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10 Books That Ramp Up The Customer-Centric Culture At Your Utility/Organization.

Two issues rise to the top in almost every conversation I have with utility executives

  1. What should we do to understand our customers better, to enable us to serve them securely?
  2. How does question #1 above and all the advancements in technology mean for upgrading the expertise of our employees and how will these impact our business model?

Most other concerns tend to fall into these two buckets (customers and business model). My first response tends to be a suggestion that these organizations change their culture by equipping their employees. Equipping their employees with the tools and knowledge to truly understand the customer. We strongly believe everything else, what technology to buy and business model adjustments, will flow from this. And then I recommend some books for these executives to read themselves. Here are 9 books that can improve the culture and decision-making mental models within your organization.

Understanding human nature and desires: When you truly understand people (your customers) you empathize at a level that allows you to truly meet their needs. ‘Writing Fiction for Dummies’ by Ingermanson and Economy, while not a traditional business book, teaches readers how to be empathetic to characters. And empathy is key to understanding customers deeply. I found the next layer of understanding, communicating with people, in the most unlikely of places by reading ’30 Million Words’ by Dana Suskind, it is a book about building a child’s brain through conversation and listening. The book provides a structure for how we ensure that we listen to customer needs and greatly improve our ability to then communicate with them. 'Tribes' by Seth Godin helps you to start to understand how you engage with the groups that your customers affiliate with outside of the context of their interaction with the utility. This list for understanding customer nature would not be complete without suggesting ‘Nudge’ by Richard Thaler. The Nobel Prize-winning author, through his book, provided some of the thinking that went into utility products like Nest and Opower. 

What is the prevailing context of your customer today? The 24-Hour Customer by Adrian Ott provides a deep dive into how the mobile phone and connected devices are affecting the experiences that most customers now have. Time constraints and attention deficiency are here to stay, understanding that will enable your people to gain valuable insight from the next step.

Mine the Small Data: The behaviors and technologies that will eventually come to dominate customer experiences are already playing out at the fringes. Diving into fringe analysis meant reading ‘Small Data’ by Martin Lindstrom. In a world beset with big data Lindstrom suggests that we can draw great business insights from truly understanding what makes the individual tick. Using examples from his travels across the world, he describes the simple but meticulous work of consumer research that yields the valuable insights.

Ignore ‘needs’, focus on ‘jobs’: Most of the work on centricity suggests you figure out the ‘needs’ of the customer, in Competing Against Luck’ by Clayton Christensen (the father of ‘Disruptive Innovation’) he suggests that you should focus on the ‘Jobs To Be Done’ by the solutions you are proposing to provide to your customers. In researching the jobs you need to get close to your customers. There is no other way. I will share a post on the methodology in a few days.

Understand how to design and test experiments that will unearth your new business models : Sprint by Jake Knapp and Hooked by Nir Eyal are two books that help with understanding how to use all the data you’ve gathered from other books and research to create experiments that test customer desires. While Hooked presents the Trigger-Action-Variable Reward behavioral approach to product design, Sprint teaches you how to solve big problems and design new solutions in 5 days! In Designing Multi-Device Experiences: An Ecosystem Approach to User Experiences across DevicesAuthor Michal Levin suggests a 3Cs framework, one we strongly believe in, to approaching the design of products and experiences that will capture the hearts of customers (even if your product is a commodity like electricity). She suggests that the experiences be Consistent, Continual and Complementary. This is the approach to developing experiences that will delight customers.

As the traditional utility industry sees competition from retail (Nest, Tesla) and tech-first (Google, Amazon) competitors, all trying to win share of customers hearts in the form of time and attention, a customer-centric approach is critical. Remodeling the culture of the utility organization, by equipping employees with knowledge and tools, will be the first step towards maintaining relevance.

What is the second thing I recommend to address the two issues above? That's another blog post, coming soon, but the summary is that 'demographics are dead'...

What books are you reading and steps are you taking to become more customer-centric?

Seyi Fabode's picture

Thank Seyi for the Post!

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