SOURCE: marcus evans

marcus evans

January 19, 2016 14:00 ET

Maintain Utility Customer Loyalty Through Enhanced Communication Processes

Interview With Tanya Hudson, Division Head, Consumer Services, Washington Gas, a WGL Company

MIAMI, FL--(Marketwired - January 19, 2016) - Customers are happiest when they are in control of their energy use and in communication with their utility. However, utilities are struggling to engage with their customers in real time through the customers preferred communication channels. Enabling utilities to interact with their customers through online self services, mobile and social networks is crucial. By empowering customers to interact with their energy providers, utilities can achieve greater program participation, stay ahead of the curve and provide a better customer experience. With the evolution of new technologies, it is crucial for utilities to better understand their customer base to meet expectations in this new environment and deliver enhanced value for customers and utilities.

Tanya, Division Head, Consumer Services at Washington Gas, recently spoke with marcus evans about topics to be discussed at the upcoming Utility Customer Engagement Conference:

What are the benefits to implementing a cross departmental approach to customer experience?

TH: A consistent, cross-functional approach to Washington Gas customer experience is critical as every organization has an influence on the customer. We strive for continuous improvement of the customer experience and have high expectations for this key success factor, one that depends on a unified approach across the company and contributions from every function. As a natural gas utility, safety is a constant presence in our culture. Each organization has safety objectives and every meeting starts with a "safety minute" on the agenda. In a similar way, we are creating a culture that places this same focus on and accountability for customer experience.

How does your company communicate with customers to learn their perceptions and preferences?

TH: We engage our customers in formal and informal ways. For example, we do spot surveys at all customer interaction points to gain real-time feedback on customer experience. These spot surveys immediately follow customer interaction with our call center employees, field personnel, web site and automated voice response system. Washington Gas also conducts special focus groups for specific initiatives so we can factor in customer requirements and preferences. We conducted a focus group, for example, as part of a recent invoice re-design initiative. We also participate in industry-wide surveys, such as an annual J.D. Power natural gas utility customer satisfaction report. The insights gained through these interactions inform a variety of improvements, including the online experience, community engagement, billing practices and call center processes.

Creative Engagement Approaches: Digital, Virtual, In-Person. Do you prefer one over the other? And why?

TH: Our business and the diverse customer base we serve require that we engage our customers effectively across digital, virtual and face-to-face mediums. We serve a growing number of millennials, for instance, who expect a robust online experience in their interaction with Washington Gas. We recently introduced an interactive project map that keeps customers informed about pipeline maintenance, construction and other projects underway in our service territory, allowing them to anticipate potential street closures and to learn about projects they observe in their neighborhood. Given the nature of our business, however, virtual and in-person engagement are just as important. The safety culture we have established extends to customers and communities as we constantly strive to build public awareness for natural gas safety. We do this in many ways, including interaction between our field personnel and customers, participation in a wide range of community forums, advertising and emergency call center support. In a similar way, we use multiple engagement channels to educate our customer base about energy efficiency and the unique benefits of natural gas.

What technology does your group use to overcome resource constraints?

TH: We are currently in the process of deploying a new enterprise resource planning platform that will sharpen visibility and insight into utility operations and help us identify new opportunities to elevate the customer experience. The new SAP platform will help consolidate our view of the customer experience and provide enhanced account management, more self-service options, and improved appointment scheduling. Washington Gas will also gain new operational efficiencies, such as workforce optimization, that translate into greater customer satisfaction.

Join Tanya at the Utility Customer Engagement Conference, February 24-25, 2016 in Miami, FL. View the conference agenda to check out Tanya's case study topic. For more information, please contact Tyler Kelch, Digital Marketing Manager, marcus evans at 312.894.6310 or

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