EEC Perspectives

Speak Continually, Sometimes Use Words

benjamin-netanyahuI love this photo. You don’t have to have be a student of Middle East politics (although I was) to decode its meaning. Clearly, some person in authority is concerned about a bomb. Even though the bomb graphic looks like it came from the “Rocky & Bullwinkle” TV show, you get the point. Speaking at the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warning the world that Iran was very close to acquiring the ability to make nuclear weapons. Some of Netanyahu’s advisers may have pressed for something more detailed and authentic, but I think this works just fine.

Many utilities struggle with finding the right balance of words and art to communicate with customers. It has become an article of faith in the industry that electricity and natural gas are low-interest topics for consumers — until the lights go out or the bills go up. Our industry’s communications challenges are particularly acute today because federal regulations are forcing utilities to spend tens (if not hundreds) of billions of dollars to clean up or close their aging, coal-fired power plants. Those costs will be recovered in electricity prices. Read more »

How Utilities Earn the Benefit of the Doubt

north-carolinaThe horn sounded and another terrific North Carolina-Duke basketball game was in the books. I’m a Tar Heel fan, so I was happy North Carolina won. The team’s margin of victory came from the free-throw line, where it had 20 more attempts than Duke. Carolina players spent so much time at the free-throw line you would think they called ahead and made reservations.

In many ways, getting a free throw in basketball comes down to getting the benefit of the doubt from the referees. They decide the difference between a charging foul and a blocking foul, whether a shot was blocked legally or illegally and when to call a technical foul on lippy coaches and players.

dukeOn this particular night last month, Duke couldn’t catch a break. It was whistled for a lot of ticky-tacky fouls. North Carolina missed most of its first-half free throws. But eventually the law of averages won out, and the Tar Heels started draining their free throws. Carolina’s eight-point victory was all because the referees gave the Tar Heels the benefit of the doubt so many more times than they gave it to Duke.

How often does your utility get the benefit of the doubt from your stakeholders – customers, regulators, communities, even employees? Have you ever noticed that some utilities foul out while others spend their lives at the proverbial free-throw line, sinking shots and winning games? Which type of utility do you work for? Read more »

Getting Your Utility’s Culture Back on Track

doesyourtalkLast month’s blog post asked whether your utility could be headed for a culture-based disaster. To help you answer that question, we proposed a simple and easy, albeit qualitative, diagnostic tool: is there a gap between what your utility says about customers, and what it does? Most utilities “talk the talk” about customers, stakeholder engagement, transparency, the importance of communications, and so on. But not everyone “walks the talk.”

In this blog, I offer an equally simple and easy, albeit qualitative, suggestion to ward off culture-based problems in your utility: opening all of your internal meetings with a “customer minute,” akin to the “safety minute” that begins so many meetings at so many utilities. Read more »

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