This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Can a utility company be customer obsessed? As my colleague Rob Markey notes in the latest episode of his Net Promoter System Podcast, it’s pretty unusual for customers to engage with a utility the way they might with, say, their bank or a retailer. After all, their choice is limited.
Even so, utility companies can build strong relationships with their customers, despite having fewer natural points of interaction, as Rob’s interview with Barbara Higgins, the former chief customer officer of Duke Energy, reveals.
Barbara Higgins, former chief customer officer of Duke Energy, sees low-engagement industries as high-touch opportunities.
Before companies could track customers’ interests and behavior through digital interactions, leaders’ assumptions often defined the scope and focus of their offerings, Higgins notes. This disconnect between what customers actually valued and what leaders believed they valued left many companies bound by historical industry practice, keeping them from meeting their full potential.
Because the utility industry is mostly regulated, it can be very difficult to link end-customer loyalty to financial returns. But Higgins and her team found ways to show that Duke and its competitors could more successfully win regulatory support if they had higher NPS. If customers feel their utilities are performing well, Higgins says, “it makes the outcomes we’re looking for easier for regulators to grant, because they don’t feel they have to protect customers from us.”
Digital has played an important role in increasing Duke’s customer engagement and satisfaction. Customers tend to notice energy usage changes when the bill comes due. Providing usage information digitally—perhaps on a mobile app, sometimes in real time or with alerts—can engage customers more frequently and give them a simple way to monitor and manage usage.
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