The Value of Time

I will bet each of you at some point have Value of Timethought carefully about whether to take a non-stop flight or one with one or more connections. The reason we are willing to pay more for the direct flight is the value of our time. If we really don’t care how quickly we get there, we might even take a bus or a train. I drive whenever it is less than a 5-hour trip just because of the hassle of parking at the airport, putting up with lines, etc. I also just enjoy “being in control” of my world … perhaps a delusion, but I’m sure you get my point.

Well, there is a rapidly growing industry emerging of people and services that honor the value of your time. These go far beyond the concierge services we have gradually been made aware of. If you are following this trend with interest, you will really enjoy this recent Wall Street Journal article.

But, that got me thinking. If we really do value time, why are we so willing to squander it in corporate environments these days? It seems that everyone is in almost meaningless meetings all day long. It seems that not making a decision is deemed less costly than making one. I hear every senior officer in the utility industry seeking to encourage innovation in his or her management teams.

How can they expect that when they tolerate indecision … another way of simply wasting time?

We have all the time we are going to have. It is simply a matter of what we do with it. I guess I live by my father’s advice to me about making decisions: don’t make one unless and until you feel you are more likely to be right than to be wrong … and only look back on your decisions the same way … you are going to make some wrong ones … correct them and move on.

Another analogy I like to use comes from my fishing: If you don’t believe it, don’t cast it. And if you cast it, fish like you believe it.
Big decisions should take more time than little ones. Doing nothing is in fact making a decision … and often the wrong one.
Value your time. It is all the time you are going to have.

Overcoming the “Whatever” Response

whateverPerhaps you have heard someone respond with this word … it seems on the surface to be a bit trendy and perhaps cool to some, but it is truly disturbing when you get to the root of it. Wikipedia defines it this way:

Whatever is a slang term meaning “whatever you say” and “I don’t care what you say.” The term is used to dismiss a previous statement and express indifference and is usually considered offensive and impolite. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the word became a sentence in its own right; in effect an interjection, it is used as a passive-aggressive conversational blocking tool, leaving the responder without a convincing retort. Anything they do or say can simply be blocked by the retort of “whatever.”

Anyone trained in sales skills knows that indifference is the worst condition to encounter … it essentially means that you have failed to achieve relevance in the situation. No one who thought you could help them in their situation would rightfully respond with “whatever.”

Yet, that seems to be where we are. The industry has become irrelevant to most customers. Sure, we are all over the 2-3% of energy consumers out there who eat up each and every idea and program we offer. Yes, we can make sense to the 10-15% of others who follow the issues and tend to be intellectually involved.

But, no, we have failed at reaching the masses. We are simply irrelevant to the average American. They only pay attention to energy when they can’t pay the bill and fear losing power for non-payment. To those who deal with this, they also know that it is the AC, cable, and refrigerator that matter. At these times, you are relevant for sure, but how do we truly image ourselves as relevant.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from an AT&T call center representative who called my wife, Susan, out of her concern that someone might have incorrectly billed phone calls to our account. She started the conversation with the statement that she was concerned that the most recent bill was much higher than normal … and perhaps something might be amiss. Susan said she hadn’t noticed the recent bill was higher … and the agent said … “No, you wouldn’t have noticed because it hasn’t been sent to you yet. I wanted to be sure it was correct before it went out because if you get this bill, which is so much higher than your previous bills, you will probably call to find out why, so I called you first.”

Needless to say, the call became highly relevant. Susan then explained that I had gone out on my own and was now operating my office out of our house and there were a lot of business calls. Those were the days when you were charged by the minute … you do remember that, right? The representative then offered a program designed to help me reduce costs for just that situation. Susan related to me later how impressed she was with AT&T after that experience, and it had the additional advantage of helping that account representative achieve her business plan sign-up goals.

Have you thought through your approach to customers following this idea? Do they see you as proactive and relevant? Do your online tools offer specific ideas that truly relate to your customer’s situation? Or, does your online presence simply get a “whatever” when customers experience it? Do you even have the feedback mechanism on your website or applications to know that you are getting this response? We do … and almost all of the feedback responses we get are thanks for providing information that is relevant to my home or business.

