Michael Dart, Chief Customer Officer, Energy Queensland & Board Director, Jobs Queensland

Michael Dart is an Executive and the Chief Customer Officer for Energy Queensland. As the Chief Customer Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Michael has championed Energy Queensland’s customer and community strategies, engaging with our significant stakeholders and customers to implement energy policy on behalf of the Board of Energy Queensland.  His portfolio includes customer and community strategy, media engagement, Government and investor relations, internal communications, marketing, brand and customer digital needs. He is currently a Board member at Griffith University’s Centre for Applied Energy Economics and Policy Research, Jobs Queensland and Queensland Theatre. He also heads Customer and Market Operations which covers connections, metering services, market transactions, retail billing and customer contact centres across the state of Queensland. Michael has been recognised as a Global Top 50 Influencer for CX, Asia Pacific Top 100 Leader for Customer Engagement and by the Public Relations Institute of Australia.   

Michael is a proven leader with significant stakeholder, communications and policy experience, having spent more than a quarter of a century as an energy industry, private sector and government consultant as well as a Non-Executive Director in the government, arts, environment, science and health fields. He is currently a Board Director at Griffith University, Jobs Queensland and Queensland Theatre.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Michael shared his professional trajectory, insights on the three major trends to watch out for in the energy industry, personal sources of inspiration, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Michael. What do you love the most about your current role?

My measure of success is that I can leave my current role with an identified successor that seamlessly takes up our Chief Customer Officer challenges and opportunities.  I have an amazing team with excellent leaders.

In addition, with the Energy Sector being the place to be with so much change and challenge I know the work I am doing is going to leave a legacy for generations.  A clean energy future the envy of the world.

What is the most modernized definition of customer success? How do you differentiate these with customer experience?

I always say that our customer strategy is as simple as I is critical to customer success.  Know your customer.  Make it Easy.  Deliver Value.  Three key principles that are often lost when there is such a volume and rate of change in our community.

I also say that “Trust meanders into town in a tricycle.  And leaves in a Formula 1 Ferrari.” It is hard earned but easily lost.

The difference here is not just about achieving a great transaction but how you make a customer feel.  It’s the same with employee experience.  Management is easy.  Go get the KPI.  Leadership is hard.  You need to have the trust of your people and customers by having their back, coaching, being vulnerable and living your values.

How can brands become more customer-centric? What have you observed works best, and what don’t today’s brands do enough of?

Brands today need to be more connected with their customers and communities.  Our vison, purpose and values are centered around “Energising local communities”. That goes beyond the products we deliver and sell but deeper into the community through employment that sustains small business, community support during disasters, shared value through development of community programs and giving back.

What are the three major trends do you foresee in your industry in the next 12 months?

It’s taken us 110 years to build and operate the energy system in Australia today.

The poles and wires that crisscross Queensland will still connect customers but what they’re connected to will be very different in the next quarter of a century.

We’re going to have increase the total capacity by 2.5 times to replace our carbon intensive baseload generation with a mix of sustainable / renewable energy sources, 90% of which do not exist today.

In an energy industry context, the complexity of the supply chain is practically unfathomable for our customers.

There are a lot of barriers for our customers to participate in the renewable energy market just because of the way their homes and devices are connected to our network.

Solar and wind as energy sources work best when the sun is shining, and the wind is blowing.

That’s why Energy Queensland is investing heavily in major energy storage at the network community and local level to soak up excess solar generation during the day and why having the technology that orchestrates energy assets allows us to capture, store and re-use energy when our customers need it.

That’s also why the Queensland Government chose Energy Queensland to lead the work needed to redesign the capability of the distribution networks.

To make it easy for these to operate in such a way that is easy for customers to manage, we’ve introduced new standards and guidelines so that customers with EV chargers have a more choices about the size and power of those devices. It’s also so they can better understand what those choices mean in the context of being part of the electricity network.

It’s entirely feasible that if we can manage the supply side volatility, our customers could be consuming energy with subscription service on a monthly fixed price, no different to your mobile phone or NBN. The magic will be creating a “set and forget” product for customers where they can sit back and relax and enjoy the savings.

Throughout your career, you have been a recipient of prestigious awards and accolades including being named among Global Top 50; Government Innovators 2023, and Top 100 Influencer APAC in Contact Centre Industry. Our readers would love to know the secret mantra behind your success.

Listening and Learning with a touch of vulnerability. My journey has been shaped by a commitment to understanding customers, delivering value, and simplifying experiences. The only way to achieve all this though is through trust.

As I’ve said, trust meanders into town on a tricycle, but it leaves in a Formula 1 Ferrari. So, it’s crucial for trust to be at the centre of everything we do.

Trust becomes the bridge between service provider and recipient, guiding innovation driven by genuine needs.

Too many businesses make the same mistake. There is nothing more soul destroying than presuming what your customers want, only to meet with them and discovering it’s the complete opposite.

Never make assumptions, know what you want to achieve and do that you need to for better customer relationships and outcomes.

If you could have a one-hour meeting with someone famous who is alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I would love to have an hour with Rachel Carson the author of Silent Spring. Silent Spring, published in 1962, documented the environmental harm caused by the indiscriminate use of DDT, by soldiers during WW2. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting the industry’s marketing claims unquestioningly.  In the late 1950s, Carson began to work on environmental conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result of her research was Silent Spring, which brought environmental concerns to the American public. The book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it swayed public opinion and led to a change of policy in the USA and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

I would love to hear her take on the environmental and community movement since and the importance of customer and community engagement and the impact individuals can have in the international debate.

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

Collectively my parents. They came from very humble beginnings and impressed upon me, the eldest of five, the importance of education in the academic sense but also in the community sense.  Their kindness and love is a constant anchor.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Well, I have a lot to do!  I am very committed to ensuring I leave the world, the community and the business in a better place.  I am a little obsessive about ensuring I have garnered support and a sense of urgency to bring about the energy transformation as well as the quality of life and economic benefits it will bring.

I have two teenage children about to embark on their own adult adventures and equally I want to ensure I have given them every opportunity.  Also, my wife has a very successful career having just received a Kings Honour for services to business and health and owns a beef cattle property.  I look froward to supporting her endeavors and spending more time at the property.

In addition, as a Director on a number of education, council development and Arts Boards I am committed to giving back through my professional life and governance skills to bring about vibrant and sustainable communities.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out on their career in your industry?

There is no better time to be part of the energy industry.  Join us to quite literally save the world. I’d love to hear from you.

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