As Jukka Ruusunen puts it: not many people connect customer centricity to a transmission company. Jukka is the CEO of Fingrid of Finland, a transmission company that not only creates a connection between generation and distribution but also had created a connection between transmission and customer centricity.
Having an entire track dedicated to the Transmission and Distribution operators at a branding conference seemed like the odd one out for many attendees. For the organizers of the conference, it was not by a chance; people working for regulated monopolies are fully aware of the importance of their brand as a strategic asset.
The times are changing, making it more important now than ever for the transmission system operators to become more customer centric. Distributed generation is part of it but also the public who is expecting power companies to become “less arrogant” as Mr. Ruusunen put it – preferring TSO’s to talk about customers rather than loads.
This is people business – not just building transmission lines
Branding is an important tool to use externally but any brand starts at the inside of any organization. At Fingrid, the importance of understanding people is becoming more and more relevant skill and has become one of the requirements for new employees. Instead of building silos with a marketing department full of people skills in one silo and the engineers with technical skills in another silo, Fingrid’s strategy is to have employees that have people with people skills and the technical knowledge of how the system works.
Fingrid was one of the finalists nominated for the CHARGE Energy Branding Awards.
Bits from an interview with Dr. Fridrik Larsen that appeared first in Intelligent Utility. The original article and the full interview can be found here.
What do energy companies/utilities typically do wrong with energy branding?
I like to name and praise those who do a good job but let those who do bad work to be anonymous. In general, they don’t view branding as a strategic philosophy that every aspect of their operation should be based upon, that branding is creating a logo on the letterhead of the bill. Others have the criteria for a great brand but don’t implement it correctly. A brand is defined by consumer perception, not the correct colors or a core-value statement on a website. Most play it safe and don’t try new approaches. There is more innovation and consumer choice in deodorants, with new niche categories popping up every year. We want consumers to have choice in energy, too; it seems strange that there is actually more consumer engagement in armpit aroma than energy.
How do energy branding and customer engagement work together?
Branding guides companies in engagement. To simplify, let’s take a look at the only way possible for customer engagement before social media and smart metering—the dreaded bill and that call to the service center. A great brand would make the bill simple and—in terms that the customer understands—branding involves gaining consumer insights. These two touch points are, by default, a negative experience, but branding can at least make it more tolerable. The possibilities of engagement today are almost endless and energy branding is essential for each engagement to create value for customers.
What advice would you give energy companies, especially electric and gas utilities, about branding? What top three things should they be focused on?
First, the customer isn’t always right. Be customer centric but don’t chase their wishes blindly. Meet their needs today and anticipate their needs tomorrow.
Second, welcome competition. It increases awareness of energy retail. If they offer the lowest price, you have the opportunity to offer the greatest value.
Third, create intangible value for your customers. Know your virtues, be proactive in reaching out, speak to them in a different way and give them any excuse to love your services. It’s easy to beat the lowest price, being loved takes hard work and dedication of years.