When the power goes out, the last thing an energy provider wants to do is keep their customers in the dark. But many utilities are still far behind the times when it comes to mobile workforce management. Of course, the complexities of managing real-time customer service requests are vast. Routing work orders, seamlessly connecting technicians and dispatchers, implementing legacy software applications, tracking customer feedback, viewing customer history, and managing home certification and diagnostics tools are just some of the issues that need to be resolved. But even with all these obstacles, legacy mobile workforce management systems leave customers waiting for the lights to come back on far longer than is needed.
With market deregulation in the late 1990s has come increased competition for electric utilities. This is a new world to which they must adjust, with increased focus on cutting costs and enhancing the customer service experience. And one key point of focus for both cost cutting and enhancing the customer experience is the in-home service appointment.
Some electric utilities are beginning to realize that the service a customer receives around appointments in their own home can have a huge impact on customer retention. According to research by Greenfield Online and Datamonitor/Ovum analysts, utilities in competitive regions lose $1.75 billion in annual revenue due to poor customer service. That number is the cost of customer churn/defections -- it doesn't take into account the wasted operational expenditures poor service creates.
To shed some light on the issue, TOA Technologies conducted a "Cost of Waiting Survey," to assess the true costs of waiting on companies and consumers. The survey is an eye opener for all industries with in-home service, however the electricity industry fared far worse than any other utility:
Clearly, there's a lot of room for improvement. If electric companies don't change the way they manage their workers and schedules, the costs could be enormous.
But there is a solution to this problem for electric companies. Today's technology allows companies to increase efficiencies while improving customer service. Mobile workforce management software can be integrated into existing CRM systems to seamlessly handle customer appointments and put an end to people "waiting without knowing." So, the "holy grail" of customer service does exist.
Offering appointments that suit the customer, not the delivery driver or mobile worker, is the first step to enhancing the customer experience. Old workforce management systems don't optimize routes and schedules -- which ends up wasting expensive man hours and gas consumption (particularly with fuel prices on the rise). Dispatch can't see in real-time what's happening across all workers and make adjustments where necessary -- another efficiency loss. And many customers leave their homes in frustration before a worker arrives, which then requires an additional truck-roll -- wasting both time and money for the utility.
What can make a real difference for electric utilities is providing customers with greater reassurance that the appointment will happen at the time it is supposed to take place and communicating possible changes proactively. Not only does this improve the customer experience, it also greatly reduces the number of missed appointments and in-bound calls to call centers, and therefore helps control costs.
Some companies look at customer service improvements as an expense -- but with the right solutions they're an investment that can produce quick and significant returns. By adhering to some very simple ideas, and a relatively humble investment, electric utilities can keep a lot of customers loyal and assure future revenue for the long term. By embracing new technologies, and by focusing on what is most important to customers -- their time and their dignity -- electric utilities can change the way they think about, and work with, their customers.
As providers start evaluating mobile workforce management systems, there are many criteria for comparing and evaluating. But they should always ask the following questions: