CIO Straight Talk - Issue 4 - 17
Patti, what were you asked to do when you were hired?
Poppe: Like Mamatha, I had a newly created position. In many
companies you'd call it Chief Marketing Officer. Chief Customer
Officer might be more appropriate. I oversee customer-facing operations such as call centers, billing services, business customer
accounts, market research. But I'm not a marketer; I'm an operator by
training. I ran power plants for DTE Energy for five years, and before
that I ran assembly plants for General Motors for 15 years. I am an
industrial engineer by training.
So why were you hired to do this job?
Poppe: Before I joined Consumers Energy, the leadership team had
combined many of the customer-facing organizations within the
utility under one umbrella, whereas before they were distributed
throughout the company. I came in January 2011, and in August of
that year I presented to the board of directors our new Customer
I think another reason I was hired was because they liked the
operator's mind-set and a data-driven, rather than opinion-driven,
approach to customer value. Because of my experience, that's what I
brought to the table.
Was it obvious that you were going to need to work
with the IT team?
Poppe: Without a doubt. Early on I could see that we were behind the
curve in implementing customer-facing technology solutions. It was
clear that we were going to have to partner very closely to change that.
The Smart Energy program, for example, became a major focus of
collaboration between Mamatha's team and my team. Smart Energy
transforms the customer experience. We think of it as the
re-introduction of Consumers Energy to our customers, with a new
level of service that they can now expect from us.
As part of this program, we will install 1.8 million new electric
meters and 600,000 gas meters with existing customers. When their
power is out, we will know. Today, we don't know - they have to call
us. Customers will also have a 98% accurate meter reading. Today, it
is totally dependent on weather and the availability of our personnel
to read meters manually.
All these things that customers naturally expect are technology
enabled. We could not do it without Mamatha and her team. They are
the backbone of our Smart Energy program. What used to be purely a
meter exchange program is now a technology-based project.
Patricia K. Poppe
POSITION: Vice President, Customer
Experience, Rates and
COMPANY: Consumers Energy
WORKS FROM: Jackson, Michigan
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: In
her role as Vice President, Patricia
Poppe oversees customer service,
marketing, Consumers Energy's Smart
Energy program, quality, and rates
and regulatory affairs. Before joining
the company, in 2011, she worked as
director of DTE Energy's North Region
power plants, overseeing 3,000 MW at
five generating facilities.
EDUCATION: MBA, Kellogg School of
Business, Northwestern University
Chamarthi: Together, we made a joint commitment to implement the
Smart Energy program. It was not Patti saying, "Well, here is my
commitment," and then me saying, "Here is mine in support of Patti."
It was a joint commitment to the company about what we were going
to work on together.
Poppe: We sit side by side on all decision making and all program
commitments. Neither one of us can sign without the other signing.
It's a mutual ownership.
21 CIO Straight Talk