Monetize This!

The most common question I hear from our utility clients is “How do I monetize this?”  It is almost as if everyone now has this question memorized no matter what is being offered as the obviously right thing to do.  How do I monetize coffee breaks, vacation, career development, etc., especially with today’s millennial who do not think they will be with any company very long.

Therefore, I was struck by the comments from the president of Southwest Airlines about all the things his competitors were doing that did make tons of money.  I don’t have the answer to the obvious question in all this, but it is certainly worth some consideration, especially from this time going forward.

Read what USA Today reports. 

What also struck me was his unabashed confidence in these decisions despite the open vehement criticisms from Wall Street and others.

Once again, I don’t have the answers, but perhaps watching Southwest from this point on may.

Marketing to Excess

Credit: Getty Images – Men’s Health

I know many of you have been wondering whether beneficial electrification is real.  You lament that you are trapped in an outdated regulatory model and seem stuck waiting for permission to offer customers ideas that might just increase electrical energy use while saving the customer money or offering enhanced comfort affordable.

I think you are missing the point.  People are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars turning rooms in their home into high-tech relaxation areas.  They are installing hyperbaric oxygen-therapy chambers, infrared saunas, steam showers and therapeutic lighting.

And, one of the latest gizmos are sensory-deprivation tanks.  Read about it here. 

Meanwhile utilities are hoping they can get a few people to put in a bit of this or that.

Excess is back in a big way.  No apologies needed.

Theological Innovation

It is probably no surprise that churches of all denominations are having problems these days with declining membership and funding.  The message and community value they brought years ago does not seem to resonate with today’s youth and the idea of just giving money to any organization is now questioned more carefully.  Yes, there are always those who have been raised to appreciate tradition and may value it … or may not any longer.

Things that were once sacred may not be sacred any longer to this new generation.  Part of the problem here is that they don’t accept the underlying premises.  And, in fact, it might just be accurate to say that what we once thought was foundational may no longer even be accepted as fact at all.

A business person facing these questions would ask the natural question:  How do we innovate?  Do we need to stop wearing robes, add modern music styles, or just talk about things in today’s everyday life?  These seem to be good questions, but asking them runs the risk of wrath by those who cherish tradition.

So, attempting to be innovative on things that some consider sacred is bound to create tensions.  And, given another church down the road or across the street may have decided to stand on cherished tradition, you can easily imagine the migration over time.  The church clinging to tradition may indeed seem to be growing … but it is very likely growing increasing out of touch with what is happening in society.

This may be interesting to watch from the sidelines, but is certainly not just rhetorically interesting if you are one of those churches trying to innovate.  Churches have spent hundreds of years trying to formalize and rigidize their brands as defensible in the sea of theological alternatives non-churched people can consider.  Some, most notably the megachurches, have decided that Sunday is more about performance than theology … and it seems to be working.  Critics in the mainstream easily criticize them as “watering down” the truth, but those in leadership in these megachurches will point out that they offer an easy start to the unchurched.

As I watch all this I am stunned by the parallels in our world of energy policy and consumer engagement.  Maybe it’s time to think of customer journey and engagement more about performance than theology.

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.