Chris Oberle is a senior vice president in the Energy Research 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.
“And when you speak of me, speak well.” Bull Durham
As utilities seek to evolve their customer management performance goals beyond traditional customer satisfaction metrics, utilities are evaluating updated measures and management approaches that better reflect success in the transforming utility market—one of those is the Net Promoter Score, or NPS. The NPS metric is based on a question regarding the likelihood of a customer to recommend the company to others. The scale is 0–10 and based on the percentage of those posting a rating of 9–10 (Promoters) minus the percentage of those rating 0–6 (Detractors), and then multiplying the result by 100. The Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential (UTBCE) study has the most robust database to help utilities measure, benchmark and manage NPS. The study has been tracking NPS quarterly since 2016 and provides data-based analysis, modeling and insights to help utilities perform well on this metric.
The Core of the NPS Debate
For both the utility and the customer, there is confusion regarding why a customer would be compelled to “recommend” their regulated utility. If they want utility service, they use the utility. How can a monopoly motivate customers to recommend it? And, what is the value to the utility? Continue reading →
“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” Henry David Thoreau
This month we are celebrating Earth Day with our annual designation of Environmental Champions for those utilities whose customers say their utility has exhibited dedication to the environment in our Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study. What struck me most about this year’s findings is that customers think environmental improvements are a better investment and are not opposed to a utility rate increases related to such endeavors, at least more so than for improvements in reliability or service.
Brand Appeal measures customers’ positive feelings for a company based upon the claims and visuals the company has created to establish a unique market position. The brand equity that companies evoke in customers’ minds relate to added pricing power and preferred provider status. The first quarter of the 2018 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential (UTBCE) study results are out and a new finding highlights 131 utilities’ Brand Appeal with their respective residential customers.
Brand Appeal Is in the Eyes of the Customer
Establishing high Brand Appeal enables utilities to engineer customer support and loyalty using design and color to shape a unique impression in customers’ minds. By asking respondents to rate their utility’s visuals such as logos and slogans, the UTBCE study has identified the utilities that have created the most appealing customer value propositions. Six utility brands rise to the top with a brand that invokes a high level of customer appeal. As utility customers select who they want to do business with, these six utilities are the likely winners with great brand equity and considered significantly more “ideal” than any other utility. Continue reading →
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.
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. Continue reading →
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.
Customers Will Advocate for, but Not Recommend, Utilities
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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 →
Study Shows High Operational Satisfaction Combined with Trust Is a Winning Combination
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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 →
“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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →