The Customer Change Programme at the Heart of E.ON’s Customer Experience Strategy

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In this interview, the Head of Global Customer Experience at E.ON talks about the customer experience challenges the energy sector faces and the big move they’ve made to ensure that CX is at the heart of the company’s strategy.

oliverOlivier Mourrieras is a leader in transforming and improving customer experience and operations in large multinationals, in B2B and B2C, in both telecoms and energy industries. He heads up Customer Experience for the E.ON Group, where he is responsible for the implementation of the Group wide Customer Experience Strategy globally, over 40000 colleagues, covering 26 million customers.

Before this assignment, Olivier led the E.ON Net Promoter Score (NPS) Centre of Excellence for over 2 years. Prior to joining E.ON, Olivier led customer experience transformation and key customer operations in Europe at Orange Business Services.

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In this interview for CX Network, he talks about the customer experience challenges the energy sector faces and the big move they’ve made to ensure that CX is at the heart of the company’s strategy.

Hi Oliver, as the Head of Global Customer Experience at E.ON what does customer experience excellence mean to you? And how do you drive this excellence through across the organisation?

Customer experience is at the heart of our strategy moving forward. We’re moving from a commodity market (we’re selling gas and electricity in eight countries in Europe, covering 26 million customers) to smarter energy networks and customer solutions which is a significant evolution for us.

Customer experience has to be improved overall so customers trust us more and are ready to buy new services. We are driving this through a CX system we use across the organisation. We have metrics in place and measure touch-points and key interactions of the relationship to steer progressively towards customer journeys.

What customer experience metrics have you found to be especially successful in achieving this?

We are quite a purist organisations as we use NPS, and we use it in two ways. The first one is cascaded within the incentives of all executives and that is a double-blinded benchmark. We use external agencies to collect NPS from customers to compare our competitors and our own performance. It is the gap that is being used, we’re either reducing the gap if we’re behind the best-in-class competitor in our market, or the target is to increase the gap if we are ahead of our competitors.

And the second one is of course touch-point NPS, covering all of our customer interactions.

Before E.ON you worked in the telecoms industry, how do you find CX to be more challenging within the energy sector? And are there any lessons other industries can learn from you?

Coming from telecoms to energy is an interesting move, because telecoms were deregulated before energy companies were so I could take some learnings from what I’d done at Orange into E.ON.

The main difference is that it is harder in the energy industry because of a number of factors. The first – and most important – one is that this is a low engagement industry. We speak with customers, on average, 7 minutes per year once a year and it is usually not for something positive (yet!). You wouldn’t call your energy supplier because you’re delighted, you call because you misunderstand your bill, or you have doubts about your contract, or something has broken down and you want to get some advice. You have very few opportunities to significantly improve the relationship with your customers. That is the first challenge; you need to find ways to engage with the customer and get it absolutely right every time.

The second challenge is that the energy sector has a very low reputation. In the UK you heard about the Big 6, when we had elections it was all over the news all the time; it was used as a key political topic. How do energy companies fight in that environment to improve customer relationships? We can’t deal with marginal gains, we have to make significant investments in customer experience and that is where other industries can learn from energy companies, or commodities, because there is so much that needs to be done that some utilities, and E.ON have been a part of this, are investing significantly in CX and are making very bold moves.

Can you give an example of a bold move E.ON has made in this area?

We have split the company into two. E.ON used to be a generation as well as retail company. We decided at the end of 2014 to split the company into two because it was becoming challenging to develop very advanced strategies in 2 distinct energy worlds and to start moving into energy solutions. The energy world has divided and we want to be leading in adapting to this changing landscape. There is the generation world, which is mostly about security of supply and transition, and then there is the customer world, which is about smarter networks, sustainability, innovative and empowering solutions for our customers. That is the bold move we have made.

Have you already seen significant improvement on the customer engagement and experience on the back of this move?

NPS scores are improving faster than competition across all markets since 2014, though it is not related to this. What is related is that we laid the foundations in our company and worked very hard for several years in improving what matters for our customers with persistence; we’ve now created a CMO organisation which didn’t exist before. There is a new Board member who is the CMO of the group. Marketing, as well as innovation, customer solutions and digital, are now top of the agenda in our group.

The biggest challenge for customer experience leaders across industries is getting that senior management buy-in for CX initiatives and achieving customer-centricity. How are you creating a customer-centric culture at E.ON?

There are a few things. One, is that we are refreshing our behavioural values by having a strong customer centric vision underpinned by customer experience principles that we use day-in and day-out. These principles define how we are interacting with our customers and across the business.

The next point is that we are getting all our executives to meet with customers on a regular basis, very casually, to understand what our customer actually expect and need from us, and the impact we have on their life's. By doing that regularly, we create emotional engagement and momentum across the business.

The final point is incentives. Since 2013 we have NPS ingrained in the bonus of all of our executives across the group.

You’ve already mentioned some elements of the customer change programme at E.ON, you’ve implemented, is there anything else that would be insightful to share with fellow CX leaders?

There is one more thing that is making an impact and that is how we are steering performance within the countries. We used to (and still) have a functional performance steering, we have moved progressively towards process steering with operational excellence and best practices being embedded in business. On top of that we’re moving to customer journey management steering.

We have five core journeys in each of our countries, which are I join, I pay, I move, I renew, and I leave. We have senior executives that are journey owners and they own each of these five journeys. It’s about creating more seamless, relevant and faster journeys and interactions for our customers.

What advice can you give fellow CX leaders for creating a successful customer change programme within their organisation?

First of all you need to find the right sponsor and you need to use your sponsor. Your sponsor is likely a member of the Group Board, because they have to be very influential. There is a chain between you and the group sponsor, which needs to be very active and solid, and properly maintained.

The second thing is that you should not be afraid to start small, but capitalise on small success too and use that success to generate momentum elsewhere.

Finally, loyalty economics are very important. It is not pleasant to do and can be conceived as a big burden. So if you think of having a proper business case and spending time to demonstrate it, then later this will create momentum across the organisation which customers will feel. It is definitely a worthwhile investment to make. Focus on the loyalty economics so leaders paid on P&L (profit and loss) start seeing the success and start shifting their priorities.

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