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Utility-Customer Partnerships

Engaging the consumer takes on new meaning.

Fortnightly Magazine - October 2010

save. They can also start and stop service, find out more about payment-plan options and enroll to pay their bills online each month.

Last year, Pennsylvania adopted Act 129, a law requiring electric utility companies to reduce overall demand and work with customers to help them save energy and money. My department has worked closely with PPL Electric Utilities to put systems in place so we can track our attainment of these requirements over time, and in support of customer programs related to Act 129. PPL Electric Utilities is driving the selection and implementation of customer programs, and we are providing the necessary information systems support.

McLeod, APS: Customer research drives the programs and resources we offer our customers and the way we communicate with them. We take full advantage of the annual J.D. Power surveys and our own internal research to gauge our progresses. We research best practices in technology and systems to improve the way our customers receive and pay their bills, talk with associates in our call center and report outages.

We contact customers to find out where we can make improvements in our business. Employing both online and over-the-phone surveys, we seek customer input on such crucial items as rate plans, online experiences, outage communication and overall satisfaction.

We recently launched an area of the APS intranet site that allows employees to make comments on our daily newsletter, which features late-breaking news in and around all departments of the company. Most of our employees are also APS customers, and they live, work, and play in the communities we serve. The comments we receive from employees through our intranet site provide a rich source of insight on what we can do to further satisfy our customers.

In addition, the APS call center allows customers to call 24 hours a day and speak with an APS representative who is there to help them find whatever answer they are looking for. Our call center is well respected; last year it won the Chartwell best practices award in customer service.

Through our community outreach efforts we receive broad, qualitative but nevertheless valuable input on how we are perceived. We take advantage of every opportunity to reach out to the community, whether it’s with customer service, community and economic development or the volunteer efforts of our employees. Customers and communities are a core area of focus in the strategic framework of my company.

Nuttall, OGE: This is an interesting question. Historically, many have viewed the regulators as the voice of our customer. At OG&E, we are quickly increasing our focus on the customers, bringing in the right skills and organizational focus to understand the needs and wants of our customers.

As CIO, I have the obligation to plan ahead for understanding enough of our customer needs and wants that we can develop the architecture and infrastructure to be successful. Although I previously held the position of director of marketing in another industry, it’s not my role to second guess our very talented and professional marketing department. However, I have many things on my