Energy Central Power Perspectives: Welcome New Expert Interview Series: Tra Williams, Customer Experience Specialist and New Expert in the Customer Care Community

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Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Sep 20, 2019

Next up in Energy Central’s popular ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series’ comes with a customer focus as I have a chance to catch up with Tra Williams. Tra recently joined the Energy Central community as a guru in all areas of customer experience and he brings that knowledge and experience to Energy Central’s valued network of experts.

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Tra has spent his career in all sorts of industries focusing on how to encourage and motivate action from customers, and his perspective from his varied experiences can shine a light on best practices for those working in customer relations at utilities. His passion for delivering the best experience for customers is something for the rest of us to strive for and makes him an ideal expert in our Customer Care Community. So, keep reading to hear some of his most important lessons learned that you can hopefully adopt in your practice.

Matt Chester: I like to start these interviews simply by thanking you for the initiative to become one of Energy Central’s trusted advisors and for the time and engagement that comes with that role. So that the rest of the Customer Care Community knows the wealth of knowledge you bring to the community, can you start by sharing a bit of your background and how you’ve come to be involved with customer care in the utility sector?

Tra Williams: My career has been largely centered around multi-unit retail operations and franchising. I’ve been fortunate to sit at the helm of multiple international brands and have been consulting full-time since 2013. I shared an article a few months ago that resonated with Energy Central and published it on their hub. 


MC: Within the energy industry, oftentimes decision-makers make the mistake of focusing just on technologies and markets and forget that, at its heart, utilities are a customer-oriented business. Can you discuss ways in which customer care is critical for the utilities and why more focus should be given to it?

TW: Customer care isn’t just critical for providers, it’s an obligation. Families have entrusted their livelihoods to utility providers. It's important for providers to view their relationship with customers as a partnership, not just transactional. Households join your organization for decades sometimes. That deserves recognition.

While technology is a crucial part of relationship advancement, it isn’t the only thing. When services go down, it’s about people working together for the greater good. That’s what makes this nation great and why providers have a unique opportunity to build a much broader relationship beyond the meter box. 

MC: Save for customers who live in deregulated markets, the end users of the product of utilities don’t have much or any choice in who will be their energy provider, and the product they’re buying is essential to daily life for everyone. In light of those factors of the utility industry, what are some of the unique strategies and considerations that those working in the industry must keep in mind when it comes to customer care? 

TW: For decades, most utility providers have had little concern with customer satisfaction or customer loyalty. Utilities were something you just had to have. As a result, customer care and service quality were ignored because service quality would not change the need. And without deregulation, customers are stuck with one provider anyway.  The titanic shakeups in the cable industry and the current solar revolution where I live in Florida have been major wake up calls for utility providers. There’s a debate in the Florida House over investor-owned utilities right now that folks should pay attention to. Provides are not exempt from the obligation to provide great service and customer care. In the end, a free market economy will keep everyone on their best behavior. 


MC: While technological advances are undoubtedly revolutionizing the energy industry—from clean energy to smart grid tech to customers generating electricity of their own—it is also a new frontier from the customer care side of utilities. What new technology already implemented is making the biggest difference?

TW: I’d actually like to see a reduction in technology on the customer service side of the equation. Think about it - when was the last time you called a company and got what you needed via the automated answering service. No, I do not need directions, to hear hours of operations, or to hear the details of my last bill. I can do that from the phone I am calling you from! If I call you it means I need to talk to someone, plain and simple. I realize that companies, even outside the energy industry, all this think they are saving money by using an automated system, but what they're really doing is wasting the one thing I hate to waste the most - my time. I recently canceled a credit card that I had used for over a decade because, despite my status and long-standing history with the company, I was forced to navigate a 10-minute automated system in order to connect with a real person while hearing details that had nothing to do with why I called. 

MC: You’re a new member of Energy Central as well as a new expert. What brought you to Energy Central and motivated you to get involved, and how do you find value in this community? What value to do you hope to impart to other users of the platform?

TW: I am not an energy expert, but I am a customer experience and loyalty expert. I hope to shape the mentality of future service efforts. Don’t ignore customer experience because your product is a requirement for modern-day life. Treat your customers' experience like it is the most important thing for that exact reason - it is a requirement for modern-day life. Your customers didn’t choose you; you chose them. Show them why and treat them as the most important part of your business - because they are.


MC: Is there anything else you’d like the community to know?

TW: I have upcoming contributions to the community that outline why no service, product, or industry can negate customer experience and how to differentiate yourself in your segment. It is the foundation of an upcoming speaking tour that will be launched in 2020. I hope that everyone enjoys it and finds immense value in it. 


Thanks again to Tra for his commitment to being a Customer Care Expert for Energy Central. If you find yourself needing insights or perspective about how your organization can best approach customer service challenges, Tra is ready and able to assist. And if you see him posting or commenting around the community, be sure to welcome him and ask questions so you can learn even more! Energy Central’s core value comes from our network of experts and professionals across all facets of the utility industry, so be sure to leverage that for yourself!


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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