Uberization of the field force management in utilities
- Jan 18, 2022 7:27 am GMT
When one brings up field force management, the picture that comes to mind is large new tech companies that depend on customer centricity for the service delivery. The companies such as Uber, Ola, Amazon have pioneered how customer is offered and how they consume the service in their field of businesses. The approach they have taken is to provide the platform for customer and service provider interaction and provide the incentives to drive the behaviour of the stakeholders, in the transaction, to optimise the traditional management metrics such as cost, speed, accuracy, etc.
For instance, Uber’s approach to provide the same localised map to both driver (i.e. field force agent) and customer to find each other is far more superior in terms of customer experience and efficiency than asking the customer to follow a centralised route to find the driver. And this approach has worked phenomenally well.
However, to be honest, Uber, and Ola are not the only ones that work with large field forces. For instance, every utility company needs a large skill diverse field work force in their asset management and service management departments. Typical work profile of these field workers involve visit to customer premise, perform asset audits, replacement of faulty equipment. For the delivery of each service type, a careful matching of skilled individual and job type are required for the favourable customer outcome. Furthermore, many of these services are delivered over geographically spread locations that means cost of transportation of this workforce makes for the significant portion of the cost of operation.
Field force Management Current outlook
Now, for a typical utilities operator, the delivery of service is driven through a tech stack that evolved over decades. Typically, a layered stack with customer management systems at the core (typically in house with Cobol and C++ as technology stack) and strap on layers of service management and field force management software’s Like Salesforce, etc. Although, these solutions provide an extent of automation. However, nature of the solution mean series of friction points to emerge at the ground level resulting in suboptimal outcomes.
Uberized Field force Management
Now, in the context of friction points mentioned above, let's look at the the bottom-up approaches that could be employed by the energy utilities companies. The answer lies in the adoption of cross industry solutions (i.e. learnings from the Uber’s. Ola’s of this world). Here is a one of the approaches that can be implemented to simulate the Uber’s model of matching supply and demand in the E&U context. The model eliminates the need of hierarchical processes of allocation and reconciliation by digitising it and empowering the field force to regulate the flow of jobs within the system.
Careful side by side analysis of the process flows of conventional way and Uberised process flow reveal that the new process simply eliminates the need for several steps through field force empowerment and E2E digitisation.
Field force in utilities comprises of workers who know their work inside out. By learning from cross industry trends, and adopting some of them to digitally transform experiences of field workers will help utilities make the right step change in terms of creating better employee experiences, and of productivity.
Co-Author : Atul Parte is my co-author for this point of view.
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