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Pepco's Rise from the Ashes and the Impact of Customer Experience

By Justin Rickard

Just last week, I interviewed Donna Mann, process owner of customer experience at Pepco. The stars must have been aligned because I had this interview lined up and then it was announced that Pepco was named most improved in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). Could the timing be any more perfect? As I get ready to write my upcoming report on developing the business case for customer experience, I can’t help but think about Pepco’s tremendous accomplishment.

ASCI ranked Pepco, an East Coast utility serving almost 800,000 customers, as the most improved in customer satisfaction (CSAT). Just a little over a year ago in early 2011, utility customers experienced prolonged outages due to back-to-back snowstorms. These two storms and several prior outages drove the Maryland Public Service Commission to investigate Pepco’s frequent outages, resulting in a not-so-small $1 million fine for Pepco in December 2011.

Ouch!

The key takeaway for utilities is this: Not investing in customer experience cost Pepco at least $1 million. I say “at least” because we don’t know the cost of the countless man-hours spent providing data and information to investigators throughout 2011. This would be an expensive lesson for any business, and it shows that focusing on the customer for the long term might just be the wiser way to go. I hope other utilities are able to learn from Pepco and begin to understand what having a customer experience program (or not having one) can do to their bottom line.

Pepco’s rise from the ashes to most improved in ASCI’s CSAT ranking in less than a year is a magnificent story, one I’ll certainly use in my upcoming report. I also look forward to watching Pepco continue to improve its relationships with customers. One can only imagine how the utility’s new focus on customer experience will affect customer satisfaction. In the meantime, I hope to hear similar stories at our upcoming E Source Utility Customer Experience Conference.

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