- Electric utilities like Oncor Electric, Northeast Utilities, San Diego Gas & Electric Co., and Duke Energy have been adding customer-focused senior staff over the last four to six years. The smart grid, energy efficiencies, distributed generation, and choice offered by deregulated electricity suppliers have turned ratepayers into customers and upped the level of service they expect.
- These factors have separated the utility business into generation, transmission, and retail segments, motivating utilities to add a chief customer officer (CCO) position and make customer opinion, as expressed through social media, a top consideration.
- The utility industry, according to new research, has more CCOs than any other business sector, and is working to redirect an inward-looking tendency toward creating satisfied customers that might otherwise bring disruption to regulatory rate case proceedings.
A critic of the utility business model recently observed that a utility’s successful transition to a world of “smart metering, energy efficiency and social media” is reflected by increased references to “customers” instead of to “ratepayers.”
Early in deregulation, transmission-distribution utilities pulled back from customer relationships, thinking retail electricity providers would handle that responsibility. They then realized that consumer complaints to regulators about service continued to focus on them.
Newly empowered utility customers now can get text messages about usage and outages as well as online real time bill status profiles. This puts new pressures on utilities to supply accurate and timely information, but allows them to encourage customer engagement and play the role of trusted adviser about power service by educating them on their options.
Duke embeds a customer focus in its recruiting process by targeting people with social media and customer service skills with experience in customer-focused industries.