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NYU Student Competition Envisions Future Customer Experience in Utility Sector

Jan. 13, 2014
The Millennial generation expects seamless interactions with a focus on design.

DEFG, a management consulting firm specializing in energy, hosted a competition with a diverse group of students at New York University to develop their own Vision 2020 of the future customer experience in the utility sector from the perspective of the Millennial generation. The project took place in a finance class offered within the Gallatin School, a college within NYU.

Working with the professor, Peter Rajsingh, DEFG crafted a challenge for the NYU students – to become “futurists” and tell a story in the year 2020 centered on future interactions between customers and utilities. Students were divided into small teams that conducted market research and trends analysis, and then to brought the vision to life through a narrative and visual demonstrations of the future. The interactions chosen by the students ranged from new bill pay options, to future energy management and advances in clean technologies, to a new paradigm for low income consumers to earn energy credits.

The four finalist teams presented to senior executive members of the Utility Customer Research Consortium (UCRC) and a winner was selected. The winning team was Team “Future of Energy 2020” of Katarina Addiego, Carter Barnhart, Andrew Wagner-Trugman and Max Waldman.

The winning Vision 2020 centered on a story depicting a young couple with different needs and expectations as they navigated buying a new home that featured a number of new technologies and applications that both managed energy and were environmentally friendly. The utility served as a partner and was pro-active in assisting the young couple with their decision-making, even providing an “energy concierge” to the couple.

“The finalist teams put in a great deal of effort to come up with their concepts,” stated Professor Peter Rajsingh. “Representing their generation—Millennials—it was interesting how all the students rooted visions of the future customer experience in social contexts, thereby humanizing the relationship between customers and utilities. Transparency and social responsibility were key themes that were woven into all the Vision 2020 presentations. The winning team had especially strong visuals and attentiveness to detail and customer concerns, e.g., future costs, aesthetics and functionality.”

Jamie Wimberly, DEFG’s CEO stated, “Young adults expect to be not only engaged with their utilities in the future, but also look to the utility to support a seamless mix of consumer technologies, devices and interactions on the customer’s terms. The student’s Vision 2020 married the major trends in customer service and communications with advancements in energy management and technologies into one seamless experience. The glue of the future customer experience is a focus on design aligned with customer lifestyles. In other words, for the Millennial Generation, the future customer experience represents the digitization of the utility customer experience, and ultimately, a very different relationship between the customer and the utility from today.”

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