The AESP National Conference, held each year by the Association of Energy Services Professionals, is a premiere event in our industry. There, you’ll find program managers and policymakers rubbing shoulders with consultants, vendors and just about everybody else in the energy efficiency business.
Last month, I attended AESP for the first time, and it was fantastic. With so many new faces and so much to do, the experience was a little overwhelming, but so much fun. Each point of engagement was beneficial. And it was great to work with clients, talk to them about their challenges and work to identify solutions and needs. It’s interesting to learn, firsthand, where our clients see our industry headed in the future.
I was at the conference this year in part to give a marketing-related presentation on customer journey mapping, alongside representatives from Consumers Energy and Illume Advising.
A customer journey map is a tool used to identify a customer’s entire interaction with a product or service. Creating one involves a great deal of research and provides valuable insight into interactions, touchpoints, and areas that need improvement. There are three keys to incorporating customer journey mapping into utility marketing plans.
1. Get to know your customer
Customer journey maps are incredibly useful for utilities. In this case, electric and natural gas utility Consumers Energy asked a simple question: What is the customer’s journey from initial engagement to full participation in energy efficiency programming?
In order to provide an answer, we set out to identify specific pain points, as well as ways to break down silos. What we wanted to do was to promote a greater sense of collaboration between programs. Ultimately, we found that the entire journey was a bit truncated.
2. Invest pilot money to get it done
Not a lot of utilities are investing in customer journey mapping, but those who are are allocating pilot money to invest in it.
Customer journeys provide important insights into a utility’s core programming. Moreover, if regulatory environments don’t support a journey map’s findings and recommendations, utilities can use pilot dollars to take existing program designs and adjust them based on insights gleaned from mapping. A utility could, for example, validate the efficacy of an idea based on mapping, and then create a white paper based on those findings that it could then take to a commission. The idea is to be less transactional, more relational.
3. Strategic reporting also reduces costs
We learned a lot from a marketing standpoint. There are a lot of really good independent campaigns run by utilities, but they don’t really collaborate, so we’re unable to mine insights from a large data set. With our knowledge and expertise in the specific benchmarks that indicate performance, optimize strategy and maximize financial efficiency, CLEAResult is able to bridge that gap. The more strategic reporting we do, the more we’re able to rein in the cost of program participation. We’re also able to always keep a keen eye on the target: goal attainment and demand generation.
Our presentation at AESP was inspired by the Hollywood classic “The Wizard of Oz.” We used elements from the film allegorically to explain customer journey mapping and our findings. The tornado, for example, which sends Dorothy to Oz at the beginning of the film, was used to represent an incomprehensible “mess” of data. For my part, I already wear many hats at CLEAResult, but I put on three more during the course of the presentation. At various points, I played The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion.
In the movie, each of these characters wants to see the Wizard to get something they’re missing. The Tin Man wants a heart. The Cowardly Lion wants to be courageous. The Scarecrow needs a brain. We used these characters to illustrate our overall point: we have the heart to improve customer satisfaction, the courage to change and the knowledge to put it all together with a customer journey-enabled go-forward plan.