An update from CSBA’s 2022 CX Forum: Energy


Research has shown high customer vulnerability in the UK, in a climate of rising energy prices and the impact of the pandemic, said Northern Gas Networks (NGN) CX director Eileen Brown, in her keynote presentation at the 2022 CSBA Energy Forum yesterday.

Sharing her expertise virtually from the UK, Brown said people were far more conscious of their own safety at this time, wanting more reassurance from large organisations such as energy networks.

“They want patience and understanding – they just want life to be easier. People feel that they’ve had little control of their lives for two years. They want to feel like they can influence what happens to them rather than have things ‘done to them,’” she said, explaining why it was critical for NGN to strengthen its culture in these areas.

Central to the relaunch of NGN’s customer strategy was the ‘internal customer service’ focus – the need to help all staff understand their role in putting the customer front and centre of everything.

Its internal colleague survey found a gap in consistent training – to fully equip our colleagues with adequate and tailored customer service training and skills – and the need to measure internal customer service alongside external customer service.

“Customer service is a profession! It is important for internal culture to now focus on basic customer training to all colleagues, role-specific specialist training, and provide opportunities for staff to attain professional qualifications,” said Brown.

Speaking with passion about leading an organisation that was confident “we have done absolutely everything we can for our customers,” she gave the example of onsite engineers trained to initiate sensitive conversations with customers and asking for permission to refer them to essential support services.

“We even follow up with telephone calls to check if they received the support. We’re not required to do it, but it’s the right thing to do.”

“We are a customer service organisation. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our customers – we have one chance to get this right,” said Brown.

Other speakers at the forum included:

Dr Dennis Van Puyvelde, Head of Renewable Gas at Energy Networks Australia, shared ENA’s pathway to net zero in line with Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change, with a 26-28 per cent target for 2030.

Explaining that while biomethane from organic waste and synthetic renewable methane from green hydrogen are options that gas networks are already working on, there is a high level of uncertainty in resource availability.

Biomethane Vs Hydrogen: what’s best for customers?

It depends on cost competitiveness, demand, and resource availability. And right now, there is no market for renewable gas.

Central to customer service is the need for focused policies to minimise customer disruption to decarbonise gas.

Brendon Hampton, Head of Network Strategy at SA Power Networks, who spoke on ‘Empowering the energy transition’, showed how advanced South Australia was in the renewable space.

What’s the relevance of CX?

It’s about fewer complaints and improved customer outcomes. Understanding what customers want, how customers make decisions, and why. Then educating them and giving them options.

Using solar PV as an example, Hampton said that while there was untapped potential in underutilised network capacity, customers did not know they could take up flexible exports.

The critical CX piece was the new processes and capabilities that facilitated the move from buying from one supplier to thousands of suppliers, and new communication that let people know they had something they could sell.

“Ask yourself. If they had a choice, would they pick you? CX is so much more than the interaction. It is about them trusting us to do the right thing by them.”

Jenny Gannon and Terese Milford from Energy Queensland spoke about the importance of ‘Building a Culture of Action’ that enabled dynamic customer connections.

They shared the pathway of transitioning historical Fixed PV connections that assume worst-case scenarios to Dynamic customer connections using real-time monitoring, assessment, and communication.

Central to CX is the use of innovation, collaboration, and trials, to improve standards and systems, aligned to the commitment to good network visibility. Similar to SA Power Networks, its success required a clear set of standards to elevate participation.

“Success relies on customers and industry willing to engage with networks to achieve a least-cost outcome.”

Professor Don O’Sullivan, Professor of Marketing from Melbourne Business School shared his knowledge on 21st Century CX.

Explaining why process alone won’t yield customer-centricity, O’Sullivan said firstly, there is a cost to getting to know your customer. Know your customers’ ‘Jobs to be done’. He quotes Clayton Christensen: “When we buy a product, we essentially ‘hire’ it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, the next time we’re confronted with the same job, we tend to hire that product again. And it does a crummy job, we ‘fire’ it and look for an alternative.”

Secondly, get empathy. Make emotional connections by reducing customer effort, because customers leave when you make it too hard for them to stay. Address your hygienes (must-haves) first before your motivators (nice-to-haves).

Thirdly, take initiative. Be customer-obsessed. Think about each stage of the product lifecycle.

“The challenge is to position Customer Experience as an asset to articulate value to senior executives. Use their language to align CX with hard assets,” said O’Sullivan.

CSBA account director for utilities, Sudipta Dutt, discussed the results of the 2021 CSBA CX benchmarking program which involved more than 13,500 surveys.

Our research showed that both gas and electricity CSAT scores stayed stable, although when compared to other sectors, the energy sector saw an improvement. However, Australia trails the UK market which has high customer satisfaction scores of 9 in both electricity and gas.

“The energy sector is slowly moving from being process-focused to customer-focused, with customer satisfaction expanding out of the CX team. That’s a positive shift towards the sector becoming more customer-centric,” said Dutt.

However, at the same time, consumers’ expectations have increased, since the onset of the pandemic, making it critical for organisations to improve and tighten service levels to keep up with expectations. Additionally, new vulnerable segments have emerged due to the current climate.

“So, what now? Take action. Improve the understanding of your customer – ask the questions that matter. Listen to more of your customers – the more responses, the better. Act fast, in real-time. And make customer satisfaction improvements part of your day-to-day Business as Usual practice,” she said.


For more information or to request a copy of the speaker presentations, contact:

Sudipta Dutt
Account Director, Utilities

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