Robin Hood

robinHoodI don’t know about you, but I am already tired of election politics and we haven’t even really begun the race for the White House in 2016. I guess it gets on the news because people care. I don’t. Many of the people vying for my attention now will not even make it to the final round … I am busy and I just don’t have time for all this. Plus, I am tired of the number of Robin Hood personalities they all seem to want to offer.

According to Wikipedia: “Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw in English folklore who, according to legend, was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. He is often portrayed as “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” alongside his band of Merry Men. Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the late-medieval period, and continues to be widely represented in literature, films and television.”

Yep, that is about it. Let’s all rob from the rich and give it to the poor. That of course makes sense only if you are not a member of the rich class. And, given that the rich are a minority in our society and that we use democracy as our method of picking our leaders … well, you can fill in the rest.

It is interesting to me to listen to the varied points of view here. Yes, we have excesses among the wealthy. Yes, we have seen money and power corrupt. But, I have also seen examples of the wealthy doing many good and noble things in our society. Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffet and others are certainly good examples. You can always find an example of good and evil.

The Robin Hood problem is alive and well in the energy industry. It is just much more complex. We have net metering and a host of electric rate designs that are truly Robin Hood mechanisms. When the number of poor is low, these become “acceptable” taxes on the rich. The numbers of poor are growing and these taxes are about to reach or have reached the tipping point. They have certainly hit that in Hawaii and in Germany.

Politics is ugly, but it is what we have. Once again, Wikipedia is helpful here:

“A variety of methods are employed in politics, which include promoting or forcing one’s own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against adversaries.”

The formula seems clear then. Our industry needs to do a better job at negotiation, making laws, and exercising force within our rightful playing field. Hope is not a plan. Silence is not a good strategy. Laws seem almost impossible to change or enact. And, exercising force is totally unpopular. Seems we are left with one obvious choice: negotiation.

To many who hold high principles, the idea of settling for less than the best is unpalatable. Mediation seems to some more like giving in. And, it seems to me that we have the age-old problem of seeking reasonable answers rather than attempting to solve the problem perfectly. The phrase I like is “the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.” Once again, we can find some advice in Wikipedia:

AristotleConfucius and other classical philosophers propounded the principle of the golden mean which counsels against extremism in general. The Pareto principle or 80–20 rule explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort. Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient.”

Negotiate with Robin Hood while there is still time.

The Internet of Me


Can we get any more narcissistic? Selfies are bad enough, but now the Internet of Things morphs to the Internet of Me? Well, brace yourself, at least according to Accenture … because this is just the beginning.

Check it out for yourself.
“Much of the Internet’s appeal lies in the personal power it bestows: “My” newsfeed, “My” playlist, “My” book recommendations, and so on. But as the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Even more authentic and meaningful individual experiences await.

Look all around: parking meters are going digital, the refrigerators and other comforts of home are getting brainier, and the next time you take yourself out to the ballgame, you may just receive a smartphone alert on which concession stand has the shortest line for hot dogs and beer.

Everyday gadgets and machines are increasingly interconnected and consumers are demanding more “smart” tech. Those who embrace the Internet of Me will sustain higher customer engagement and, in turn, open up new avenues of growth.”

According to Accenture, 81% of their clients indicate providing a personalized customer experience is among the top three organization’s priorities. Of those, 38% report is it their top priority.

“In a world where every car, every home, and every object is a new set of conversations with customers, enterprises must make sure they get that experience right, before someone else does.” – Michael Biltz, Managing Director Technology Vision, Accenture

Today, every customer experience is becoming a personalized one. Ordinary “things,” from parking meters to refrigerators to security systems, are becoming intelligent devices. And enterprises are going beyond just providing “things” to providing products and services molded specifically to the customer.
The handwriting seems to be clearly on the wall, and widely spaced for easy reading …