CenterPoint at the cutting edge - the all-important difference between CIS and CRM


By Jesse Berst


This next Wednesday, you will see a press release trumpeting the latest cutting-edge project from CenterPoint Energy. The Houston-based utility is one of the world's true smart grid leaders, as we have documented previously in articles and webinars.


So when CenterPoint makes a move, I pay attention... and so should you. This time, they are launching a company-wide platform for customer interaction, one that pulls together all four of its lines of business in all six of its states.


Customer care as the next frontier

I think utilities are desperately far behind in upgrading their relationship with customers. One part of the solution is upgrading utility attitudes. Some people still don't understand that utilities are at risk for disintermediation. And at risk for consumer pushback. And at risk for some very ugly rate hearings. Utilities simply must become more customer-focused.


And one part of the solution is upgrading utility technology - more specifically, taking advantage of analytics to understand customers deeply to personalize every interaction.

Customer benefits too

Meanwhile, customers can expect a better, more personalized experience. For instance, let's say a customer calls in who has a history of high bill complaints. He might be routed immediately to a specialist. Or let's say a customer calls in who has a history of slow payment. The system can flag the customer service representative to suggest a payment program.


Right from the start, customers will have more control over when and how the utility gets in touch. For instance, they will be able to specify how they want to learn about outages -- by phone, by text message, by email, by visiting a portal. Each customer will be notified in the way he/she has asked.


Do you know of other utilities that have a forward-thinking attitude towards the customer relationship? Who are using analytics to improve the customer experience? Use the Comment form below to suggest other utilities to study for bright ideas.


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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.