October EV Sales

October follows last month’s record performance with another all-time monthly high for EV sales.   The Volt leads the way with yet another all-time sales month (2,961 units).  The Toyota Prius Plug-In continues capturing increased sales (1,889), and the Nissan Leaf sparked its best ever month (1,579).

Total EV sales for 2012 year-to-date are now running 181% ahead of last year at this point.

Smart Customer Contact Strategy Forum – helping utilities build their customer interaction IQ

If you are an executive or senior-level manager responsible for utility customer contact strategy you will want to join J.D. Power and Associates in Texas next month at the DFW Airport Grand Hyatt for the J.D. Power Smart Customer Contact Strategy Forum, an exclusive meeting designed to help attendees learn from several esteemed guest speakers, as well as from one another.

Utilities face the challenge of developing complex multi-channeled customer contact strategies, the need to operate efficiently while meeting the expectations of customers and preparing their front-line employees to answer increasingly technical questions around energy usage and efficiency efforts. This meeting will help utilities think about and consider the changing environment and how they can address it.

Attendees will also hear two excellent non-utility presentations to help them learn how other industries are moving forward:

Creating a customer-oriented organization in the midst of significant change:

  • New and emerging technologies in customer communications and energy delivery are changing the way utilities interact with customers. At the same time, customers measure their utilities not against other utilities but against companies providing products and services in travel, telecommunications, banking and insurance industries, to name a few.
  • Many of these organizations provide world-class customer service at every touch point. How can your utility measure up? What does it take to create and sustain a top-notch customer contact organization in the midst of tremendous change?
  • Tim Handren, the former COO of USAA and a principal in Culture.Service.Growth, a provider of customer contact consulting and services, will share what it takes to deliver world-class customer service. You’ll leave with new ideas to eliminate the self-inflicted barriers, creative ways to connect the call center with all departments, and innovative ideas on leading in a front-line focused culture.

The proactive approach to customer experience:

  • Utilities and airlines have much in common—they are both highly regulated industries, and they deliver quality service that customers expect—utilities provide the electricity necessary for illumination and to power today’s many electronic gadgets; air carriers deliver passengers safely and on time. In those rare times when crises do occur, customers are quick to voice their displeasure.
  • Attendees will hear from Fred Taylor, Senior Manager responsible for Proactive Customer Service at Southwest Airlines, who will share how Southwest proactively reaches out to customers during emergencies and how it uses data analytics to evaluate potential day-to-day service interruptions so it can preemptively keep its customers in the know. This presentation will prompt Forum participants to think about customer experience in a very new way.

Other topics of discussion include Continue reading ›

J. D. Power to host Workshop at 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

As part of J.D. Power and Associates’ Digital Lifestyle Initiative, the company will sponsor a half-day workshop at the 2013 International Consumer Electronic Show dedicated to digital innovation, smart homes, and evolving consumer technologies. J.D. Power will also share key findings from their 2012 Digital Lifestyle Study released in Q4 of 2012.

Bringing together leaders from energy, telecommunications, technology and electric vehicle sectors, sessions will cover emerging trends in home automation, consumer preferences, technology advancements, and how digital home environments, communications and consumer lifestyles are evolving.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Customer engagement strategies
  • Trends in customer facing applications and technologies
  • The smart home
  • Smart appliances
  • The utility-customer relationship
  • Consumer marketing based on J.D. Power research in the area of the digital lifestyle and smart energy

Event details:

Date: January 9, 2013
Time: 1 – 4 pm (Pacific Time)
Location: Las Vegas Convention Center, North Hall N253


For More Information:

Ryan Omilion
J.D. Power and Associates

Communicating the value of energy can be tricky for utilities

Almost every time utilities raise prices, customers get unhappy. Price increases can indeed sink a utility’s customer satisfaction, studies conducted by J.D. Power and Associates have shown.

There are actions, however, that utilities can take to mitigate the hit on customer satisfaction. Data gathered from J.D. Power’s exclusive customer surveys shows those actions include: Continue reading ›

September EV Sales

September was a record month for EV sales with the Volt leading the way with another all-time sales month (2,851 units).  The Volt outsold 60% of all other car and light truck models sold in the U.S. during September.  The Toyota Prius Plug-In also continues its impressive sales pace (1,652).

Total EV sales for 2012 year-to-date are now running 167% ahead of last year at this point.

PS – The Toyota RAV4 EV also sold 61 units in September.

