After spending Family Day in Vancouver teaching the kids how to create their own gourmet meal (of macaroni and cheese), I’m back in the office reflecting on how collaboration extends to the work I do with colleagues and partners to help utilities transform their customer experience. It reminds me of recent conversations at a Salesforce for Utilities Roundtable Forum (SURF) that I hosted at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. This session brought together 30 leaders from global energy providers representing customer service, sales, marketing, field service, IT and other parts of the utility organization for an interesting exchange on customer experience excellence.
While participants’ views of customer experience excellence were slightly different based on geography, competitive landscape and energy-related offerings, a common trend emerged—that it takes collaboration within, across and outside of the organization to unlock value through customer experience transformation. This is described in our new Technology Vision 2020 report, which reinforces the importance of cooperative digital experiences to help companies reimagine their partnerships with employees and other stakeholder groups. And by applying a focused, iterative approach to enrich customer experience across the organization, companies are realizing long-lasting, “future-proof” business growth. For example, during the roundtable discussion, one speaker shared that it used to take three days to get the right quotations required to sign on a new commercial and industrial customer. Now with the use of real-time APIs and a new CRM system, the same information can be shared with customers in just three minutes. That’s huge time savings!
As the conversation continued, three main areas emerged as key opportunities for utilities to collaborate across a broader ecosystem to achieve customer experience excellence.
- Designing the customer experience with journey mapping
At our roundtable, there were participants from many different business units within the utility. Their employees interacted with the same customers in different ways—whether providing assistance with setting up automatic bill payment, connecting as part of a move, offering rebates on sustainable renovations or installing a new energy management device. To realize benefits from customer experience design, leaders bring different stakeholders together and examine the end-to-end journey—especially pain points—from the customer’s perspective. We call this customer journey mapping. This important exercise helps all stakeholders to agree on changes (to business processes, technology, team organization, etc.) that will satisfy needs of the customer (e.g., improved NPS, increased CSAT), and the business (such as increased customer lifetime value, reduced cost to serve).
- Bringing in the specialists – using the right skills and solutions to collectively solve problems
One of the participants shared their story about designing a customized view for contact center agents—a single screen in their CRM application presenting all customer information at a glance. While this was a great idea initially, feedback from users later revealed that a busy screen required significant scrolling and was actually less effective and less ergonomic than a simple screen with multiple, context-specific tabs. Engaging experts from across the organization early in the project to advise on key CRM features like UI/UX, process optimization, integration as well as change enablement would alleviate costly rework in design/development of the solution later on. Implementing best-in class CRM solutions from qualified solution vendors such as Salesforce and Vlocity, that have embedded leading practices in their designs would also improve maintainability over custom developed applications.
- Embracing agile ways of working…with support for operations
Much has been published on the benefits of an agile organization, including this article, “Using an Agile Mindset to Fuel Innovation & Embrace Disruption in the Energy Industry.” Quite a few of the roundtable participants commented on their journey toward becoming more agile. They were surprised by the degree of cultural and structural change required within their organization to empower employees to make decisions. For example, in order to bring the right level of operational expertise to a project, customer service and/or sales agents would need to be dedicated to the project team to provide input during workshops, sprint demos and other decision-making events. But shifting the workforce to support a project (ideally the most experienced individuals) could put operational service levels at risk. So how can this be mitigated? One way we’ve done this for past projects was to supplement the workforce (e.g., contact center) with temporary, but skilled staff to backfill day-to-day operations. In this way, we ensured that service levels were met while systems are being enhanced by the project team. The opportunity to tap into talent from outside the organization made for a more stable operations while delivering the desired outcomes.
Based on the insights and examples from the roundtable discussion, along with what I’ve seen in the most successful customer experience projects, it all comes down to collaboration. Customer experience excellence requires a range of subject matter expertise from within, across and outside the organization including, intra-business support, peer-to-peer support, and partner support. This combination of talents is key for utilities to achieve customer experience excellence.
I welcome your comments and if you’re in the Chicago area in May, please join the conversation at our next SURF meeting at Salesforce Connections.