Everyday Encounter, Impactful Experience

By Jessica Critchett, Lead Consulting Utility Forester

At CNUC, we continually strive to improve the utility vegetation management (UVM) industry. Additionally, we attempt to influence other aspects of the communities in which we work and live in a positive way. One opportunity to expand influence beyond the industry is through our daily human interactions. We push to move beyond customer service to customer engagement. Once we achieve customer engagement, we obtain a vested interest from the community members. This allows us to more effectively educate them on our primary message regarding UVM practices and their importance. This level of engagement requires moving past scripted service to authentic connections. Jessica Critchett, Lead Consulting Utility Forester (CUF), recently exemplified this type of customer engagement with a retired veteran. Here’s Jessica’s experience:

“I was meeting with a customer in his 80s to discuss planned tree work. I introduced myself, and we began a discussion about his trees. I noticed his ‘Retired Veteran’ hat and acknowledged it by thanking him for his service. He responded by sharing some stories with me from his past. He was the youngest boy in the family; his brothers all served in the military as well. One of his brothers was a German translator. During an encounter with a German soldier, his brother and the soldier ended up exchanging names and small talk. Through the discussion, they discovered they were distant relatives.

Then he shared a story that left me awestruck and has stuck in my mind. He was a child, playing on the floor, listening to the radio; it was 1941. The newscaster chimed in and announced that a Japanese airstrike had hit the USS Arizona; one of his brothers was serving on that ship! I remember thinking, ‘what a way to hear about your brother’s death!’ This man did not have to share those stories with me, but he did. This experience showed me that if you take some time out of your day to stop and show some gratitude, you might find someone who is willing to open up to you and share priceless memories; memories that bring humility to our lives and keep us grounded. He had an impact on me, and I can only hope that through our interaction and information I was able to provide, I had one on him as well.”

As CUFs, we visit customers with a purpose. If we can take a little time to put forth the extra effort to expand our aim to include genuine connections with those we interact with, we can move into a higher level of customer service. Through this engagement, a door opens to bring a greater understanding of UVM methods and best practices beyond those of us within our industry. We see it as our obligation to aid the public in better understanding how their decisions impact the electric grid, its maintenance, and the ecosystems on which we all depend.