It was very clear at the annual 2015 CS Week convention in Charlotte, N.C. recently, that technology has morphed the way utilities do business and interact with their customers. Customer engagement, customer service, customer relationships—however you want to refer to it, more utility decision makers are leaning in on what customers have to say and putting greater emphasis on outstanding customer service.
As technology changes, utility employees must learn new systems and new ways of obtaining information. Their jobs are changing. Customers are taking advantage of more self-service, so when a customer calls the utility, the questions are often more complex than in the “olden days.” When you consider that the utility industry has one of the oldest employee populations in the country, change is going to come, and it’s not entirely easy.
During the past 10 years, utilities invested substantial resources in CIS, CRM, and other customer care systems and architecture. Customer Care & Billing tools handle every aspect of the customer lifecycle—from service connection, meter reading, rating, billing, payments processing, collections and field work. Utilities are investing in computer systems, software and business design to streamline operations, drive down internal costs and create new revenue opportunities.
As Retha Hunsicker, vice president of Customer Contact Operations for Duke Energy said to participants, the conference “reflects the advanced technological components of delivering energy or water to our customers, but the focus in 2015 is clearly on the relationship between the customer and utility.”
Our team had many conversations with attendees about all the new technology and changes in the industry. It was generally agreed that training and change management are critical elements to any implementation and update. Budget questions float to the top of the conversation—how much will it cost? Studies show that in the U.S. training averages between 2 and 3 percent of a company’s budget. Without preparing employees for major technology changes, those costs could soar—the goal is to achieve high end user adoption and do it right the first time.
Preparing employees for change must be an intentional process that helps utilities achieve useful business transformation. It isn’t enough to give employees a training book for the new system and tell them to read it. It’s imperative to tell employees that their job is changing and discuss the reasons why and how it will benefit employees and the utility.
As a national training and workforce performance consulting company, Mosaic specializes in training for the utility and oil & gas industry. We help utilities with organizational readiness and training that’s tailor-made for the client. As people came by our booth at CS Week, they were clearly interested in Mosaic’s unique and successful approach to role-based training.
We heard this question at the conference several times—“What keeps utility executives awake at night?” It’s the fear of investing thousands and millions of dollars on new technology that people won’t use. A sound organizational readiness plan, a deep understanding of adult learning, and role-based training—that’s well executed—will help executives sleep like a baby.
By Christina Kelly, Mosaic Director of Marketing & Communications