Chris Oberle

About Chris Oberle

Chris Oberle is a senior vice president in the Energy division, with more than 25 years of executive management experience in the energy and financial services sectors. He manages the development and delivery of syndicated studies, custom research, best practices and advisory services. Throughout his career, Chris has earned a reputation as a customer experience thought leader by helping clients improve the way they develop, deliver, engage and satisfy customers with their programs and brands. Chris earned an MBA from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. He coaches youth sports and spends time with his kids at USC and UCLA.

How Sustainable Is Your Environmental Brand?

How Sustainable Is Your Environmental Brand?

Recently, we announced our 2017 Environmental Champions to highlight the utilities that have developed effective approaches and struck a chord with their customers who like to hear about the dedication of their utility to the environment. These utilities are, in turn, rewarded with high Brand Trust and Customer Satisfaction scores.

2017 Utility Environmental Champions_Residential

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Customers Don’t Trust Utilities’ Cybersecurity Efforts

Customers Don’t Trust Utilities’ Cybersecurity Efforts

The recent massive ransomware attack struck industries across the globe and exposed worrisome weaknesses in the computer defenses of even the most sophisticated international corporations. While there are no reports to date of utilities being struck by the WannaCry virus, consumers’ confidence in the ability of any organization to keep its system safe has been badly shaken.

Cybersecurity has long been on utility officials’ mind: The sniper attack at an electric substation and a holiday cyber-attack scare on an electric utility are a couple of events that keep cybersecurity on the forefront. So, the WannaCry incident serves not so much as a wake-up call as it is a confirmation of the urgency of guarding against cyber threats. But it’s also an opportunity to communicate with customers about what you are doing to protect against and prepare for such an attack.
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Utility Brand Trust Posts a Modest Increase for Q3 2016

Why Brand Trust Matters for Energy Utilities

Brand Trust among residential consumers of the nation’s utilities increased by one point in Q3 over Q2 of 2016. The industry’s overall Brand Trust Index now stands at 694. Emotional attachment brand traits increased two points, while management performance traits increased one point during the quarter. While this is an improvement, utilities are building Brand Trust very slowly, and they have a great deal of work to do to become truly trusted by their customers.

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Net Promoter Scores Net Nothing for Utilities

Customers Will Advocate for, but Not Recommend, Utilities

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Net Promoter Scores Net Nothing for Utilities 

As utilities continue to evaluate customer measurement scores, the most debated one I hear is regarding Net Promoter ScoresSM (NPS®). Promoters of the theory say that if a customer states he or she would recommend a company, then that company would benefit from a loyal customer base and third-party recommendations. For a retail company where customers can select a vendor, this makes perfect sense. Detractors of the measurement doubt NPS’s applicability to a monopoly where there is no choice but to use a utility for service. It is like recommending someone should use electricity.

How Accurate Is NPS in Predicting Actual Promoting Activity of a Utility?

The Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study surveys 130 utilities and asks the NPS recommendation question. From that data you can calculate NPS in the normal manner (% of 9–10 ratings minus % of 0–6 ratings x 100). However, the following graph shows how NPS performance in no way predicts customers making positive comments about the utility. Continue reading

Electric Utilities: Get the Most Out of Your Business Account Management Program

Study Shows High Operational Satisfaction Combined with Trust Is a Winning Combination

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Business handshake. Business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting

It is not surprising that managed business accounts for electric utilities are significantly more satisfied with their utility’s operations than other businesses are. Managed business accounts have the best of both service worlds—the ability to call someone at the utility as well as multiple options for self-service. Their average score of 791 (on a 1,000-point scale) on Operational Satisfaction is a significant 20 points higher than the average score for businesses without account managers (771). And the top-quartile-performing utility managed business account programs score 820 or higher.

But there is a catch. High operational satisfaction does not necessarily translate to businesses trusting their utility to advise them or aid in the success of their business. That said, what does it take to build a top managed business account program at your utility that goes beyond operational satisfaction?

The Cogent Reports™ 2016 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Business study scores Operational Satisfaction by measuring billing, payment, safety, reliability, and customer and field service quality for electric utilities from business customers’ perspective. On these measurements, managed business accounts at electric utilities have high operational satisfaction and are much more engaged with their utility. Continue reading

Welcome Aboard. Now Please Fend for Yourself.

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 “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” –Will Rogers

When you invite people over to your home, you probably would first give them directions (maybe even a couple of route options), offer to take their coat when they arrive and then offer them a seat and a beverage. We want our friends to like us and know that we value their relationship. At the start of a utility relationship, however, we typically ask new customers, or Newcomers, to initiate “start-service requests” on their own and then notify us of the type of bill that they want to receive. Sometimes we ask them to set up a self-service online account so that they can opt-in to more offerings and options themselves. In other words, utilities are sending new customers the message that they are on their own.
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Financial and Technology Offerings Are Key to Engaging Utility Business Customers

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Financial and Technology Offerings Are Key to Engaging Utility Business Customers

Technology continues to transform how people prefer to interact with businesses and services, and this trend is no different for the utility industry. This month I have taken a deeper dive into the relationship between utilities and their business customers. Our research has shown that business customers are more engaged with their utility than the average residential customer. This presents a unique opportunity to build on those relationships using technology as a catalyst.
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Utilities Face a Widening Communication Gap

Utility communication professionals need to become more strategic as technology changes the way customers want to access information.

Utilities Face a Widening Communication Gap

Utilities have a widening communication gap with their customers, hindering utilities’ ability to engage with customers and build brand trust.

According to our recent Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study, 54% of residential customers want to hear from their utility via digital media—email, texts, mobile apps, online advertising, social media or websites—making digital communication the most preferred of any communication channel. And yet, only 33% of consumers recall any digital communication from their utility.

Communication Medium Response

That’s a significant mismatch of 21 percentage points. Today, utility communication strategies are stuck in the past, at a time prior to the rise of the smartphone and the tablet. In order to remain relevant, utilities need to develop communication plans that embrace new technologies to address consumer expectations of the new millennium.

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The Consumer Segment Utilities Should Be Targeting Now

With a little effort, these customers could become your most loyal, active    

utility consumer segments to target

Anyone who helps direct the customer outreach activities of a business enterprise knows that, in an ideal world, you should be tailoring your marketing efforts to different audiences. But for energy utilities, which have an obligation to serve a consumer base as diverse as the country, it can be especially hard to know where to start.

So to focus your efforts for 2016, ask yourself: If I could target just one customer segment this year to improve my customer metrics, which should it be?

After nearly two years of running the Residential Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study, the answer is clear to me: The customer segment you should be targeting now is Hispanics.

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Whom Do You Serve?

How Energy Utilities Can Become Trusted Advisors

2015-07-brand-trustAs utilities continue to pursue stronger customer relationships, they tend to focus on one-size-fits-all operational improvements. Who would not want mobile access or an app, energy efficiency rebates, proactive outage alerts, electronic bills or online energy management tools? The answer is White households, which have lower demand for these offerings. In fact, all of those product offerings have high demand overall, but if utilities want to find the “low-hanging fruit” for adoption, they will be more successful if they target non-White customers. Specifically, Hispanic households have the highest demand and stated usage for each of these products.

This is just one interesting insight from our latest Cogent Energy Reports study, Residential Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement, which explored the benefits of visualizing the customers you serve. Gaining a deeper understanding of your customer base through formal segmentation or visualizing them based upon what you know about them makes your customer management efforts more efficient. Recently published Opower research suggests that utilities spend $5.3 billion annually on customer service. Still, most utilities use the same platforms for every service interaction, paying little attention to customized service approaches by segment.

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