truly be more important and draw us together.

As I was taking my walk this morning in the early air, afamous phrase kept coming into my head. I titled this blog from the first line … you probably all remember it. This phrase is from Marmion, an epic poem by Sir Walter Scott about the Battle of Flodden Field (1513). It was published in 1808. The poem tells how Lord Marmion, a favorite of Henry VIII of England, lusts for Clara de Clare, a rich woman. He and his mistress, Constance De Beverley, forge a letter implicating Clara’s fiancé, Sir Ralph De Wilton, in treason.

So, you may ask, Joel, does this have to do with the energy business? Read the following link and you will get my point.

If you did yourself the service to read the BBC article, it would make you stop to consider the current emphasis on global warming, the costs that are being incurred, and the potential silliness of it all.

Have you noticed how our increased ability to get footage of every environmental or weather-related catastrophe has put the weather and purported “climate change” at the top of every newscast? Like the NASCAR races people watch for the collisions, the media plays the floods in Malaysia, the hurricanes in the tropics, the tornados in the Midwest and the fires in California as if these are new phenomenon never before experienced. Perhaps what has changed is our increased ability to find and record them as opposed to an increase in their occurrence.

We also forget that our instruments today are more precise than in the past. Temperatures today can be measured so much more accurately and reliably than in the past. Can we really believe we can compare temperatures over time then global_currentswith the small numbers in the article? Well, when you lust after a result, your judgment can be dulled. I likened this to a “glandular” point of view. Lust is not good.

We seem to lust after many things these days: eternal youth, prestige, position, etc. Lust is very dangerous because it twists the mind, putting things out of balance. Lust is essentially ardent enthusiasm gone wrong. If I called someone a zealot, would you think that was a good thing, even if he or she were a zealot for a just cause? Is zeal a good thing when it presents false or misleading information? Does the end really justify the means?

Personally, I don’t think so. We are accountable to a higher authority than just getting our way. If our democracy is going to work, we need to inform the public, discuss our options, and plan our future. Superficially appealing notions are inadequate. We are facing tough questions.

Lust is a very dangerous thing. It can destroy almost any relationship … as it seemingly fulfils others with excitement and temporary pleasure. We are dealing with lust my friends … not in the physical sense, but in the form of intellectual fantasy and delusion. In a sense, it has moved to a form of idolatry, replacing anything representing truth, justice, and the American way.

I think it is time to call it what it really is: environmental extremism. I think you get my point.

A New Moovie That May Change Everything

mooJust last week a new movie hit the streets of San Francisco and is headed to a theater near you. It is called “Cowspiracy” and is all about how big business is unwilling to face the ecological problems they are really creating. You can watch the movie trailer at

Cowspiracy | The Sustainability Secret
This is the film that environmental organizations don’t want you to see. This documentary will be as eye-opening as “Blackfish” and as inspiring as “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Read more…

Now, what makes this movie so potentially viral is the general mood in the US and around the world for that matter about conspiracy theories in general. Plus, there are many Vegans who have now seen this movie as the rallying cry for their point of view. Plus, there is a major constituent in the medical community who would agree that we would be a lot healthier if we ate less meat products, especially red meat.

Just wanted you to be informed. This is going to be a big deal. And, just like Watergate, there are a lot of very powerful people who are going to squirm when this hits the theaters more broadly.

You are now officially warned.

This is going to be very big. Udderly. No Bull!