Shaughnessy talks shop about the value of lifelong customer relationships, being at the forefront of CIS technology, and keeping up on what’s next for the changing landscape of the utility industry.
UMC: What do you believe the next ‘big thing’ is for the utilities industry? Click below for the answer:
UMC: What is your company culture like at NorthStar?
Patrick Shaughnessy: Our culture is focused on creating an enduring organization. NorthStar is coming up on 40 years of serving the utility market and everything we do is guided by the vision of another successful 40 years.
One of the critical components of that culture is that we empower our employees at the point of contact with customers. We believe that our people who work directly with our customers are best positioned to solve customer problems.
This has two lasting effects. First, our people form lifelong relationships with our customers. Second, we understand that empowering people means accepting the occasional mistake. The key is to turn those mistakes into learning opportunities and to then share those experiences throughout the organization. This process is what ensures that we are constantly developing the next generation of NorthStar leaders.
UMC: What characteristics does a potential new hire have to possess to qualify as “brilliant”?
Patrick Shaughnessy: Brilliant is the theme of our website and it absolutely applies to our staffing. Empowering our staff to make decisions is risky without the right people. We define brilliant as being obsessive about learning and having a natural curiosity that drives a need to understand why – intellectual horsepower also helps.
UMC: What is the average day for a NorthStar employee?
Patrick Shaughnessy: It’s certainly busy. CIS software is mission critical which results in a high intensity level across all departments. The one thing we expect from every employee on a daily basis is that they focus on solutions rather than problems.
UMC: Al Kaufmann, Executive VP of Corporate Services with New Braunfels Utilities, was recently quoted as saying “Our NorthStar CIS v6.4 upgrade was one of the smoothest upgrades we’ve had so far” with regard to their company’s recent integration. What processes do you use to prompt such praise from a client?
Patrick Shaughnessy: It is less of a process and more of a mindset – we call it delivery leadership. We believe that customers hire us because we are experts in the utility industry and experts in helping them run their business on our solutions. We don’t follow the customers’ path through the implementation – we lead them through it.
UMC: How did the Harris-NorthStar Customer Conference go? Were there any memorable moments?
Patrick Shaughnessy: The one thing that sticks with me from our customer conference every year is the number of customers that tell me how much they love our people. I’m not using hyperbole when I say our staff build lifelong relationships with customers. It is amazing how energizing it is to hear customers speak so passionately about our people. It is very rewarding.
UMC: Smart meters were such a revolution to the utility industry, but utility clients on the whole are still disengaged from the data that is being collected. Why do you believe this information isn’t being accessed in large volumes?
Patrick Shaughnessy: Our belief is that many utilities don’t know what to do with the data – they are overwhelmed by it. SmartWorks Compass is our solution to this problem. It is a utility decision management solution that enables utilities to maximize their return on investment in their smart infrastructure by converting massive volumes of data into powerful insights and automated action.
UMC: As far as demand, which of your products is leading the pack?
Patrick Shaughnessy: Our clients are increasingly focused on improving the experiences of their customers. While our CIS solution provides an ever increasing set of tools to manage client interactions, our newly updated web engagement product (Customer Connect) is generating huge demand from within our client base and with new clients.
UMC: Between alternative sources of energy, to the deregulation of the industry, users have more options than ever. How do your products and services help your customers stand out in the mass of choices?
Patrick Shaughnessy: Our development focus has been directly targeted at improving the way a small to mid-sized municipal utility interacts with its customers. We believe that nearly all of the changes in the industry manifest in customer service and we are laser focused on being the provider that does this best. One of the ways we do this is by including customers in our agile development cycle. Before we embark on any development initiative we organize a small group of customers that want to invest their time to help us hit the mark. We believe that this process and the resulting products and services ensure that our customers stand out.