2015 EEI/AGA Customer Service Conference Explores the Opportunities and Challenges of the Digital Age
Did you know that the average American home has 26 appliances? Since Robert Bunsen invented the first natural gas burner in 1885, we’ve come to rely on a diverse array of household tools to provide essential daily needs like heating, cooling, cooking and bathing. Our dependence on these appliances makes seamless energy delivery critical, and energy utilities are dedicated to meeting the needs of their customers.
For decades, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI)/American Gas Association (AGA) Customer Service Conference has been the leading energy utility customer service conference in the world, bringing together energy and natural gas utility professionals to discuss ways to better serve customers and enhance energy delivery. At this year’s conference in Washington, D.C., the core tradition of reliably and safely delivering energy while providing excellent service remained the theme, as attendees discussed how to leverage and manage technology to further enhance the modern customer experience.
Today’s technology landscape has changed the way we use energy, as well as customers’ expectations for interacting with their local utilities. Attendees heard from panels and participated in workshops on leading customer service practices and emerging trends, challenges and opportunities, with remarks from industry leaders including AGA Chairman and President and CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc. Terry McCallister and AGA COO and Senior Vice President Lori Traweek. Discussions explored how to use online and digital platforms to provide greater flexibility, better communication with customers, response during emergencies and facilitate bill paying. More and more, energy utilities are offering mobile and online platforms for bill payment and outage communications and alerts. Utilities are also leveraging social media channels and online chat platforms to build relationships, talk with customers, increase engagement and spread important messages. And innovations in technology throughout the energy delivery chain have made the process safer, more reliable and more efficient than ever.
Yet along with these tremendous opportunities to provide solutions for customers, the digital world has created new challenges – particularly on the security front. As more functions and data move online, working to ensure that utility systems are secure from cyber threats grows increasingly critical. Defense expert and author of the book America the Vulnerable Joel Brenner delivered the keynote address, detailing the ever-changing threats posed by cyber hackers and attackers. Throughout the conference, panelists and breakout sessions examined today’s threats to energy delivery and customer privacy, and leading practices to combat those threats. Safety has always been the core value for natural gas utilities, and AGA and its member companies continue to work to enhance both the physical and cyber security of their delivery systems.
For nearly 200 years, natural gas utilities have delivered energy to homes and businesses. Though technology has changed, their commitment to safe, reliable energy delivery and exemplary customer service has stayed strong. In April 2016, the EEI/AGA Customer Service Conference will join CS Week – the largest utility-focused customer service conference in the world. Transitioning to CS Week provides all of the benefits of the EEI/AGA Customer Service Conference on a larger scale, and AGA looks forward to continuing to elevate the natural gas customer experience.