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Engagement Hubs Become the Glue to the Customer Experience

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Paul Korzeniowski's picture
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Nowadays, utilities have a large and growing number of channels and systems that provide them with many customers interaction touchpoints. To be effective, these systems have to operate in harmony, a goal that to date has eluded most energy suppliers. Customer Engagement Hubs (CEHs) are emerging as a means to connect the disparate pieces into a cohesive whole.

A CEH is an “architectural framework that ties multiple systems together to optimally engage the customer,” according to Gartner Inc. The goal is to centralize all customer interactions in a single place; synchronize actions across sales, marketing, and other departments; and optimally engage with patrons. The emerging solutions allow for personalized, contextual interactions with contact center agents, bots, or sensors across traditional and new social media channels. Quite a promise.

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Break Down Organizational Silos

The potential benefits are many. The hubs consolidate product information, ordering, and customer preferences as well as communication channels. Utilities break down traditional siloed barriers, so employees gain access to all information about all interactions regardless of whether they are stored in a Customer Data Platform (CDP) or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application.

Customer service should improve. Currently, a gap exists between what customers desire and what companies deliver. Three-quarters of clients expect consistent interactions across departments, yet 54% of respondents say sales, service, and marketing do not seem to share information, according to research conducted by Salesforce. 

With the new capability, utilities have the potential to narrow the divide. They gain the ability to better align their customer service resources, integrate their applications, and provide richer, more effective customer experiences.

Many Hurdles to Clear

However, the hubs also have potential drawbacks. Deploying these solutions represents a major undertaking, and energy companies need to be willing to invest a lot of time and effort in such projects.

They must ensure that expectations are set appropriately at the onset; these tools are part of puzzle but not every piece. Support is needed, and clear communication is required. The organization has to be willing to embrace change. A hub transforms how utilities think about and do business. It involves replacing or retooling outdated applications and business processes.

The implementation can lead to turf battles and other internal conflicts over what systems should do and how they should interact. Deployment requires a continuous feedback loop, so that all processes and teams are in sync. In this case, one of the most challenging aspects is navigating organizational fiefdoms and overcoming political sensitivities to get disparate business units to collaborate in the design, deployment, and evolution of their CEHs.

Finally, the price tag can be high. Expenses include hardware, software, licenses, subscription fees, integration outlays, employee training costs, and operational and maintenance—all of which quickly add up to tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CEHs are an emerging technology, one that promises to help energy companies streamline and improve customer interactions. The potential benefits are great but so are the deployment hurdles. As a result, utilities need to set realistic expectations about what they need to invest in order to position themselves to reap the potential rewards.

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mark wilkinson's picture
mark wilkinson on May 17, 2021

Paul delivers a great summary of the advantages and potential pitfalls related to Customer Engagement Hub.  The promise of integrated customer information, history, and communication channels attracts attention and even investment.  But, knowing that upwards of 70% of big technical projects fail to achieve their objectives can make even experienced CIOs and CTOs wary of such endeavors.  And, success with CEHubs depends on strong awareness of the customer experience across multiple systems and journeys, which is still a new category of operation at many utilities.  We'd always recommend getting some advice and support early in the process of any digital transformation program, but especially with Customer Engagement programs of this scale.  CEHubs required both technical integration expertise and Customer Experience insights not always available from a common team or vendor. The rewards of improved customer engagement and support generally outweigh the risks, but getting the right kind of help with these types of projects gives utilities a better chance for success.  Great post.

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on May 20, 2021

Good points. The 70% failure rate would cause any manager to hesitate investing in a new technology project. Competitive pressure forces companies in other sectors to forge ahead with such projects. My sense is energy provides wade in a bit later in the cycle, so ideally, the major bugs have been identified and remediated at least to a degree. 

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