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How Utilities Can Implement an Intelligent Customer Management Transformation Strategy

Posted to Wipro in the Digital Utility Group
Vipul Kumar Gupta's picture
Consulting Partner, Utilities, Wipro Limited Wipro

Vipul is a consulting partner in the utility sector with 24 years of experience in IT. He is part of Wipro’s Domain and Consulting practice, specializing in domain-centric utility solutions....

  • Member since 2022
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  • Jun 30, 2022
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Many utilities have grown their customer management, customer information systems (CIS) and billing capabilities around tenured platforms like SAP, Oracle or other mainframe-based platforms. As the industry navigates new challenges such as the cost to acquire and serve customers, customer experience issues, and the requirements of a low-carbon economy, the pace of change has forced utility companies to upgrade their capabilities and make customer management systems more intelligent. Their old platforms simply aren’t able to accommodate current market demands.

Large providers like SAP, Oracle and others have introduced a variety of new industry cloud solutions to meet utilities’ need for better returns from existing investments, to avoid the risks involved in system transitions, and to accommodate their comfort with existing platform stacks. But how should utilities explore these strategies when planning their digital and business transformation?

Three Ways to Approach Intelligent Transformation

Utility companies can meet market demands by adopting one of three distinct approaches to make their customer systems more intelligent. Business performance acceleration solutions address the typical challenges in specific areas affecting business performance, areas like late/incorrect bills, high volume of billing exceptions, and cumbersome user journeys. Heritage-led transformation solutions help clients develop new capabilities without replacing their existing billing/CIS solutions by deploying micro-services/API-based architecture solutions to integrate new capabilities. Total platform transformation includes deploying systems for the future by embracing the best of digital tech including AI/ML, automation, and the cloud economy.

Cloud solutions from firms like SAP and Oracle are advantageous for utilities that have made significant investments in these legacy platforms. These cloud-enabled solutions target companies looking to deploy new customer management and billing solutions but prefer established market solutions for reasons including risk mitigation, customization, and the size of their customer base.

Meeting Market Demands with New Capabilities

These new market solutions are embedded with many new capabilities. Typically, vendors such as SAP and Oracle target four important new trends to help utilities meet current market demands.

  • Speed to market through industry cloud apps

These pre-built solutions shorten the time to rollout and reduce custom code footprint on billing and CRM systems. They also make the existing system easy to upgrade. 

  • Omnichannel solutions

Pre-built solutions connect silos and deliver seamless customer experiences across channels without cannibalization. With capabilities such as Customer 360 or customer data platforms, these solutions pass customer context data across channels and enable features like intelligent call routing.

  • Insights-led experience

Insights help companies provide better customer experiences and identify new opportunities. Using the power of AI, personalization is possible through experience orchestrators with predictive insights, optimization algorithms and advanced information presentation capabilities. These insights can be deployed across channels.

  • Purposeful Automation

Automation can serve various customer segments (personas) through a variety of channels. For example, automation can address many standard interactions like handling product inquiries. AI can quickly identify interactions that require empathy or persuasion and automatically route those queries to an agent.                   

Strategy to Transform Customer Management

Taking an iterative approach can help utilities grow their future customer management capabilities without sacrificing their investments in tenured platforms. This strategy allows utility companies to deliver business value faster while providing time to adapt to new workflows and adopt new capabilities as needed. This approach can be conceived as a four-step journey.

  •  Step 1 - Stabilize the Core

Start by addressing any significant stability and business performance issues with the existing suite of applications. Employ utility best-practice playbooks and other solutions like AI-based exception management. It is important to ensure that business KPIs like late bills, unbilled revenue, data inconsistency and business exceptions are reduced. This will significantly improve business value and customer satisfaction.

  •  Step 2 - Intelligent and Automated Processes

Consider robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent solutions to enhance the customer service agent’s experience without major changes to the core system.

  •  Step 3 - Enhance Customer Systems

Next, update existing customer systems to systems of experience and engagement through microservices/APIs. Microservices are a great way to quickly add new functionality without rebuilding existing systems. Use intuitive UI and analytics-driven interactions as an incremental layer on existing solutions to add personalized customer experiences.

