From Scott Carlberg

Balance. It is essential for consumers to feel satisfied, have a sense of equilibrium, or believe that all is right with that part of the world they can manage. It is with that idea that we  introduce our Energy Consumers of the Carolinas (ECC) customer family, seeking stability as it explores its energy future. Our energy family will be a tool that helps us communicate with our ECC online reading family. This blog is a deeper dive into an issue, which you will see that we do periodically. Something to be a catalyst to deeper thought. We know that ECC has a variety of readers with differing energy interests, and we want to serve them well. We’ll all explore energy issues together. Here goes…

There is comfort in reliable electric service like we enjoy. Yet, though we are surrounded by energy security, our families, all electric customers, will increasingly walk a tightrope of energy choices.

Image: Alec Webb Art (C 2018) @AlecWebb_

Energy consumers’ equilibrium has been rocked over the past decades. From a petroleum standpoint, the highs and lows of retail gasoline, even its availability, have been annoying. From an electricity standpoint, even with power available almost 100% of the time – a phenomenal testament of service – headlines about incomplete nuclear power plants and uncertain future energy costs make the electric energy world seem out of the control of average consumers.

Industry changes meet the consumer in time, though. Here’s a simple example of change. A neighbor of mine was approached by a solar salesman who wanted to sell a set of panels for the roof of the house. When have electric consumers had to consider door-to-door energy decisions?

Customers’ interface with their electric service will change. When consumers do not know what is possible, or expected, frustration results. Check this quote from the World Economic Forum: “At present, most of us don’t know how or where energy is produced, nor do we know when it’s best to consume it.” The report says that most residential consumers may not even know what goes into the cost of power, or how the cost of electricity in some states (not Carolinas) is allowed to change according to peak demand and other factors. Consumers may be in a knowledge hole as more change looms.

The grid is a victim of its own success. Customers have not had to think about the how the electric grid works. It is there when needed. If consumers don’t understand a system that’s been in place, just put on a seat belt for what is ahead. Change will demand more of consumers. Again, from the World Economic Forum: The electric industry is on a “…life-changing, fast-paced trajectory. As in many of these transformed areas, consumers stand at the center of a disruptive convergence of digital technology advancements; consumer engagement; on-demand, tailored consumption; and a decentralized infrastructure.”

Could that trajectory throw consumers off balance? Certainly. So what do consumers need to keep their balance. A surprisingly common answer. There is a universal list of customer wants no matter the industry: Value, service, promises kept, quality, and ease of doing business. (Source: Customer Experience Consultancy).

Add control, too. “Desire for control is the innate motive or need to personally exert control over one’s surrounding environment,” says a Harvard Business Review’s “When New Products Should Make Customers Feel in Control.” HBR calls control a “fundamental human need.”

Control, in the energy case, is not just about how warm or cool to keep the house. It is likely to be much more in the future … billing, configuration of costs, using an energy management program, making your own electricity to use or sell it back, having input on renewable energy … more than a few choices when all the technology and regulations manage to work together.

Yet a consumer’s world is already complex enough. Consumers don’t want to have to worry about the very thing that keeps their world turning – electricity. The choices are coming, however. Having enough knowledge to make smart energy choices is a consumer obligation to manage an energy footprint.

Consumers (families), companies and regulators need a strong and pragmatic partnership. As the technical options for energy decisions increase, regulations are debated, and the relationship between power makers, deliverers and users change, energy consumers want to do, not be done to.

The need for balance is a need for:

  • Companies and utilities expert across the electric industry, making processes and services easy, fair and available
  • Legislators and regulators communicating clearly, often, non-politically, in the sunlight, and who stick to their knitting of governing
  • Consumers who actively learn, listen, and take actions that support a smart energy future

Consumers want balance. Our new ECC energy family you have met will look at various kinds of balance in the future. (Remember that you are part of our extended family.)

The future is bright for the electricity sector. Here’s why. World Economic Forum

When New Products Should Make Customers Feel in Control. Harvard Business Review

What really makes customers happy? Consumer Experience Consultancy

Gladly’s 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey