We caught up with Juliet on her way to the Grammys where she was on a mission to marry the future of music and energy.
You are doing some pretty bold things for utilities that are turning heads. Is that a good thing in the utilities industry?
I would say that having 20 years of industry experience under my belt, rolling out some of the toughest programs for customers and engaging with stakeholders and policymakers, the most important lesson I have learned is to be honest, transparent and believe in what you are saying. I am more passionate about the customer experience and more aware of it than I have ever been—as a mother of teenagers and future consumers. They have opened my eyes to what the future looks like.
That said, it is hard for industries to evolve and change. Whether that is the energy industry, the telecom industry, the retail industry or the music industry. But, 2020 really is a new era where the digital experience is more important than ever before. In 10 years time it may actually be the most important experience of all. I don’t think anyone has been ready to fully accept that yet, and I think this is the decade of true transformation.
I have been an active part in the digital transformation of the communications industry. Today’s utilities and energy companies now have the tools—thanks to AMI—to engage with customers on unprecedented levels. That is not only sending a text alert about when your bill is due. That is about defining their role in smart cities and accepting a leadership position in the process. They are finding ways to manage costs of technology evolution by seeking out new business models with the customers’ interests at heart.
How does this align with the regulatory process?
Regulators and stakeholders are the most vocal about putting the customers’ needs first. Today’s energy companies put their customer benefits now at the top of their technology business cases.
SmartMark Communications is defining the new decade for utility transformation and having fun doing it
My feeling is that utilities need to do a better job of building their customer business case and offer policymakers options for funding long term technology investments. Asking for approval for a rate case every time you need to upgrade a widget does not make sense. Having a long-term collaborative strategy on investment that is built by utilities, stakeholders and policymakers can be a game changer. And if we talk about Utilities of Future, we are talking about smart, agile and flexible companies that can meet real time needs of the communities they serve.
And, of course, customer buy in. Imagine getting customer buy in and support BEFORE you bring a business case to regulators. It’s almost unheard of. But that is what we are focused on at SmartMark.
And how does this tie to music?
Laugh. Well, music is symbolic in this case. Music is a universal language that is hard to argue with. Everyone loves music. Customers know what music is and where it comes from. It is also a new service into the home. The way I think about music and energy is about making energy use interesting again. Why should our next generation reduce load during peak hours? What is in it for them? While the environmental message is strong, data has proven it is not enough. People want incentives for reducing. Not everyone will reduce energy use for a few dollars off their bill, but they might for the new Beyoncé song.
Music is a symbol of creativity and fun. It is what engagement needs to be based on. Marketers have known this for years. Apple proved to us that devices sell when they are pink and play your favorite songs and are promoted by your favorite artists. Amazon has only added to that way of thinking and advertising.
Music companies, like their service provider brothers in telecom and other industries, must evaluate how they message to consumers and what motivates behavior change. I have three teenagers and can promise you these incentives are not the same as they were 10 years ago. 2020 is a brave new world.
So, what is SmartMark Doing in 2020 to help utilities transform and redefine the customer experience?
We are very focused on data collection to help build business cases for innovation and technology adoption.
We are very excited to be working in the smart city and smart home space where our unique background in communications and digital transformation come into play. We really excel at helping build roadmaps for utilities and communities that want to transform. We understand the ecosystems and the technology. Not too many companies understand the impact of 5G and still know how to speak with customers one on one about what keeps them up at night.
"...2020 really is a new era where the digital experience is more important than ever before. In 10 years time it may actually be the most important experience of all"
That’s where our own blend of technology and industry experience, coupled with our creativity and strategy set us apart. You add to that the fact that we can actually build the web tools and applications we need to help utilities transform and you will understand why we are at the top of our game and how we truly set ourselves apart in the industry.
So, when should a utility approach SmartMark?
Our expertise is articulating the benefits of advanced and innovative technology to consumers, stakeholders and policymakers. So, when companies are thinking about innovative technology pilots and how to gain customer support and adoption, that is when we can really be helpful. We understand how to build a utility business case, we understand the importance of data to back up an argument, and we understand how to best roll out that program, both in a pilot environment and on a greater scale.
We do everything under one roof—the strategy, the plan development, the design and creative, the applications development and the program management. That is how our company has evolved and readied itself for 2020 and beyond.
"Imagine getting customer buy in and support BEFORE you bring a business case to regulators"
Any last words?
Smart doesn’t have to be about technology. Smart is making good decisions to meet your challenges. It’s the best way to your destination. Sometimes walking is a smarter choice than getting in an autonomous vehicle or using your smartphone to call an Uber.
That’s how I feel about SmartMark. We understand the innovation, technology and people. Sometimes just asking people what they want is the safest and most practical path forward.