The ultimate in customer care: Why PSE&G meets with largest customers to discuss current needs and plans for future

Daylong sessions bring operations managers together with company officials in event that gives both sides greater understanding of energy issues and concerns

“If I’m planning on electrifying my fleet or adding a data center to my operation, will you be able to handle the increased energy need — and how much lead time do you need to prepare for it?”

“What green energy initiatives are you taking on — or investing in — as we all look to fight climate change?”

“How can you help me understand how these energy efficiency initiatives will impact me now and in the future?”

Or, simply … “I have an issue with X, Y or Z — who can help and how do I connect with them?”

It’s easy to understand why questions such as these are being asked by facilities and operations leaders at major businesses and corporations around the state. Questions around energy supply and generation — now, and in the future — have never been more important to the business community.

That’s why Public Service Electric & Gas is not just meeting with its biggest customers where they proverbially are — but hosting gatherings around the state, half-day events featuring speakers and panelists, ones where every question is on the table.

PSE&G recently held two such meetings — one in Edison and one in Princeton.

This year, PSE&G gave presentations from four top leaders in the company and had a panel discussion with Energy Impact Partners, a global investment firm that focuses on the transition to a sustainable energy future. All of this was followed by more focused small-group discussions with various leaders from the company.

Nicole Swan-Bennett, the director of business customer solutions at PSE&G who oversees the initiative, said the goal was threefold:

  • To collaborate and offer a way to have a continued conversation with customers;
  • To provide an update on PSE&G’s investments and where it’s headed over the next decade;
  • To show how it’s looking at external companies to keep abreast of any decarb and clean energy investments.

Swan-Bennett said the gatherings are a continuation of discussions the company is having with its biggest energy users year-round.

Getting together, PSE&G officials said, is a way to create more impact, as the facilities and operational leaders often have similar issues, stirring bigger conversations on best practices.

The initiative predates Swan-Bennett’s time at the company, but it is one that is in its second year after a pandemic pause. Swan-Bennett said the company is making sure the initiative is keeping up with the times.

“Traditionally, we would bring all of our largest customers together,” she said. “It was an opportunity to bring folks in similar type roles, facility managers and sustainability managers, across all different industries together, so that they can hear one message from PSE&G.”

This year, the number of messages increased.

And Swan-Bennett said adding these four speakers was a value add:

  • Brian Clark, vice president, gas operations: Among other topics, he discussed the gas system modernization program, in which the company is replacing hundreds of miles of cast iron gas mains — reducing methane and improving service reliability;
  • Michael Schmid, VP, asset management and planning: He talked about planning for future energy needs of customers — looking at future demand and industry trends;
  • Jane Bergen, director, customer care: She discussed how PSE&G has a dedicated customer service team who are experts in the complex and unique needs of business customers;
  • Ria Canagon, manager, renewables marketing and outreach: She shared information about the company’s Clean Energy Future programs for business customers.

“We wanted to connect our customers with some of the key business leaders in the utility so that they can hear straight from them a little bit about our investments and where we’re headed,” she said. “And it also gives them exposure to those leaders.”

“By bringing in Energy Impact Partners, we wanted to show how PSE&G is investing in the energy space, and not just relying on our own internal knowledge — we’re looking outward as well.”

PSE&G had over 100 customers attend the personalized events, including companies such as Amazon, Merck and Rutgers University.

Those companies traditionally have a higher electric demand (over 1,000 kilowatts) were invited to attend. How — and why — they use energy is key, too.

Swan-Bennett said businesses that serve a critical need and usually have 24/7 needs — think hospitals, utilities, transportation infrastructure — are always generally managed accounts, as are major users, such as universities, large retailers and major corporations.

Also included as a managed account is any organization that has — or is planning to add — a large data center, an item that has such a high usage, utilities everywhere around the world are eager for insights into their needs.

“It’s all part of a scenario in which the questions and answers go both ways,” Swan-Bennett said.

“Everything around data centers — and anything having to do with the push toward electrification is huge, she said. Both sides need to have an understanding of the situation to properly plan and prepare.”

“Hearing from customers that are growing and are looking to enter new business space, whether it be fleet electrification or thinking about a data center, is important,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for us to get a greater understanding of a customer’s true need.

“What does it actually look like? Is this a customer coming into the area or expanding? Is it a company that actually knows how much they’re going to grow or someone still trying to figure that out?”

Swan-Bennett, however, noted that PSE&G interests also are rooted in the basics. She said each group conversation started with three main questions that apply to everyone:

  1. What can PSE&G do better?
  2. What are your customers’ critical energy initiatives and sustainability goals?
  3. How can PSE&G help you achieve energy goals?

The feedback, Swan-Bennett said, was strong — and appreciated.

Even a business such as PSE&G, which annually wins awards for its customer service, can find ways to improve, she said. The fact that it can do so while helping to make the state more energy efficient — and reducing greenhouse gas emissions — makes the initiative a win-win.

PSE&G is contemplating adding a third event in the fall. Either way, the program certainly will return in 2025. Its impact is that great, Swan-Bennett said.

“It enables us to have a group of like-minded professionals in a room — people that care about energy mix, care about reliability, care about the planet,” she said. “This group 100% understands why we make the investments that we make — and oftentimes advocates for us.”

“The more we can give them an understanding of what we are doing — and gain an understanding of what they need — the better. That’s what these meetings are for.”