Hira Wajahat – August 31, 2017

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #7 states that by 2030, there should be universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services. For families who survive on incomes of $2 to $10 per day (almost 56% of global population) each purchase is considered carefully. For customers to switch to clean energy products and continue using them – instead of reverting to kerosene lamps or candles – businesses must focus not only on the physical products but also on providing an exceptional customer experience. In essence, energy services are a combination of technology & customer service. While companies bringing solar to emerging economies seek disruptive deployment, they need to create an experience for their customer that hooks the customers on to their product offering. This means providing the most seamless service experience to the most price sensitive & difficult to reach customers on earth.

This customer experience includes several key components:

High-Quality Products: In order to meet customers’ evolving requirements it is critical to listen to customer feedback and implement their requests in future product iterations. Durability of off-grid energy products is also paramount.

Financial Inclusion: Vast majority of off-grid customers cannot afford the cash price of SHS hence, consumer financing is essential to reach these households.

Last-Mile Sales and Distribution: Customers may be skeptical of solar due to market spoilage or concerns about new technology, however appropriate partnerships give SHS products visibility, increase loyalty and improve their reputation. Reaching last mile customers who may not be able to afford travel through sales teams (who travel long distances by motorbike, bull carts, tractors & even camels) to demonstrate kits, answer questions, and help customers choose the most appropriate kit for their needs is essential.

After-Sales Customer Experience: Being able to reach customers across a wide geography is not enough, the key is building lasting relationships with customers. Satisfied customers are better paying customers and also refer more customers, leading to increased adoption of energy products.

Looking Forward

Long-term success for the energy industry depends on creating a positive experience for off-grid customers who deserve high-quality, long-lasting energy products coupled with an incredible customer service experience. The challenge is to accept and understand that this change is much bigger than just innovating business models and new organization design. It’s a change of mindset and way of working. Customer focus cannot be something organizations ‘do’, rather it should reflect who/what an organization ‘is’ and drive everything a company does as a starting point. Responding to changing customer demands requires flexibility and agile delivery teams in order to embed a ‘customer first’ mindset in the organization.