Agile Transformation Approaches for Boosting CX in an Era of Disruption

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Kelly James's picture
VP & GM, Energy & Utilities Salesforce Industries

Kelly James is Vice President and General Manager,  Energy & Utilities at Salesforce Industries. Salesforce Industries with Vlocity delivers the Energy and Utility Customer Cloud. Kelly has...

  • Member since 2018
  • 3 items added with 10,854 views
  • May 24, 2019

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-05 - Customer Care, click here for more

Utilities today exist in a world where there is a need for both incremental and disruptive change. These bi-modal strategies help ensure utilities will not just survive but thrive through the tremendous changes coming over the next 5 -10 years. 

In the face of rapidly rising customer expectations and disruptive technologies, utility company CIOs and CCOs are asking themselves questions such as:

  • How do I exceed customer expectations while keeping pace with disruptive industry change?
  • If we are getting bills out the door today, is there a manageable alternative to replacing my CIS/billing system(s) that will more rapidly support the needs of digitally driven customers and new energy options?
  • Can I transform my customer experience without the risks that come with multi-vendor integration and with major changes to my CIS and billing systems?
  • How can I bring new offers and products to market while ensuring core meter to cash processes remain stable?

Adding further urgency to the mix is the fact that utility customer expectations residential, commercial and industrial – have been raised by their experiences with companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix. Click-through service and fulfilment are the new normal and customers in both competitive and even regulated markets have alternatives to traditional utility commodity offerings.

Divergent Paths

What to do? Traditional approaches would include such things as customizing, upgrading and replacing your Customer Information System (CIS). There may be no getting around it for those with outdated legacy systems. But these projects are expensive, risky, protracted, and don’t necessarily put your utility in a better position for agility and innovation. After 18 to 24 months of work (or longer), you may still fall short of today’s customer expectations and may be in no better a position to adapt to the yet unknown customer needs of tomorrow.

You can bolt on custom-built extensions e.g., contact center screens, semi-packaged or custom web applications and engagement tools, C&I contract management capabilities. Custom builds are less common these days but not unheard of. Quite often, they are costly to maintain, can overwhelm scarce IT resources and in the end, they age quickly, unable to keep pace with the need for continual innovation. There are any number of packaged solutions that offer bolt-on options for customer engagement and web, but these often require migration and duplication of  data and in the end tend to be “black box” solutions (rather than platforms) that make you dependent upon the vendor for most configuration and changes. 

You can use smaller point solutions to solve problems, like chat and social. This can be a good strategy for some quick wins but will leave you with siloed information and/or sometimes costly integration.

You can adopt a horizontal CRM or Customer Experience and Engagement solution from your CIS vendor or third party. But some of these are not best of breed and these CRM systems are horizontal systems, not designed or configured for the utility industry. An implementation project to turn CRM into CRM for Utilities can rapidly turn into custom build 3.0, leaving IT managing significant development on and off platform, and limiting a utilities ability to take advantage of new package features, hamstringing future innovation.

So what is one to do? Continue to maintain industry-specific but aging applications, or go cloud and customize?  

There’s a Better Way – Agile Transformation Platforms

In 2019, we don’t believe customers should have to choose. They should be able to enjoy compelling cloud and mobile applications that are “purpose built” for Energy & Utility companies. More specifically, today’s utilities need:

  • A robust, cloud platform to fuel customer-centric innovation. This provides the requisite enterprise-grade security, scalability, performance and availability, while providing a base for other applications, processes and technologies on top.
  • True, industry-specific products, tailored for utilities in a low or no-code environment with business and IT tools to speed innovation.

This combination provides an enterprise-grade vehicle for delivering unified, omnichannel experiences that can be operated at a fraction of the price of custom-built, black box offerings that are closed, code heavy and general purpose. It reduces risk and lays a future-proof foundation for agility, transformation and disruptive innovation. All without the peril that comes with custom solutions or major changes to legacy systems.

Additionally, given constant M&A activity, a platform for Customer Experience & CRM on top of multiple back office billing systems is a great way to achieve front office efficiencies and upgrade customer experience before merging back-end systems. And it’s a smart and opportune way to get a new brand or venture off on the right foot and build brand equity immediately.

This is Vlocity’s approach – to deliver industry-specific software, in the cloud on the world’s #1 CRM and customer experience platform, Salesforce, to drive customer-centric innovation. That’s the Vlocity Utilities Industry Cloud.

Today’s Customer Challenges and Outcomes

Energy & Utilities today face constant pressure to elevate their performance across the board, not only from an operations standpoint but from a brand/CX perspective. The challenges within the small business and the commercial and industrial sector are higher stakes given the revenue impacts of these valuable customer relationships. Not unlike residential consumers, C&I customers have reframed their expectations of what is required from their utility and are demanding greater value and new, innovative products and services.  There are also continual demands for operational improvements across the customer journey and an accelerating need for efficiency and speed – made more difficult given the legacy of IT systems built for another era.

Vlocity C&I / Key Account Management and Engagement portfolio is a set tools designed to up level service transformation within the commercial and industrial space to help grow revenues with proactive, value-added offers, reduce contact to quote time for commodity and non-commodity offerings, and reduce the number of systems and tools for C&I account management, lowering TCO. What does this innovation look like in practice today? Customers deploying Vlocity paired with Salesforce across industries have experienced 60%-plus increases in digital completion of contracts / orders, improvements of 40%-80% in time to market offerings and increases in incremental cross-sell revenues of 10%-30%. We are bringing these savings and more to our Utility customers for the benefit of their C&I relationships.

Similarly, for residential customers, Vlocity Utilities Omni-Channel CX and Engagement on the Salesforce Platform is driving improved overall business efficiency, streamlining internal customer processes and modernizing and enhancing the overall customer experience. The range of benefits includes greater use of online tools leading to reductions in overall call volume, increases in first call resolution and increased agent productivity metrics.

Companies such as Avista, Engie, and TXU Energy are working with Vlocity on Salesforce to become more agile, innovative and customer centric.  While every customer story is different, Vlocity is consistently delivering solutions that are quick to implement, easy to use and engineered to provide value for the long haul.

About Vlocity Energy & Utilities Cloud

Vlocity Energy & Utilities Cloud is the only complete customer experience (CX) and CRM platform for energy and utility companies on Salesforce. Vlocity enables an entirely different approach to customer experience transformation for regulated utilities and competitive energy retailers, helping contact centers, key account teams, digital and IT leaders change the way they engage with their customers—residential, commercial and industrial—across all channels. The Vlocity Energy & Utilities Cloud transforms Salesforce into a complete Energy & Utility customer engagement and customer experience platform for customer service, engagement, marketing, sales, and revenue generation with packaged integrations to billing and front-office systems.

At the core, is a set of capabilities extending the power of Salesforce for the industry, including an extensive utility industry process library, an advanced product catalog, offers and promotions, CPQ/ pricing, proposal and contract management, and market fulfillment, all delivered natively within the Salesforce platform for rapid and simplified deployment. Vlocity Energy & Utilities Cloud is the modern platform that energy companies need to deliver superior customer experiences across all channels and to operate with greater agility in a changing marketplace. Vlocity takes the risk out of deploying utility customer experience and CRM, significantly reducing the time required to deploy Salesforce and reducing total cost of ownership to a fraction of that of traditional on-premise technologies. For more information on Vlocity Energy & Utilities, visit and follow us at @vlocity.

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Thank Kelly for the Post!
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