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WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST PROBLEM?

Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
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Bill Meehan's picture
Director, Utility Solutions Esri

William (Bill) Meehan is the Director of Utility Solutions for Esri. He is responsible for business development and marketing Esri’s geospatial technology to global electric and gas utilities.A...

  • Member since 2002
  • 195 items added with 231,076 views
  • Nov 17, 2020
  • 1906 views

When I visit with senior executives from the power industry, I like to ask three questions.

“What’s your biggest problem?”

“What are you doing about it?”

“How do you know that what you are doing is really solving your biggest problems?”

I had a chance to meet with a senior executive from a large power company. I asked her the simple question. “What’s your biggest problem?” She replied without hesitation, “customer satisfaction.” She said that for the last several years their company was ranked lowest in customer satisfaction compared with neighboring utilities. The board was furious and she was told to fix it. I then asked her,” what are you doing about it?” She rattled off a couple of initiatives, like sending the call center employees to sensitivity training, stepping up the smart meter roll out, and increasing tree trimming to improve reliability.

I asked my follow-up question: “How do you know that what you are doing is really solving your customer satisfaction problem? 

She said, “I hope so.”

I hope so? Her job depended on it. She really had no idea whether any of those initiatives would improve the way customers viewed her company. I asked her if she had thought about using her GIS to map the results of customer satisfaction surveys? She said, “no, and why would I?”

I gave her three reasons. First, by mapping the results of customer satisfaction surveys she would find out where people are most unhappy. Second, she could take all kinds of historic data and combine it with customer satisfaction data to gain insight into why customers are unhappy. By the way, this is using the one of GIS’s more powerful tools – spatial analysis. This would show where tree trimming had occurred. It would show areas of high bill complaints. It would show poor reliability. It could even correlate satisfaction with demographic data. And finally, once she knows where and why customers are not satisfied, she could craft a solution that focuses on the areas where people are most unhappy. Simple, elegant, and focused.

GIS is great for modeling utility assets. But it is also about discovery. Discovering something brand new. Gaining new insights about your customers – their likes, dislikes, wants and needs. And where they differ. Using the power of GIS’s spatial analysis, utilities can take a more strategic approach to their business. Then, the next time I ask the senior executive if the solution he or she poses will solve the big problem, the answer will not be, “I hope so.” The answer, based on GIS, will be, “I know so.”

For more information about how GIS can improve utility customer engagement, visit our website.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 17, 2020

GIS is great for modeling utility assets. But it is also about discovery. Discovering something brand new. Gaining new insights about your customers – their likes, dislikes, wants and needs

I loves this-- so often we're focused on how we simply do what we already are doing but cheaper and/or more efficiently-- but this is a good reminder that there are opportunities to do brand new things that aren't already being done

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