When the Salt River Project (SRP) held a series of focus groups in 1994, one participant said he related to our products and services, and felt he received good value for his monthly payments. Unfortunately, a few questions later, we discovered that he did not live in our service area, his bill was higher than he thought, and he wasn't particularly pleased after all.
We were more than a little taken aback. After all, we certainly had no trouble distinguishing our products and services from those offered by Arizona's other electric and gas utilities. Wasn't this customer paying attention to our paid advertising or to the local news stories about SRP that appeared with some regularity? Didn't he appreciate what we had been doing in the community all these years?
This type of customer confusion was of little consequence as long as electric utilities operated within well-defined service territories. But as we look toward a deregulated future, when customers will be able to vote with a telephone call and service territories are likely to become out-of-print maps, utilities and customers should be asking probing questions of each other.
Utilities should be asking: Why did you choose our product or service over those offered by the competitors? Or, alternatively, why did you choose a competitor's product or service over ours? Customers, on the other hand, should be asking their utilities: How do your products and services compare to those of your competitors?