Customer Service
Cybersecurity and Physical Security
Grid Modernization

Is your utility dialed Into the electronic companion?

Do you remember life before your smartphone? Now, can you imagine life without it?

How did you check the weather this morning? The time? The news? Where you have to be and when? Your phone has become your electronic companion!

Your electronic companion connects not only to your bank account, wallet, email and cloud files, but also to your fitness tracking device, thermostat, washing machine and water bottle. Some of you might not quite be there yet, but many of your customers are, or soon will be. Can they connect with you through their electronic companions?

Many public power communities have already done grid modernization projects. While these projects help in meeting your No. 1 goal — keeping the lights on — they also open new channels that allow you to interact with and engage your customers where they are. True, you still have customers that want to walk into your offices to pay their bills or address their issues, and you likely will for some time. But younger customers may not even want to call you. They likely prefer an online chat feature or text alerts.

Retail electric customers on average think about their electric utility just nine minutes a year (and that's likely to be when they pay a bill or have a problem). Neel Gulhar from OPower shared this troubling statistic at APPA's Public Power Forward Summit in November 2015. But the good news is we can improve on this statistic if we want to. Think about how many minutes customers spend staring at their electronic companions!

Utilities throughout the industry are making great strides with customer engagement, providing them with useful data they can control, and with services they find helpful every day.

That leads us to a pretty big question — Is this safe? Unprecedented access to data has us all wondering just who's looking at it. But attitudes toward privacy are changing, too. We as users are evolving along with the grid, but one thing remains the same: communicating with your customers is key. Define your privacy protocols clearly and let your customers set their privacy preferences.

At APPA, we are working to help prepare you for the future — or the now — by tailoring our core services through the strategic plan we launched in 2015. Through Public Power Forward, our future-focused initiative under the strategic plan, we will advocate to ensure that changes impacting the industry allow our members to adapt to evolving customer expectations. We will work to allow you and your communities to make these decisions, rather than have federal policymakers dictate customer choices and services."