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5 Ways Utility Providers Can Leverage Digital Solutions to Gain Operational Efficiencies and Ensure Long-Term Success

image credit: ServicePower
Samir Gulati's picture
Chief Marketing and Product Officer, ServicePower

Samir Gulati was appointed Chief Marketing and Product Officer at ServicePower in 2017, where he is responsible for all aspects of Marketing and Product Management, including market strategy...

  • Member since 2021
  • 1 items added with 1,106 views
  • Feb 5, 2021

Utility providers are under increasing financial pressure due to several ongoing market changes, including growing competition from green energy solutions and ever-expanding regulatory compliance legislation. When combined with a shrinking workforce of seasoned technicians, it can be difficult for utility providers to continue the day-to-day business of maintaining legacy infrastructure, deploying new technology and equipment and managing preparedness for seasonable peaks and unpredictable disasters. 

New digital, cloud-based solutions can help utility providers mitigate the impact of these ever-evolving challenges. Schedule optimization software provides unmatched workforce management capabilities that can enhance job quality and productivity, reduce unnecessary downtime and close scheduling gaps for the power and utility industry. This technology helps drive efficiencies while lowering costs and improving the bottom line. Here are five ways that forward-thinking utilities organizations are using digital software solutions to forge a new pathway for achieving their long-term financial goals.  

1. Engage Customers 

Consumers today demand more control over their service experiences. While consumers may not have a choice in their utility providers, they still have a significant impact on brand reputation, making the customer experience an important consideration for utility companies. Providers can deliver exceptional service experiences and achieve high customer satisfaction with a self-service digital portal that supplies real-time job status and communications with field technicians.  

Consumer Portals allows companies to tailor field experiences to customers by giving them more self-service options and control over their service experience. They are able to easily submit service requests, self-select appointment times and have real-time updates as to when to expect a technician. A self-service portal can enhance customer engagement and increase your Net Promoter Score by 27%. Consumer Portals give consumers the autonomy they seek over service visits, increasing their perception of the company and facilitating operational logistics improvements for utility providers. A 10% improvement in customer experience scores can result in a revenue impact of $1 billion, so it is vital that utility providers implement digital tools for consumers in order to increase financial gain. 

2. Increase Scheduling Efficiencies 

Maintaining a balance between field workforce size and market need is a challenging task for many utility providers as scheduling issues can result in costly downtime and scheduling gaps. The best way to streamline this process is to assign utility workforces based on need, skillset, availability, and credentials, not on size. Doing so reduces downtime and increases productivity and consistency while also enabling better control over workforce utilization.   

Schedule Optimization software increases visibility and enables real-time scheduling. AI-based software automatically selects the best technician, employed or contracted, for each job. Technicians are then scheduled in the most cost-effective open slot, reducing overall costs and improving first-time-fix rates. AI-based scheduling optimization software can increase productivity by up to 68% and reduce costs by 15%. By implementing real-time traffic and GPS location data, scheduling software can optimize route planning and reduce turnaround times. Also, optimizing technician scheduling through digital software can improve schedule adherence and completion rates while simultaneously integrating back-office data and processes to maintain consistency in performance. 

3. Quickly Adapt to Rapidly Changing Market Dynamics   

Utility providers, like other service companies, face the challenge of maintaining a highly skilled workforce. Fewer young people are entering these fields than in the past, which makes it challenging to replace seasoned workers as they retire. Industry analysts predict the US will need an additional 2 million field service workers to meet demand for service and support. This makes it more challenging to address every-day service needs, let alone increased demand during seasonal peaks or natural disasters. Leveraging third-party technicians can help address these challenges by enabling utility providers to effectively scale as market demand fluctuates. More than 73% of the field service companies that employ third-party technicians outperform competitors with full-time-only staff on multiple fronts, including SLA compliance, first-time fix rates, schedule accuracy and overall workforce optimization. 

Third-Party Dispatch software uses configurable business rules to leverage a blended workforce so utility providers can better scale operations as demand changes. The software optimizes field service workflows across both employed and contracted workforces, basing technician job assignment on availability, location, skillset, and regulatory credentials. Third-Party Dispatch software allows brand continuity across large workforces. By centralizing communication and scheduling for the entire team of technicians, providers can expand their service portfolio to increase regional coverage with enhanced workforce expertise and lower cost of service.  

4. Empower Field Service Technicians 

 Many utility providers still rely on manual, paper-based processes and fax systems to manage their service. Yet, manual processes are highly susceptible to error, cause costly duplication of work, and are limited in their ability to provide visibility and data analytics. Manual processes also impact in-field workflows for technicians who are highly dispersed and always on the move, making it challenging to track project progress and effectively utilize resources. Digital mobile field tools help utility providers manage the entire lifecycle of activity for field technicians and empowers those technicians with on-demand access to the tools and information they need to ensure the best outcomes for each job. 

Technician Mobility Management software provides field technicians with real-time access to the tools, processes and information when and where they need it to quickly and efficiently complete their jobs. This includes offline tools for situations with limited connectivity. Service mobility software improves technician productivity by providing technicians with real-time access to parts and inventory and ensures the right truck with the right equipment is available for each job. By making this information readily available to field technicians, utility providers can increase first-time fix rate and technician job satisfaction as servicing requests becomes easier to manage with the appropriate tools. A fully equipped and empowered technician can reduce costs through improved first-time service. 

5. Increase Visibility and Service Performance  

The foundation of a high-performing field service operation is actionable data analytics with which to track business performance, implement continuous improvement initiatives and promote better decision-making. Analytics and reporting tools enable utility providers to continuously monitor and track operational KPIs through dashboards, alerts and reports, allowing for real-time strategy adjustment. Leveraging data analytics can help increase service-level agreement performance by 55% and service profits by 18%, improving the overall service experience while boosting revenue.  

By utilizing analytics and reporting software, utility providers can improve service operations, enhance forecasting and planning, and improve workforce management to better optimize their bottom line. Unified reporting from multiple sources ensures universal visibility across an entire blended workforce. Additionally, business analytics reporting can map demand to capacity and trend analyses, informing operating margins, schedule and service costs.  

The Bottom Line 

We live in an era of rapidly changing market dynamics. Organizations that provide utility services need the ability to proactively plan for every situation, and they need innovative solutions to quickly address unpredictable urgencies. Innovative solutions not only address the needs of utility providers but also the needs of their clients. Utilities benefit from greater operational efficiencies, increased productivity and lower costs while their clients gain peace of mind knowing their needs will be met as quickly and efficiently as possible. 


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