This special interest group is where customer care professionals share tactics on how utilities are improving interactions with their customers. 


Customer Engagement in 2020 - Domino's Pizza Style

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Danielle Marquis, Esq.'s picture
Vice President of Product Management Franklin Energy

Danielle establishes a product and solution strategy to drive the development of innovative, competitive offerings on behalf of Franklin Energy. She also governs product and solution development...

  • Member since 2020
  • 11 items added with 15,113 views
  • Jan 28, 2020

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2020-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

It’s Thursday, 4:30 p.m. My kids have practice, I’m nowhere near done with work, and Domino’s just pushed me an ad about tonight’s pizza sale.

How did they know?

Rather than view it as an intrusion into my day, I’m relieved. Kind of delighted, even. I’m a proud New Yorker who lives near five pizza joints, but I’m ordering Domino’s because their timing was right and their app is amazing.

Domino’s used to be the kind of place I only paid attention to at 3 a.m. when I was a college student desperate for anything remotely edible. So what happened? Well, Domino’s made a commitment to data collection and transparency. And that changed not only their marketing, but their whole company.

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Today, their pizza is actually kind of good and their branding, technology and engagement? Completely on point.

There’s a lesson here for utility companies. Shouldn’t utilities be using the data they collect to alert customers when they have usage that’s higher than normal? The kind that’ll lead to bill shock in a few weeks and for which a program solution exists? For that matter, shouldn’t utilities be using data to improve their customers’ lives in all kinds of different ways?

The technology exists to help utility programs better engage customers, but at times it feels like we’re operating in the dark ages. How can we drive innovation in an industry where email is still considered a little risky?

The lesson we can learn from companies like Domino’s that have transformed their customer engagement strategies is that innovative ideas are all around us—we just need to think outside the way things have always been done in our industry.

And it’s not even that difficult. Innovative customer engagement can be achieved with just a little creativity combined with widely available technology. It doesn't require utilities to become tech companies or even throw more money at marketing to work.

Nor is there any need to be a pioneer. By looking at best practices from customer-engagement leaders in other industries, utilities can learn how to build a team and process that generates the innovative ideas that can help propel us toward the Utility of the Future.

The Future of Customer Engagement

When it comes to customer engagement, companies like Domino’s, Zappos, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon are like the rising tide that lifts all boats. Their innovative strategies can filter down to other industries that aren’t traditionally associated with top-notch customer service—industries like banking or healthcare … or utilities. According to the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s (SECC) 2020 State of the Consumer report, “Today’s residential customers are asking for more from their electricity providers and third parties: more options, more personalization and more innovation….[and] these expectations are even higher for younger customers.”

That’s the plus side. The negative side is that if companies don’t improve their customer engagement, their customers will notice. According to’s 2019 State of the Connected Consumer report, a whopping 73 percent of consumers say that when one company gives them extraordinary customer service, that raises their expectations for other companies. 

As a result, 54 percent of the more than 8,000 consumers and business buyers surveyed for the report believe that companies need to fundamentally change how they engage with their customers.

Think about that. More than half of the people who pay for goods or services from a company think that company is doing such a poor job of connecting with them that it should overhaul its entire customer-engagement strategy. Not just tweak a few things, but fundamentally change.

This is a key point when you consider what comes next. A stunning 84 percent of customers surveyed in the report say the experiences a company offers are just as important as the products or services the company sells.

So for utilities, that means that even if you’re providing good energy-saving programs and lucrative rebates on energy-saving products, if you still have poor customer service the rest doesn’t really matter. If our customers feel unwanted or unneeded, they’re unhappy—no matter how well our utility may perform in other areas.

The Top 3 Consumer Expectations in 2020

Of course, it’s easy for people outside the industry to say utilities should improve their customer engagement. The hard thing is to determine exactly how.

One way to start is to understand what customers want from the businesses they engage with. The report lists three top consumer expectations that can be translated to the utility industry in 2020:

Personalization. A surprising 73 percent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and desires—before they ask.

For utilities, that could mean everything from proactively alerting a customer about increased usage in time to prevent higher bills, to using past-participation and preference data to more effectively recommend products on e-commerce sites. 

Technology. Seventy-five percent of consumers expect companies to use technology to improve customer engagement. Specifically, customers want to communicate with a company in ways they prefer—not ways the company prefers.

For utilities, that means making it a priority to connect with customers online, through an app, via voice assistants like Alexa, with text messages or even through appliances or other smart-home devices. This is particularly important for utilities that have e-commerce sites and makes it critical to have a centralized communication preference center.

Interconnectivity. Nearly 80 percent of customers expect anyone at a company to be able to access their information and help them in real time. The days of calling a customer service line and repeatedly stating basic information every time you’re transferred to a different rep are—deservedly—disappearing.

For utilities, this means creating data systems, or working with partners, that allow customer information to be shared across departments—and through your e-commerce site and call center.

Utilities learn from their competitors and industry peers all the time—the thriving conference circuit and growing number of industry associations and media outlets is a testament to this. And that can be fruitful when it comes to industry best practices—but perhaps not so fruitful when it comes to customer engagement.

In fact, according to a recent J.D. Power study, utilities are among the lowest-performing industry groups when it comes to providing positive digital experiences for customers.

As more customers demand the type of engagement they get from companies in other industries, our competitors aren’t just other utilities. They’re pizza delivery companies and online apparel sellers and ride-shares and e-commerce Godzillas. Domino’s Pizza, Zappos, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon are leaders in these areas and we should look to them to improve customer engagement in our own industry.

Danielle Marquis, Esq.'s picture
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 28, 2020

Absolutely love the comparison to an app like Dominoes Pizza during a busy day. It's not the greatest pizza, but by being reliable and available to anticipate your needs it can get the nod-- utilities need to recognize how valuable the personalization and the 'there before you know you need it' aspects of customer service can be. 

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