Improving the Energy Industry Experience, With Damian Cotchett – CB67

Episode Overview

Damian and I discuss how he is leading the transition, in partnership with his CEO, to make AGL Energy of Australia a service business that happens to supply energy. In our conversation, Damian walks us through his six dimensions of the transformation, and many not-to-be-missed tactics that he has used to make progress.

About Damian

Dr. Damian Cotchett is a consumer psychologist. His expertise is in customer experience management, business transformation and cultural change programs. He has worked extensively with organisations in both the private and public sector to deliver successful business performance results using a range of customer experience approaches and methodologies including customer impact assessments, design thinking, and metrics-driven customer solutions.

Damian has always worked in applied settings. After he completed his Masters of Applied Psychology Damian worked at the ANZ Bank where he developed and implemented ANZ’s Global Talent Program. Following this he took on a range of Global senior HR roles focusing on working with businesses experiencing significant growth and transformation. Damian then decided to move from organisational psychology and focus his attention on consumer psychology and in particular customer experience, behavioural economics and customer-centric cultures.

Over the last 15 years Damian has worked in management consultancy and large corporates in the areas of financial services, utilities, higher education and human services. He is currently Head of Customer Experience at AGL Energy where they are transforming the way they to become more customer- centric.

He entered a newly-created role…

… as the result of a restructure, which can be a challenge. The job description was about 1 page and the general ideas pretty simple: “improve the customer experience.” They weren’t sure exactly how to get there, but they wanted to:

  • Build capabilities they needed
  • Bring about touchpoints meaningfully

He is essentially the improvement arm of the customer experience area at his company, with a focus on the development of skills and capabilities. Think of it as a change role, and the CCO role is more a hybrid role with P&L responsibilities and operational oversight.

How do you assess the work to be done?

Start quickly with an audit — essentially trying to figure out where the capabilities are. Six dimensions that drive a high-performing customer-driven org (which he’s used in previous jobs) are:

  • Is there a clear customer vision and strategy?
  • Does the organization use customer research to make decisions?
  • To what extent does the organization have a clear plan around designing its customer experience improvements and changes?
  • Does the company prioritize investments in customer experience?
  • Do they track and measure?
  • Is there a strong leadership base and a strong culture around customer-centricity?

This is only internally and not asked of customers directly.

They assess these quarterly and look at changes over time. Damian is careful to note that customer experience has to be about more than “chasing the score,” though. I agree with that.

Getting Buy-In

It wasn’t as hard here as it is in some other stories, because the CEO had customer experience improvement as a top-2 priority. They did make a 2.5-minute video for the Board and execs talking about what needed to change, what it looked like, and business justifications. That quick project helped a good deal. The Board said “That summarizes where we want to be.” Oftentimes showing someone the end state is pretty powerful. They gave support to a customer experience project to roll out over three years.

They believe in making sure stakeholders “walk the life,” which is a more interactive approach than just providing decks/slides/etc. In this case they stand up, walk around, and see projects and potential end states related to customer experience. It’s more engaging and connective in terms of getting budget approval to move forward.

3-4 experiences that can be delivered within 12 months

… was one of his initial targets, along with overhauling some core systems and processes. I like this because it’s a quick hit goal that shows action within a short time. This “gets you the permission” to do even more comprehensive work.

They also moved away from a strict silo approach and found seven touchpoints (journeys) that overlap multiple departments. They tried to re-orient people to think about work and methodology around the journeys as opposed to “I work in marketing” or “I work in operations.”

One example is “estimated read” in terms of how people get an idea of their energy bill. Customers weren’t loving this process. 1/3rd of meter readings are missed, and customers wanted to know what the “estimated read” meant and how it impacted their bill. AGL instituted self-service meter read. They (customers) can take a photo of their meter, and AGL tells them what their bill will be. It helps customers manage their budget and shows trust from AGL to them.

The Pay-It Forward Question

What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN? 


  • It’s important to explore, test, and learn. Many people will simply say “This is the path to great customer experience.” You can’t just rely on that. Need to explore, test, and learn. Design thinking!
  • It’s important to understand, embrace, appreciate, and prepare for change, because it’s essentially normative in most organizations these days.
  • Measure the impact of everything.

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