I created this envizualization (large scale visual notes) From a talk by Elia Lata of Zappos at the E Source Utility Customer Experience 2012 Conference in Las Vegas. For a larger size version, click here..
When you think of utility companies, you probably don’t think of nimble, customer focused organizations. Utilities tend to be fairly large, and focused more on keeping the electricity (or gas, or water, etc) flowing then getting into the mind of their customers and providing a great experience. They also tend to be unchallenged in the market place, without competitors. But utility customer expectations are set by all kinds of companies, from FedEx to Zappos, who have to stand out in competitive markets, and thus work to create ever improving customer experiences. So that is creating pressure on utilities to consider customer experience more seriously.
As far as the bottom line goes, utilities need to impress regulatory boards and local governments as well in order to get approval of rate changes and to get other activities approved. And customer attitudes can make a big impression on regulators for good or for ill.
Improved focus on customers also can yield bigger profits—for example if a utility makes it easy to pay a bill via the web or mobile device, they are going to lower their costs. Payment by mail or phone is expensive and time consuming.
So hearing from a customer experience leader like Zappos was eye opening. Customers are rarely going to get as excited about something they take for granted—like electricity, as they would be about anticipating a fabulous pair of shoes from Zappos, but Utilities realize that thinking beyond the electricity meter to the actual customer makes a great deal of sense.
The photo above is from the E Source Utility Customer Experience Conference, which I just had the pleasure of joining in Las Vegas. E Source’s mission is “To advance the efficient and environmentally sound use and provision of energy.”
My friends know that I love the rush of public speaking—It’s even better when I can combine it with my visual summaries. So I was delighted that E Source asked me to give a talk synthesizing the ideas bouncing around the conference. I love creating visual notes all the more when I get to use them as a backdrop for a presentation.
At the conference, representatives of major utilities (mostly electricical, but a few other utilities participated as well) shared insights, successes, and challenges related to focusing on the utility customer experience. Utilities are in an interesting position where they are often operate without direct competitors. But they still have plenty of motivation to focus on the user experience it turns out. Since every household and organization in North America needs to interact with utilities, an improvement in their customer experience has a broad impact.
It was heartening to see the participants in the conference think about the big-picture reasons to value customer experience, as well as to explore case studies of how industries within and outside the utility industry are improving their customer experience.
(Our friendly Zappos tour guide and Customer Experience Magician, Rocco)
From outside the utility industry we heard from FedEx, Sprint, and Zappos. We even got a tour of Zappos, which maintains its office conveniently around the corner from our conference venue. The tour drove home the message the culture is bedrock of customer experience—Zappos is famed for both its creative and supportive culture and its focus on delivering a “Wow” customer experience.
I was wowed by the conference that E Source put together, they clearly care about the experience of their customer, and it showed.
On May 4, 2012, folks from CatapultPGH coworking community and nearby organizations came together for our first monthly Shown-n-Tell event. We heard about the new Pittsburgh Tool Lending Library, the history and current activities of the Sprout Fund, the multiple services provided by the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, the new neighborhood centric app, Scenable, and the gluten detection kit distributor, Glutentox. Thanks for coming out, and stay tuned for the next Show-n-Tell Friday, noon, June 1, 2012!
The blocks between Children’s Hospital and Negley on Penn Avenue are crackling with character, invention, and reinvention. Every month I see formerly empty storefronts buzzing with new ventures. This is overlaid with businesses and institutions that have been around for decades. One of the newer entries on Penn Avenue is the Co-working Space, catapultPGH. CatapultPGH is a membership organization that provides shared office space, facilities, and most importantly a sense of community for independent workers. At catapultPGH, we want to foster connectivity not only among ourselves, but also between the people behind the businesses and organizations that make this stretch of Penn Avenue home.
When: Friday, May 4, Noon-1PM
Where: Catapult PGH, 5139 Penn Ave (Just down the block
from People’s Restaurant).
What: People from the Penn Avenue Arts District show ‘n’
tell their awesome projects and obsessions. Jonny Goldstein will visually capture the conversation on a whiteboard.
I am really excited about the current energy around innovation in general and startups in particular. For me, one of the best ways to learn something is to attempt to distill it into a visual summary. I hope this will be useful for you too. One of the powerful things about creating a visual version of an idea is that it gives something tangible to discuss—“No that should connect to that,” “The sequence of that process is out of order,” “You’re missing X,” etc. So consider this a starting point, and feel free to chip in your ideas about how to best express whatever idea I am trying to distill.
This visual summary is based on my interpretation of the “Build, Measure, Learn” concept as expressed by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup. He defines a startup as a venture which is creating a product or service in an environment of extreme uncertainty. To maximize chances of success in such an environment, the lean startup needs to create learning process where it can learn what works and what does not as rapidly as possible, engaging in a “Build, Measure, Learn” cycle. To go deeper, check out Eric’s book The Lean Startup here. Stay tuned for more Innovation Illustrated installments based on books and concepts gleaned from a variety of innovation thinkers.
Love to hear feedback or thoughts on this or other installments of Innovation Illustrated.