Different types of customers want and need diverse things from AEP. As we learn more about our residential customers, we are also working with our commercial and industrial customers to serve their needs. These customers need efficient energy management strategies that can be integrated into facilities nationwide. AEP is dedicated to providing a level of service that exceeds customer expectations and we are constantly thinking of new ways to meet their needs.
Market competition forces companies to be quick and agile. If we are not, the price is high. If we are not providing excellent service, our customers will leave us, which is costly. Enhancing the customer experience requires us to have people and processes in place to retain and grow our customer base.
Understanding customers’ needs can lead to new business opportunities. AEP’s new OnSite Partners, a subsidiary of AEP Energy, was conceived by talking to our customers. We learned that large commercial and industrial customers wanted customized energy solutions that are more reliable, localized and environmentally sustainable.
OnSite Partners was created with that in mind – to provide solutions based on market knowledge, technology innovations and deal structuring. This could include distributed solar, wind, combined heat and power, energy storage, energy efficiency, peaking generation and other forms of cost-reducing energy technologies.
Often, customers don’t think of the traditional regulated power company as being nimble because of long lead times needed for big, new projects. AEP is turning to its employees to find solutions, even when that means reconfiguring products and services to help large customers connect to the grid more quickly. This is especially important to oil and gas customers, who need large amounts of electricity in remote locations.
For example, AEP’s transmission team continues to use skid-mounted substations that tap into existing transmission lines near the business sites, providing a reliable, interim solution until the grid is expanded. This allows us to serve a large customer within a few months, compared with the average of 18 months to build a new station. This employee-developed solution is a competitive advantage for AEP and allows us to be more responsive to customers.
Skid Mounted Stations
- Flexible, modular design speeds up construction.
- Quick installation.
- Wide range of voltage capabilities (4kV to 34.5 kV) meets varying customer needs.
- Speeds AEP customer service as well as AEP revenue stream.
- Environmentally friendly option for initial load (versus diesel generators).
Station in a Box
Another example of solutions-oriented customer care is the Station in a Box (SIB), a joint effort between AEP’s Transmission Engineering and Supply Chain organizations to support new and fast-tracked emerging load opportunities. The SIB approach is effective when long lead-time material and equipment are on a project’s critical path schedule. Materials are purchased in advance and packaged in a portable storage container that can be delivered at the station site for construction. This approach offers flexibility and can be used system-wide. In addition, engineering is greatly simplified and expedited and station construction can be accelerated by several months.
Communicating with Customers
Proactive communication with customers allows them to make more informed decisions about their energy use and run successful businesses. AEP’s National Accounts and Economic & Business Development teams work together to help companies expand, relocate, efficiently manage their energy use and troubleshoot. Our National Accounts team has been recognized for four consecutive years by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) for outstanding customer service to these large customers.
What makes this award unique is that customers do the voting. Votes were cast by EEI National Key Accounts customers, representing a wide variety of industries, including national brands such as Costco, HealthSouth, Marriott Hotels, Staples, TJX Companies, and Walmart. Our customers are the backbone of our business, so recognition from them is the highest compliment.
In addition, AEP’s Key Accounts and Economic & Business Development teams are collaborating with the EEI, the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund to develop a set of “buyer’s principles” where large customers that want renewable energy and need their energy company to help them achieve their goal, work together to develop a solution. This effort to better serve current and prospective customers is part of our strategy to attract and retain businesses to our service territory.
Residential Customer Efforts