08 Mar [Allconnect Q&A] New ways to connect with customers
By Jon Arnold, ETS16 Community Advocate
With ETS16 just a few weeks out, it’s time to start featuring some of our speakers, especially from companies using technology to help utilities creating stronger customer relationships. One such company is Allconnect, and I just completed this interview with Kim Shumway, EVP of Partner Management and Business Development. If you don’t know Allconnect, this will be a good introduction, along with being a preview of what you’ll be hearing from Kim in Austin.
Allconnect provides a virtual marketplace and one-stop shop approach for the connected home. You do this for many types of services besides energy—what makes this model attractive for utilities?
Our goals are aligned and our model enables utilities to extend their brand in new ways as well as complementing their objectives around value creation for their consumers.
We give their customers the power to compare and choose products and services tailored to their needs, wants and budget—which results in higher customer satisfaction and increases the customer’s perception of their utility or energy company. As a result, they are more loyal and more likely to recommend.
Additionally, although we do the heavy lifting and take on risk, we always share the reward. The utility gets to leverage our platform to scale new ideas quickly—we can be ready for new markets and products in 48 hours. We mine datasets that include demographics, psychographics, life event triggers and buying behavior, engage our UX and design teams to increase customer touchpoints, and our 700 agents can educate and enroll consumers in anything.
The outcome is loyal, happy customers and sustainable financial returns with low effort for utilities.
Briefly, please describe how this works for a consumer looking to get the best deal on energy services and programs and other home services.
Getting the “best deal” is a broad phrase. Our goal is to create value at an individual customer level—we present relevant products and services at moments that matter in a customer’s lifecycle. The model is built on a foundation of choice and consultation that puts control in the consumer’s hands, and our view is an integrated customer where different products and service categories comingle.
In order to create a journey that is relevant for an individual, we have to take a ton of factors into consideration: location, service providers in that area, price, what does the customer value, what are their priorities and where are they in their lifecycle?
To what extent do your customers get value specifically for energy services and programs as opposed to bundles with other services such as telephony, TV and home security?
This is where we are seeing a ton of growth in how we work with our energy partners. As the energy landscape shifts it is very exciting to see the expanded portfolio of products and services. Customers expect choice and control from their energy providers as much as they do from their communications provider. Recently, Allconnect has become the “go-to” solution for our partners as complexity increases. We tend to represent more than 50% of their total annual enrollments.
We create value for our energy partners by enrolling the “right” customers in the “right” services. Prime examples include time-of-use programs, demand response programs, smart thermostats, wind and solar programs, green energy purchases and community initiatives, surge programs, e-bill and auto-pay. I could cite many others, and sometimes we bundle, all based on what’s best for each customer.
Allconnect does more than just help consumers lower their energy costs—how else do you provide value to them?
In a world bombarded with information and technology convergence, we help clear the clutter and reduce the noise. We educate them about how products work together so they can make educated decisions, and with access to over 120 brands, our buying leverage translates to value for our customers.
Ultimately, we are an advocate for the consumer, and are there for them in all the ways they prefer to shop: talk, online marketplaces, email and DM.
This is very much an IoT story—where do you see this opportunity going for energy services and programs, and what obstacles still need to be overcome?
Everything is becoming connected, and everything is a network—even how we communicate. Something like a Nest thermostat can “talk” to your smartphone, your car and the locks on your house. The Internet of Things combined with the Grid of Things will result in amazing products that simplify the consumer’s life.
However, there are still a lot of technical obstacles, such as ubiquitous platforms, secure, large-scale data exchange, agile development and continuous delivery. Plus, you can’t discount human behavior and the speed of change for people—both customers and employees. It is harder now to be everything to everyone. We have to operate under a new business model that brings everything together and connects Point A to Point B for consumers.
Because of these obstacles, utility and energy companies are finding a real need to partner with other companies to fully engage their customers and gain long-lasting loyalty–there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions anymore.
What messages do you want utilities to take away after seeing you speak at ETS16?
We all know there is a lot of fancy language out there—predictive analytics, cloud technology, omni-channel, customer engagement, Millennials, sharing economy, and so forth. But when you really break things down, it’s not that complicated: forecasting, communicating, building a real relationship with all the different types of your customers—and partnering with other experts because you can’t do it all alone anymore.
As such, the key message is that it is smart to use partners to innovate, test ideas and take on some of the risk. Good partners will go beyond the buzzwords to deliver results—and they will also share the things they learn along the way. To support that, our vision is to work with energy companies to help shape the future of customer connections one experience at a time.