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The Day a Man Named Stan Called Me Tiffany: The Importance of Personalization

Vanessa Edmonds's picture
Founder & Advisor Appos Advisors & Utility 2030 Collaborative

Founder, Appos AdvisorsCo-founder & Executive Director, Utility 2030 Collaborative. Vanessa Edmonds knowledge acquisition professional, marketer, writer, speaker, and technology company...

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Customer Experience Takeaways for Oracle Industry Connect 2018


When I am in New York City, I frequent a restaurant near Times Square. It is usually empty and while most people assume that uninhabited restaurants serve bad food, the menu is decent, the service is excellent (it’s hard to get it wrong with only one customer), and it offers a no-distraction backdrop for catching up on work. A distinguished looking gentleman named Stan always seats me. He knows my name and what I drink.

When I was at Oracle Industry Connect (OIC), I visited “my” restaurant. “It’s so nice to see you again, Tiffany,” Stan said with a smile I have come to recognize. “Who is Tiffany,” I asked? He was embarrassed and brought me egg rolls at no extra charge. They didn’t taste as good as when he knew my name.

The importance of delighting customers can’t be understated. The moment Stan called me by the wrong name, I questioned my restaurant choice. It turns out that I am not alone. To a growing degree, customers are making decisions about companies based on single interactions. When things go poorly, businesses stand to lose something (sometimes a lot), even regulated companies that don’t fear churn.

This isn’t a novel concept for utilities. A new study conducted by RIMSolutions™, TMG Consulting’s research practice, shows that the leading reason utilities are planning to replace their customer information system (CIS) is to keep up with evolving customer expectations; the majority plan to do so sometime between 2019-2021.

Where we are in the evolution of these expectations was a key area of exploration during the OIC sessions in April 2018.

When Semantics Matter

One line of discussion during a utility industry breakout was how industry-speak has evolved from calling people “load” to “rate payers” to “customers”. Derek Hynes, Operations Manager for an Irish utility called ESB Networks, said that his utility has taken it a step further, calling them “families”.

While it might seem like unnecessary attention is being placed on semantics, this evolution shows that we’re moving closer to one of the most important areas of the customer experience today: personalization.

Shifting Attitudes

It wasn’t all that long ago when being “known” felt creepy. (Remember hearing the story about the man who learned his daughter was pregnant from Target?) Today, other industries, those that treat customers like family, have created a desire in all of us to be known. Being known creates efficiencies (when someone knows what you “drink”, you don’t have to ask) and it strengthens relationships.

In the presentation: Lessons Learned in Customer Behavior, Jeff Conklin, vice president for J.D. Power discussed personalization in more detail. He emphasized how critical it is to recognize our customers by name, understand their pain points and know their account history… across every transaction.

The Role of Data Analytics

Getting this piece of the customer experience puzzle right is a big mountain for utilities to climb. The good news is that many are on their way and others are learning from their journey. They are realizing that the term “big data” (a tired buzz word) refers to a large quantity of unstructured data, nothing more. When advanced analytics gets the data to “talk”, a story unfolds and we learn all kinds of things about our customers. Predictive analytics allows us to explore their future needs and behaviors including their appetite for additional revenue generating products and services. This is where companies who want to excel at personalization should put their investments.

Unless it’s written in a letter telling me that I use more power than my neighbors, I don’t want to be called “Tiffany” because that is not my name. Neither do utility customers. Being known makes transactions faster, easier and more pleasant. It builds a bond that includes but is not limited to an increased tolerance for mistakes, and yes, subpar egg rolls.

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