ESource 2020: A Retrospective
AIQUEOUS was proud to be a sponsor of this year’s E SOURCE Forum, one of the leading conferences on utility demand side management and customer experience. E SOURCE made the decision earlier in the year to make this a virtual event, and given the “Fall Surge” that we are seeing in cases, I applaud their decision and willingness to experiment with this new format. E SOURCE took a gamble to protect our health, and I would say that it paid off.
This year’s agenda was again wide-ranging, presented by leaders, innovators and researchers. E SOURCE moderators worked the session chats to pull out questions and attendees could engage with one another within or outside of sessions. While there is a lot of content to choose from, the following sessions and topics stood out to AIQUEOUS staff:
The panel discussions on equity were eye-opening and critical, diving into detail on what has emerged as a key issue in the United States. Presenters highlighted the disproportionate economic impact that energy utility bills have on lower income and diverse neighborhoods, not only due to its relative amount to total income but also the difficulty in affording energy efficiency options. They also discussed the challenges that diverse and lower income households have in engaging with utilities. In a powerful session, “Low-income customer panel: What we need from our utilities,” E SOURCE presented video interviews of lower income customers highlighting the need for empathy, communication and information in the utility customer experience.
The E SOURCE Forum also provided many opportunities to engage in discussions and reflection on diversity. “Embracing diversity to revive your trade ally network” focused on efforts in Illinois and the Pacific Northwest to engage and employ contractors from lower income and environmental justice communities. “A frank conversation on diversity in utilities and energy” brought diverse utility and industry leaders to discuss the challenges they face and value they bring to our industry. Beyond the industry implications, these sessions energized AIQUEOUS’ efforts to create and nurture diversity within AIQUEOUS. Taking lessons from E SOURCE, this requires us to establish new connections, working with organizations that support diverse candidates get job placement – such as our early relationship with PepUp Tech – and expanding the diversity of companies we work with such as Iris Designs and Sweet Arts NYC.
One of our newest team members, Chelsea Kung, was struck by how many sessions highlighted the need to be customer focused: “my initial thought was that this should be obvious, but I realized that there’s a lot of mistrust and ignorance about utility companies.” Sam Starett appreciated the “Design, optimize and promote your self-service options” session on the number of ways that utilities can improve their portals, chats and even their call center operations. And the closing session, “Creating the perfect experience for your customers: is it possible?,” challenged us all with this possibility: how can you make your customer’s experience with you the best part of their day?
Bringing It All Together
Given our mission to “amplify our utility clients’ positive impacts on their communities,” AIQUEOUS walked away from this Forum thinking about more than just climate change, drought and resilience. When we say “positive impacts” and “communities,” we include equity and the cultures, ethnicities, races and religions that make up our communities today. We are proud to have sponsored the 2020 E SOURCE Forum and look forward to putting lessons learned into practice.