August 2012 EV Sales

Electric vehicle sales this year so far are running 155% ahead of last year.  The Chevy Volt had a record number of sales in August (2,831), and the Toyota Prius Plug-In also is selling well (1,047). 

The fully electric Nissan Leaf seems to have settled in at a sales level of about 500-600 per month.  The new Ford Focus EV is off to a slow start with fewer than 40 units sold each month the past two months.

Customer communications is an integral part of the outage restoration process

Power outages are an unfortunate reality for utilities. Electricity providers in the Southeast and along the Eastern Seaboard deal with hurricanes; it is ice storms for those in the Northeast and Midwest; in the West high winds, fires and the rare earthquake are the biggest worries. And just about every utility is threatened by tornados and severe thunderstorms which are less regional where they strike, as well as the rare blackout due to a glitch in the system.

All of these events have the potential to disrupt tens of thousands or even millions of people’s lives by severely damaging the power grid and taking away what has become a vital necessity in modern living – electricity.

For utilities in the Mid-Atlantic region earlier this month it was a nightmare scenario. With little to no warning, freakish thunderstorms packing hurricane-like, straight-line winds moved across the Appalachians towards the Atlantic knocking power out for millions on some of the hottest days the region has seen in years. It also occurred during the July 4 holiday week, crushing Independence Day celebrations in homes and town squares across the region. The sudden storms caught utilities off guard and left them short-staffed and scrambling to restore power. Some customers were without electricity for more than a week.

J.D. Power and Associates utility studies show extended power outages can hammer utilities’ customer satisfaction. Customers have a tolerance when bad weather strikes, but the longer the power outage continues the shorter people’s patience becomes. What’s worse is when customers are not only left in the dark literally but figuratively. Not knowing what’s happening – whether crews are working on the issue, how long it is projected before power is restored, and why it’s taking so long – can be maddening for customers during extended power outages.

Some of the biggest complaints being hashed out in the press reports during the July 4 outages were just this. Customers couldn’t get information.

The J.D. Power Energy Practice team has dug deep into our research to look at what it is utilities can do to minimize customer dissatisfaction during outages. We found that customers are starving for information and that they really consider the flow of information about restoration efforts an integral part of the process. We also identified through J.D. Power research some of the utilities customers think are some of the better-performing utilities with keeping them informed during outages and profiled four of those companies.

Some of the best practices we found utilities undertaking:

  • Striving to let customers know when their power will be restored, and even giving customers an estimate before utility crews are in the field to assess damage.
  • Developing a process to keep information flow to customers during extended power outages.
  • Letting customers know what caused the outage.
  • Following up with customers after the power is restored to ensure customers’ lights are indeed back on.  

These findings make up a new report, Outage Communications Preferences, the first of a series of new Customer Impact reports to which utilities can subscribe to get deeper information into what they can do to improve their customer experience in both good times and bad. Customer Impact reports will combine J.D. Power’s extensive consumer data with utility case studies and subject matter analysis to help utilities improve their customer experience and customer engagement around operations and smart energy offerings. Utilities and other industry stakeholders are able to subscribe to this new J.D. Power report series.

L. Dennis Smith
+1 (404) 655-3727

Just How Powerful Is Word-Of-Mouth On Behavior Modification?

I just finished reading Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom.  It’s a fascinating look into the ways marketers cleverly influence consumers to engage in their products and services.  The most impressive approaches he discusses, I think, are in the areas of peer pressure and word-of-mouth.

Meet the Morgensons.  The concluding chapter reveals the results of an astounding social experiment Lindstrom conducted to test the persuasive power of word-of-mouth marketing.  He recruited a southern California family – the Morgensons – to talk up pre-selected brands to their friends and neighbors.  Over the course of a four week period the family was secretly videoed and the results of their influence were analyzed: the Morgensons friends bought an average per person of three brands recommended by the Morgensons.

And then Lindstrom took it a step further.  He asked the Morgensons to increase “green” awareness among their circle of friends.  So they began talking about the latest environmentally friendly products they were using and the easy ways they changed to some greener behaviors.  The analysis showed that the number of green activities the Morgenson’s friends engaged in increased 31%!  Further, the effect was long lasting as during the following month these same friends continued to perform at least one green behavior each day.

It seems we are often unknowingly persuaded by a product recommendation when it comes from someone we respect and trust.  How might this apply to smart energy?

