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Power Perspectives™ Interview: Welcome James Riley, New Expert in the Customer Care Community

Posted to Energy Central in the Customer Care Group

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While there may be numerous places utility professionals can go online to find energy-related news, Energy Central remains the top virtual destination for those working in the electric power industry to connect with experts in the field. By bringing you highly respected experts across utilities, Energy Central is able to connect you with the experience and wisdom you may need to take your projects and your insights to the next level, thanks to our network of experts.

That network of experts is only as valuable as you’re aware of them and the value they can bring, though, so we’re honored to introduce you to the latest Energy Central expert in our Customer Care community. James Riley is an independent Digital and Analytics Advisor with a tier one, investor owned, utility in California. He brings with him over two decades of experience in focusing on how to optimize the customer experience. So you can better understand his experience and know when to reach out to him should you need some insights on just such topics, James was kind enough to participate in our Power Perspectives™ ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.

Matt Chester: James, thanks so much for becoming a part of our registered network of experts and for participating in this new expert interview series. So our community members can better understand where you’re coming from, can you provide an overview of your background in the utility industry and what your role is today?

James Riley: I have more than 15 years consulting experience in the industry working with utilities including Thames Water, Centrica, TXU Energy, Centerpoint Energy, Oncor, Georgia Natural Gas, SMUD, and Union Gas.

My current client has embarked upon a major transformation of their customer systems that will go-live in January 2021. I am advising them on digital customer engagement and analytics.

 

MC: You’re an expert in our Customer Care community and your background is in the digital and analytics space. Can you share how you see that digital technologies have opened up a new world for providing high quality customer service from utilities? And what innovative new approaches and technologies do you see coming in the next few years that will advance things even further?

JR: Customer expectations are being set outside the industry by companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber. Customers expect utilities to be easy to do business with, when they want, and through a channel of their choice. Digital technologies are playing an increasingly important role in allowing customers to self-serve, improving the customer experience, and lowering the cost to serve.

In the coming years, I expect to see a proliferation of customer engagement channels including digital assistants and a shift beyond self-service towards automation. Customers don’t want to log onto your website every month, they want you to reach out to them if there is something they need to worry about or something that can make their life better.

 

MC: When it comes to embracing new technologies for use in customer care, have you seen that different utilities are embracing the possibilities with varying levels of speed or enthusiasm? If so, what do you think it is that makes the leaders in this space most willing to embrace digital tools and what can/should the rest of the industry learn from them?

JR: There are significant differences in speed of adoption, but not the enthusiasm. Utilities are having to deal with an unprecedented rate of change with limited resources at their disposal, so it is all about prioritization.  Often, the ability to transform digital customer experience is dependent upon the replacement of an aging customer billing system, a once every 15 to 20 years event.

What I think utilities can learn from the leaders in this space is to approach digital transformation from the perspective of the customer. Not all customers are alike, but generally they want their lives made better and simpler. Things like time of use rates, budget billing, net metering, and demand response programs are inherently complex. The leaders in this space protect their customers from that underlying complexity and guide them towards the decisions that are best for them.

MC: When looking into new strategies and tools for the customer, how much does the inspiration come from the customer telling you what they want and how much of the developments are instead technologies that the customer may not have even been aware that they wanted? Do those two different categories require unique approach or attention from utilities?

JR: I talk a lot to clients about having the courage to simplify the customer experience. To be prepared to take the lead to make customers' lives better, but never stop listening to them.

We should also make sure that we are in a position to listen ever more attentively to feedback. By integrating Voice of the Customer technology, utilities will be able to solicit feedback on different elements of the digital experience to guide continuous improvement.

 

MC: As you’ve started to dip your toes into the Energy Central Community, can you share what compelled you to get more involved? What value do you find the community is able to bring you and how do you hope to bring value to your fellow Energy Central users?

JR: I have had the privilege to consult across almost every industry. One of the things that makes this industry unique is the willingness to collaborate. To learn and improve from our collective experience. Energy Central facilitates that collaboration.

By sharing my thoughts and experience from more than 25 years consulting across multiple industries I hope others will benefit from lessons I have learned (some of them the hard way), and we can work together on the problems that are keeping us up at night!

 

MC: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

JR: This is an exciting time to be in the industry. We are all fighting to keep up with the pace of change and the new challenges we face with limited budgets. Nobody has all the answers, but we will have more chance of not only adapting, but thriving, working together.

 


Please join me in thanking James Riley for sharing his insights in this interview and bringing a new set of experiences as a Customer Care expert. Now that you know he’s here, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask Thomas questions in the comments sections or just say hi

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

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