  • Step 4 - Embrace Total Cloud Transformation

By using industry cloud solutions incrementally, core customer information systems are eventually migrated to the cloud. Cloud journey roadmaps and utility templates groomed through best practices can significantly mitigate program risks and accelerate the deployment.

Utilities maturity journey and Wipro offerings

How Utilities Can Implement an Intelligent Customer Management Transformation Strategy

Figure: Four steps to customer management transformation

Many large utility organizations have invested both time and money in legacy mainframe platforms but now find the need to modernize their capabilities. The good news is these platforms are answering the need by addressing new market demands in their roadmaps with solutions that are easy to add like microservices. Transforming customer management on legacy systems doesn’t have to be overwhelming or require adding new vendors. Following an iterative approach allows utility companies to gradually meet the demands of the market by adding new capabilities to their existing systems without compromising time to market, risking core system functionality or disrupting their existing customer base. 

Who we are

Wipro Limited is a leading global information technology, consulting, and business process services company. We harness the power of cognitive computing, hyper-automation, robotics, cloud, analytics, and emerging technologies to help our clients adapt to the digital world and make them successful. 

Growing interest in sustainable energy sources, microgrids, and distributed energy, enhanced customer-centricity, and ever-changing regulations demand new business models from the energy and utility sector.

As a leading service provider across the utility value chain, with a strong commitment to building a net-zero global economy, Wipro is helping enterprises reinvent themselves to deliver superior business performance and more sustainable outcomes. With more than 4,500 professionals working across power, gas, and water utilities, we are a trusted partner to more than 75 utility customers globally.

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Vipul Kumar Gupta's picture
Thank Vipul for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 30, 2022

Consider robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent solutions to enhance the customer service agent’s experience without major changes to the core system.

What's the best way to balance the amount this helps the customer service workers with the desire from t he customer to be talking and dealing with a person and not automation? 

Vipul Kumar Gupta's picture
Vipul Kumar Gupta on Aug 17, 2022

Hello Matt,

Thanks for the excellent question.

It is true that we need to have a balance between automation and human interactions. 

Our experience suggests that we must use automation followed by cognitive / AI solutions to help agents perform the work more efficiently. For instance, RPA can be used to set up a direct debit, payment plan etc. the idea is not to eliminate the customer service agent but allow them to perform the work more efficiently. Empower them with insights which will enable then to take intelligent calls to serve the customers better. Use power of RPA to perform instruction based tasks more quickly

customer experience is enhanced if agents have context specific information available to them more quickly, It certainly helps in reducing the average call handling time and improved employee experience as well 

Todd Carney's picture
Todd Carney on Jul 10, 2022

Thank you for posting this, it is really exciting how ingenuity and innovation can help the world overcome challenges. Are there particular actors, such as the government, that could do more to support these advances?

Vipul Kumar Gupta's picture
Vipul Kumar Gupta on Aug 17, 2022

Hello Todd, Thanks for your questions.

Utilities around the world are given incentives to improve customer experience. For example, in UK OFGEM has defined performance based framework called RIIO to offer incentives or apply penalty based on the level of customer service.

Apart from government and regulatory bodies, utilities have incentives to embrace these solutions to reduce their cost to serve and improve customer footprints.   In-short these solutions are must have and offer win-win preposition.

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Aug 1, 2022

No doubt that this technology has the potential to make energy companies much more efficient. The challenge often is retooling business processes. They are often very complex, employees understand them, and changing them can intimidating to some workers. 

Vipul Kumar Gupta's picture
Vipul Kumar Gupta on Aug 17, 2022

Hello Paul,

Thanks for sharing a very practice challenge..

Change is one of the most difficult thing to impose unless there is a huge benefit attached to it. As we all know change is inevitable and this is the only thing which keep our world exciting.

 I would like to share some real time experiences in dealing with change. It is seen that if you involve business users during the design and buddy testing. They provide very valuable inputs in making sure that the design is meaningful and user friendly. later on these business SMEs become our biggest change agents.  I have seen this working in all our large transformation programs.

 

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