From smart meters to mobile devices and social media, joined with transformations in energy production, revolutions in technology have created boundless new opportunities for utilities to interact with, understand and serve their customers even more reliably, safely and efficiently. As companies innovate and enhance the customer experience across all sectors, utilities are charged with meeting and surpassing customer expectations driven by leading brands. With this transformed landscape in mind, more than 400 natural gas and electric utility professionals gathered in San Francisco last week to help enhance the customer experience for energy users throughout the nation. The 2014 Customer Service Conference and Exposition, co-hosted by the American Gas Association and the Edison Electric Institute, featured two and a half days of presentations, 60 exhibitors, breakout sessions and workshops focused on how to better meet customer needs and expectations in a changing energy and technology world.
Utility customer service professionals gather for the AGA/EEI Customer Service Conference General Session.
Utilities and their employees are an integral link between our nation’s energy resources and homes and businesses throughout the nation, making a smooth energy customer experience a vital underpinning of a healthy economy. As part of their commitment to safe and reliable energy delivery, utilities are dedicated to helping ensure their customers are able to access the information and resources they need to better understand how to use energy wisely and safely, manage their energy costs, prepare for storms and outages and get the best possible value from their energy delivery service.
Thanks to constant innovations in information, communications and energy delivery technology, customers have more ways than ever to access information, manage their energy use and communicate with their local utility. Utilities also have access to an unprecedented amount of data and communications channels that can help them better understand and serve their customers’ needs. This new “data deluge” combined with today’s changing energy landscape provides opportunities and challenges for utilities, customer service professionals and customers. Conference participants heard from industry leaders and panels discussing these changes, what the future holds for utilities and how to meet and exceed customer expectations for decades to come.
AGA Customer Service Committee Chair Kathy Kerr, New Jersey Natural Gas, moderates a panel discussing the Utility-Customer Business Model Evolution. L-R: Mike Hazelton, Georgia Power; Gregg Knight, CenterPoint Energy; Dave Williams, NW Natural
Afternoon breakout sessions followed the general sessions, where participants could fous on issues impacting their specific area of customer contact. These sessions examined addressing more effective meter reading and data collection processes, streamlining billing and payment processing, exploring innovative ways to assist low-income and at-risk customers, managing and modernizing call centers, and enhancing outage and restoration communications. Across the board, participants noted the potential for increased information and communication capabilities to transform the utility-customer relationship.
Meeting and exceeding their customers’ need for safe and reliable energy delivery has been the core mission of natural gas utilities for more than a century. America’s natural gas utilities will continue their historically excellent record of service as they leverage the opportunities of the future.