Are you responsible for building an entirely new customer experience path for your organization? Monica Whiting, Vice President of Customer Experience at TECO energy, shares tactics and plans to help you strategize short-term and long-term goals for CX, regardless of your industry. TECO is a utility company that provides electric and natural gas services in Tampa, Florida, and gas services across the state of Florida.
With a background working in PR & communications, local government, and the non-profit sector, Monica gained plenty of skills and experience that would help her succeed in her current role at TECO. Once Monica began working in the utility space, she found that she was drawn to the purpose of delivering a life-sustaining, economic, core service that we all need in order to power a better quality of life.
Monica shares that she found her purpose doing customer experience work, and after creating a new customer-driven culture in her prior position at JEA (an electric utility company), she was looking forward to leading a CX transition from the ground up.
3-Stage Approach to A New CX Transformation
When Monica first stepped into her role at TECO, she was immediately tasked with helping TECO retire its 30-year legacy and transition into a new customer information and billing system. Monica shares that this system was the core of TECO’s customer services and a project of this magnitude requires about a 12-18 month stabilization period, so she was essentially leading CX for a company that was going to be operating as a new organization.
In order to lead the customer-focused work, Monica explains that within her first 6 months on the job, she set up the initial work to be done in 3 stages. She didn’t want to be seen as the “whack-a-mole” person and needed to be deliberate in her steps about creating a system for problem-solving.
- Be prepared to go live: In January 2017, TECO deployed its first online portal, allowing customers to conduct transactional services. This meant dealing with real-time issues and constantly monitoring technology, ensuring that the process would be stable. Monica shares that while she was in the midst of launching this new technology, she was meeting people within the organization to understand typical customer pain points, data analysis, etc.
- Develop a quick hit strategy: Monica suggests that you find the low-hanging fruit. She shares that during this time, they put together action plans to improve things they already knew were problematic. They also determined what processes and procedures could be streamlined. For example, Monica wanted to reduce the number of times a customer needed to contact TECO in order to complete one simple task.
- Build your long-term strategy: During this time, Monica started planning how TECO needed to define the organization. What does delivering a world-class customer experience look like? What is customer commitment? Monica shares that these were some of the questions they asked themselves. During this time, they also developed organizational principles for how they would interact and communicate with customers.
Don’t Forget to Engage Your Employees
According to Monica, the secret sauce of a successful CX transformation is to have internal engagement. She clarifies that the only way you can truly mobilize is through the hearts and minds of the employees of the organization. Monica shares some of the steps taken to engage their employees:
- Build a customer commitment statement: This statement is rolled out to employees to unite the organization under a shared promise. Every employee is to be trained on the commitment statement and how it’s relevant to their specific job.
- Share messages from leadership: Leadership has recorded video vignettes sharing why the customer focus is so important and what it means. Employees need to understand the importance of their jobs and how that impacts the overall customer experience.
- Form a customer experience council: Monica shares that they organized the CX council by drivers of satisfaction that are important to customers in the utility industry. Align actions against the principles developed. Monica was able to hire a dedicated leader to shepherd the council’s work.
Ensure the Customer Experience Council is Focused
Monica explains that there were different groups within this council to focus on specific areas of work. She outlines some of the building blocks put together so the council leader could move the work forward. According to Monica, one of the drivers of satisfaction in the industry is power quality and reliability. With the understanding of this driving force, it’s up to the council to then act on the following:
- How do the customers rate us in this regard? Look at operational metrics and gap analysis. You need to know how you’re performing.
- How timely are we? If there’s an outage, how quickly are TECO employees responding? How are they communicating with customers?
- Look internally and determine who are the subject matter experts that are required in each specific area in order to get the work done?
- Does your team have the right competencies? You need problem solvers, you’ll want people who are open-minded, and you’ll want people who are comfortable pushing back and challenging you to make things better.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
“Find your passion first. Find your purpose, find your passion and you might stumble upon it, right? I did. But we give so much time and so much energy to our work, that if you’re not doing something that you love, you will be miserable. So that would be the first piece of advice.”
“The second piece is not to lose sight. While we’re all in business, and we have business goals to meet, it’s all about people. And that’s a piece we can’t ever forget. And not just from the customer perspective, but from a leadership perspective. And I’m so grateful for the mentors in my career who grounded me and taught me that.”
“I remember one of the new supervisors, like my first month on the job, after that presentation, she came into my office and she said, ‘That was so good. And that was so impressive. And I don’t know that there are too many people that are motivated by accomplishing customer, or accomplishing company goals as you are.’ She goes, ‘But I’ll tell you, this team that you’ve just taken over, they’re not motivated by company goals. They’re motivated by people, and so you need to figure out how to turn your message around so that they’re motivated to make it happen. Because if you make it about people, they will move mountains for you.’ Really powerful lesson.”
About Monica Whiting
Monica Whiting is vice president of Customer Experience for Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. She is responsible for leading Tampa Electric’s and Peoples Gas’ customer experience strategy and operations for TECO’s more than 1.2 million residential and commercial customers. This includes leadership for the customer experience phone and digital centers, customer billing, payment and collections, account management & economic development, new customer construction project management, customer research, customer strategy and customer solutions.
Whiting joined TECO in January 2017 after spending nearly four years as the chief customer officer for JEA. She has more than two decades of utility experience in customer service, marketing, communications and product development at utilities, including Colorado Springs Utilities and Anaheim Public Utilities.
She has a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations/Journalism from the University of Southern California.