Customer Experience & Billing—Change is Coming to a Utility Near You

Have you noticed that utilities are trying to be more responsive to their customers today?

Responsiveness wasn’t always the hallmark of how you would describe your utility company. In the not too distant past, you would sit in your dark house for hours not knowing when you would get your power back on. And think about what a herculean effort it was just to pay your utility bills. In general, you only had two choices—go to a utility office and pay, or send a check via snail mail. It seemed like everything you wanted to do concerning your service centered around you reaching somebody from the utility call center on the phone to set up a billing plan, make changes to your service, or just fix something that didn’t work.

If you think that utility companies didn’t suffer from similar inefficiencies you’d be wrong. They faced similar problems. Work assignments were originally completed on spread sheets and chalk boards, billing cycles were done via manual effort, and call centers used “green screen” data entry systems—not the most efficient work management plan.

In today’s environment, the traditional utility customer experience model is changing—making it better for the customer and more efficient for the utility. With all the technology available at hand, customers want better service, more communications and more self-service applications. The utility wants happier clients, more information at their employees’ fingertips and efficiency to work smarter. Utility call centers are adapting to accommodate their customers’ needs and respond to a market that expects increased visibility, accurate billing and the access to up-to-date data in order to be more responsive to regulatory issues.

The Future is Change

The customer call center is the face of the utility. Customer satisfaction plays an important role not only in retaining current customers but also in attracting new customers through positive referrals. Having satisfied customers is a primary key to making ratepayer cases easier to explain and approve.

Times are changing, and although many utilities continue to engage in traditional business practices, they are being forced to adjust to the demands of both a society and an industry in the throes of revolutionary change.

Throughout all the technology and regulatory changes currently taking place, there is one constant: the customer. Keeping customers satisfied while continuously improving the quality of care directly influences a utility’s ability to meet customer expectations, compete in recently deregulated markets, and show regulatory compliance.

An optimized customer call center is one that is efficient, effective and produces outcomes that support the utility’s goals. Companies now have to be looking for new ways to “raise the bar” and provide experiences that make customers proud of their decision to do business with them. They aren’t just competing with other utilities—they are competing with other companies and industries that excel in customer service by making things easier for their customers. Most of us have used an airline’s mobile apps to book and cancel a trip, check on the status of our flight, and access our boarding pass. Utility customers are beginning to demand access to more information and the convenience of managing their services at their fingertips.

Adapting to Change 

In this ever changing environment, utilities are feeling the pressure to update their systems, processes and services. Although there are many software solutions for call center and billing operations, one company in particular, Oracle, has a solution tailored for utilities to meet many of their goals. Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing supports utilities by providing a comprehensive system for all customer- and billing-centric operations as well as providing solutions to meet customer communication expectations.

One of the vital elements to any new software launch is making sure people are ready for the change. When you have a big software implementation, too often people think that putting people through a class equals them being ready to do their jobs with the new system and new processes. When it comes to people, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” That’s where Mosaic can help.

According to a study conducted by AMR Research (now part of Gartner) in 2009, nearly 50 percent of companies faced serious challenges with business software change and user adoption. A survey of Fortune 500 executives in 2011 cited “resistance” as the primary reason that changes fail in organizations. Consider the story reported by the Wall Street Journal in December 2013 about a failed, multimillion-dollar SAP software implementation. The newspaper reported that Avon Products halted a massive, multiyear software project because, when it was implemented, no one knew how to use it, so they didn’t.

Preparing for Change

Mosaic understands the unique problems facing utilities today. Mosaic is a training and workforce consulting firm that provides tailored solutions to utilities and oil & gas companies. We are experts in adult learning, organizational readiness, and change management. We’ve experienced the resistance people feel during and after customer care & billing projects when the focus is on technology and process and sometimes discounts the importance of people. You remember, the actual people who are affected by the changes taking place. Many times training is an afterthought and doesn’t provide adequate time to get the people truly ready for the upheaval to their work life that is just around the corner. True organizational readiness starts months, or even years, prior to flipping the “go-live” switch. Starting the change management ball rolling early in a project helps ensure total organizational alignment and Mosaic is uniquely adept at leading this effort.

So why not use the system integrator (SI) to provide the training and change management? When a utility hires an SI to implement and configure their software, the SI generally focuses on technology and system processes. Mosaic’s focus is on people. By targeting training based on job functions, or roles, and embedding business process information into the training materials, Mosaic helps people get the personalized training they need to get them ready much quicker than other solutions.

Mosaic brings training accelerators to the table which gives you a head start on training development. Using our accelerators, our subject matter experts and instructional designers are able to significantly reduce the total time required to create training. Additionally we have post go-live support tools that allow people to quickly and easily access the information they need when they need it. At Mosaic, training and workforce consulting is our niche—and we do it better than anyone else.

It’s Time to Change

We put ourselves in your people’s shoes and see what they need in order to do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible. Customer experience is all about people. Mosaic understands people and change. We don’t want any of our customers to be a negative statistic when it’s time for change. Keep in mind that users will adopt at varying rates depending on two things—their individual openness to change, and their ability to see a painless transition to the new solution so they can continue to do their jobs effectively.
Ross Hight, Vice President of Customer Experience & Billing