J.D. Power’s 2012 Customer Service Champions announced today!

For some companies, good is no longer good enough. These companies have become Champions by going beyond satisfaction and exceeding their customers’ expectations, to not only win market share and maximize financial performance, but also raise the bar for other companies, both within and outside their industry.

The Beyond Satisfaction: J.D. Power 2012 Customer Service Champions special report provides an in-depth, cross-industry analysis of 50 companies identified as J.D. Power and Associates Customer Service Champions that use service excellence to drive business results.

Readers of this report will learn what it takes to satisfy U.S. consumers and gain an understanding of:

  • Best practices utilized by 2012 Customer Service Champions
  • Why service excellence matters to a company’s bottom line
  • How companies can learn from the tactics employed by exceptional customer service providers
  • To learn more about this special report, read the press release


David Steele, Senior Director 



Reporting from San Antonio: The Final Day of Distributech

Today marked the third and final day of Distributech in historic San Antonio. The event provided 14 separate tracks that covered a wide-range of issues, including communications technologies, advanced metering, customer operations, communications technologies, smart grid operation solutions, demand response and energy efficiency. As a result, there was something for almost everyone in our industry.

I had the pleasure of catching a couple of informative presentations this morning on the topic of how to address potential consumer skepticism with regards to smart grid endeavors.

The first presentation was by Paige Layne, Communications Manager at Duke Energy. Layne described her utilities communications strategies to keep their smart meter deployment moving. For Duke Energy’s roll out of meters in Ohio the company identified four distinct primary audiences: affected customers, those who are interested in the technology, the utility industry, and community leaders. For each of these audiences the utility strived to provide them with information that is direct, specific, demonstrative, and focused on the benefits that would be delivered.

Duke Energy leveraged multiple communication channels, both existing and emerging, to reach their target audiences. And for each audience they developed a primary goal and the tactics to communicate that goal.

So far the utility has deployed 500,000, and plans to have the rollout complete in two years. Duke Energy appears to be benefitting from their communications strategy. Of all of the complaints that they have received from the 500,000 affected customers, less than five percent have been related to the smart meters installed.

The other presentation was a joint presentation by Floyd LeBlanc, Vice President of Corporate Communications at CenterPoint Energy, and Christopher Schein, Senior Director of Communications at Oncor Electric Delivery. The two power distribution companies discussed a consumer engagement program for smart meter education that they developed called the Biggest Energy Saver.

The companies wanted to develop vehicles that would create a viable path for consumers to better understand and embrace smart meter technologies, provide a compelling online community to better position smart meters and serve as a continuing resource, demonstrate the consumer benefits attainable by using information from advanced metering, jumpstart the market for products and services that enable consumers to benefit from smart meter technology, and lift utility industry trust.

With these goals in mind they created a three-part campaign. First, they developed a hosted online community dubbed the Biggest Energy Saver Community that engaged customers with features and benefits of using smart meter data, as well as related topics like energy management. They also created both a Facebook page and a Twitter account branded with the Biggest Energy Saver theme.

CenterPoint and Oncor also developed an application developer contest where they challenged entrants to build a web or mobile app to deliver usage data to help consumers manage energy. The distribution companies used five principal criteria to judge the entrants: the average rating of users, the number of consumers that used the app, the accessibility of the app across multiple platforms, the usability of the app to facilitate energy management, and the most innovative. The competition’s best overall winner, Smart Meter 500, received $50,000 in prize money from CenterPoint and Oncor.

The power distribution companies also created a consumer contest that challenged consumers to reduce their energy usage. Consumers were provided with data from smartmetertexas.com and the web and mobile apps previously mentioned. In addition, the first 85 registrants in each company’s market were provided with Tendril in‐home displays to monitor progress.

The companies selected sixteen finalists in each territory that were selected by the greatest percentage decrease in kWh energy use in August and September 2011 compared to those same months for 2010. CenterPoint and Oncor provided an impressive array of prizes, with the grand prize being a 2011 Chevy Volt.

The Biggest Energy Saver contest delivered impressive results. The grand prize winners in both the CenterPoint and Oncor markets were able to reduce their usage by 35%. Additionally, the top 10% saved an average of 26% in 2011 compared to 2010. That’s pretty impressive considering Texas had one of its hottest summers on record in 2011.

In closing, kudos to PennWell for a great event! I’m very much looking forward to Distributech 2013 in San Diego.