Deborah Affonsa Speaks At UC Davis Sustainable Energy Industry Seminar

By Jess Taylor

DAVIS – On Friday, the Energy and Efficiency Institute and Graduate School of Management at UC Davis introduced Deborah Affonsa for their weekly Sustainable Energy Industry Seminar. Affonsa is the Vice President of customer service at Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Affonsa discussed the philosophy of PG&E on transforming the customer experience to make it easy and effortless. Being in the industry since 1996, she feels that she is very knowledgeable in this field, as she has worked in both small and large companies.

“The balance between big and small companies allows me to personally experience what our customers experience,” she says.

Giving insight towards the industry, she informs that people can take all of their different paths of working and incorporate them into the career they land in. This statement assures those participating in the seminar that may feel their experience cannot be applied to the sustainable energy field.

Moving onto who PG&E is as a company, Affonsa informs they are the largest utility to operate in the U.S. while only functioning in California; a whopping 70 thousand square miles. They serve 16 million Californians, with more than 530 thousand being solar customers, and have 23 thousand employees.

Working to lower carbon emissions, she discussed how California’s emissions had increased, but in 2019 more than 29 percent of the state was running on renewable energy. California is on track to meet 60 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Affonsa then began to discuss customer policy. “If you come into this industry and reject policy, you will not be successful,” she asserts.

Customers want choice, control, low costs, communication, commitment, time, and solar. One question she asks herself when working with customers is, “does this policy offer an alternative the customers can consider?”

PG&E is exceptionally proactive in the community. People have issues with the cooperation, not the workers. One ideology they follow is they want to be a hometown company, not a greedy cooperation. To accomplish this, they start with their workers and the company’s policy towards people. Additionally, they embrace the diversity of their people and utilize it to grow and improve the company as a whole.

COVID-19 has proven difficult for the company. People have been unable to pay their bills, and the company cannot shut off utilities due to the laws surrounding the pandemic. Ultimately, what comes down to PG&E making money is their customer’s ability to pay their bills. They have invested more into their consumers, and that has improved the company’s customer care guiding principles. 

The first principle is that safety is non-negotiable. They emphasize this with their workers to make sure they never skip steps and assure the safety of the people they are working to accommodate. Next is that compliance is not voluntary, with the third being the customer in the center is mandatory. These guarantee the needs of the customer are met and fulfilled. Last, effectiveness is the key to efficiency.

Data is crucial to the company’s capability to best serve its customers. They use it to be efficient and effective, maintaining satisfaction among consumers.

Moreover, PG&E strives to improve functionality with their website to increase customer ability to self-serve.

“We have to redesign things to meet customer needs, not our needs,” Affonsa says. They have developed an integrated customer platform that allows for an effortless customer experience in the channel of their choice.

Affonsa is an extremely intelligent woman in the renewable energy industry. The information she shared was very straightforward and clearly stressed how customers are the core of the company. With the experience she has gained in over 20 years, she uses the state of the world today as a blueprint to renovate customer experience. 

Jess Taylor is in her senior year at UC Davis from a small town called Wheatland. She is finishing her studies in English and Human Rights.

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