Making a Difference by Building Relationships

March 12, 2019 | Customer Engagement

I began my career with the ambition of “making a difference.”  Some colleagues scoffed at that saying the test of whether you made a difference was removing your hand from a bucket of water and seeing your mark.  Clearly, they had low aspirations and were not encouraging of mine.

Today’s energy companies are facing a similar challenge.  Most truly want to make a difference, but are they leaving their mark on the behaviors and decisions of their customers?  Are they relevant?  Very simply, are they influential?

The late Jim Rogers, iconic former chairman of Duke Energy, said it best when advising involvement in any big decisions saying, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu!”

If energy companies want to manage their futures with renewables, energy technology, energy efficiency (EE), and demand response (DR), they can’t take sides on an issue and be for or against any idea.  Some ideas work for some customers.  Some work for others.  Being part of customer energy decisions gives the utility the best possible position to preserve and build customer relationships while also achieving financial success for both customers and the serving energy company.

Therefore, if the energy company no longer needs EE or DR resources, they may eliminate the need for incentives on these activities.  However, it does not minimize the value that energy company has when a customer has questions or needs in these areas.  There is no more powerful customer engagement opportunity than to work with customers on their needs and interests.  And, through that dialogue, the energy company will likely find out what else the customer needs and can seek mutual benefit.

Here is a personal story that brought this home to me.  I have raised four daughters and watched them grow from babies to self-sufficient adults.  One day, when my oldest daughter was 16, she came to me with a question I was not prepared to discuss.  She said she wanted to talk to me about getting on “the pill.”  My first reaction was to blurt out something stupid like “go to your room and don’t come out until you are 30.”  Fortunately, in my flabbergasted state, the only words that came out were, “tell me more about that.”

She elaborated that she felt she was overweight and heard there were diet pills a doctor could prescribe that would help her lose some pounds. After picking myself up off the floor, I told her that we should first take a closer look at her diet and exercise and see how far that would go.  Fortunately, that gave me some time to prepare what to say when she did lose the weight and wanted to talk to me about another pill.  The experience made me realize, we can keep open dialogues or shut them down depending on how we handle genuine inquiries.

Perhaps you are laughing at all this, thinking it’s not relevant to your situation, but it is.  The point is, my daughter came to me and wanted to talk about “options” in her life.  She could have gotten all the information she needed elsewhere … probably without the loving cautions a parent would naturally offer.

You have a similar responsibility as a trusted energy provider and member of your community.  You work hard to engage your customers, to be relevant, and to have influence.  We know that because Apogee prides itself on two decades of partnering with utilities from coast-to-coast to successfully engage and educate their customers.  Over the years, we have refined and perfected methods that deliver powerful messaging efficiently and surprisingly cost-effectively.

About The Author

Joel Gilbert, P.E. Chief Software Architect and Co-Founder of Apogee Interactive, Inc.

Joel Gilbert, P.E. is President, Chief Software Architect and Co-Founder of Apogee Interactive, Inc. where he personally directs the design and development of energy analysis applications utilizing the highest standards in building science, engineering, operational patterns, weather data and pricing to ensure analytical integrity.

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