Sara Sucks or How to be Captivating

Posted October 9, 2013

“Sara sucks.” This was the primary message during the opening plenary at the Fall AESP conference in Seattle last week.  Okay, it wasn’t the primary message, but as a good natured member of the AESP Board of Directors, I was set up to be an example of the worst customer service representative in history to illustrate the importance of exemplary customer service at every point of engagement between you and your customer.

We have all experienced it, that one person at a company who takes customer service to a new low and in doing so ruins the reputation of the whole company.  This happened to me recently when I called for a cab in Madison.  In the past I had been able to quickly arrange for a pick-up, but this time I was saddled with someone who was clearly disinterested in helping me arrange my transport.  Beyond frustrated, I hung-up (without a pick-up schedule) told the three friends within ranting distance about the experience, and decided that I would never be using that particular cab company again.  So what happened to all my past positive experiences?  They were crushed under the weight of my frustration with one representative.  The cab company lost my business and the business of everyone within earshot of me.


Lets be honest, my reaction to that frustration is tame compared to what could have happened. In today’s world, a dissatisfied customer who takes to social media to share their customer service horror stories broadens the definition of “within earshot” taking it far beyond two or three people in a room and extending it to an entire social network on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, you name it.  As a result, there is no room to “suck” when it comes to customer service.   In fact, the message at AESP was not that you have to “not suck” but that you also have to be “captivating.”  Captivating is not easy, it requires that you not only attract customers but also hold their attention by offering an excellent experience and product.  The utility audience is often captive, but not captivated.  However, as utilities look to offer new products and services, they are going to have to focus on captivating customers through smarter, more engaging customer service.

At Illume we like to think we are captivating.  We view our customers as partners and we know there is no room for providing anything less than a personable engagement, a professional commitment, and an excellent work product. We also know that in order to captivate, we have to know our customer and their audience.

We need to know what moves and inspires you, and we have to speak to your goals and aspirations – as a person, as a customer, as a coconspirator in sustainable energy management.

For many of our clients, the idea of “captivating” customer service is new. We are here to help you by offering perspectives and pathways that will lead to better customer experiences, better programs and a better more resilient energy future.