It seems everyone is trying to figure out what the future is for the energy industry even though certain “foundation” elements are now clear. What to do about beneficial electrification beyond the obvious opportunities with EVs? What staff skills will I need to promote this or that? How can I outsource?
Well, please remember the foundation to all influence: customer trust. Building that trust means you are in an active relationship. Or, as the ex-CEO of Duke Power Jim Rogers would say: If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu!”
So … what does it mean to be at the table? First of all, you have to be invited and welcome. Therefore, the foundation for this is that your customer satisfaction is excellent but more importantly there is a reason for you to be there. Fortunately, we in the energy industry bring a wealth of knowledge and insights into all energy customer relationships. But if all we are seen by customers is “promoting” our interests we are viewed suspiciously. Drop your agendas … learn theirs … and see how you can be of help. Forget about those corporate goals. You goal is customer trust.
Years ago, I used to lecture on this using the movie Miracle on 34th Street and emphasizing that recommending whatever was in the best interest of the customer was the best strategy. The sales model most used back then is what I called the car salesman model: you pushed whatever you had. That model was not relational … it was totally self-serving. I caught flak for my advice until my clients who used it proved it was far superior.
Customer trust today is complex and wide ranging. Customers interested in rooftop solar can be challenging since they are often not motivated by economics (so our attempts to prove the payback periods are longer than their thoughts fail to stop them). An astute marketer today will move the conversation toward other innovative technologies that will position these customers as community leaders and innovators.
Everyone gets excited about EVs, but EVs are not for everyone. Wise utilities therefore should focus on EVs for others who can then let all community members travel with this benefit. This portfolio includes natural gas vehicles in the short run. What? Yes, and any electric utility should be excited about natural gas vehicles since they improve the local air quality, save money, and about 25% of the energy in that fuel tank is electricity for the compression of the gas.
We at Apogee believe the foundation to the relationship in the residential market is explaining their bill and what they can do about it. Energy efficiency, comfort, and today’s advanced controls all matter. But most customers are overwhelmed with these questions and choices.
Whoever gets the customers trust wins … once again.