Thursday, February 28, 2013

IUKAN Session 2 Proceedings: Understanding the utility customers - helping the utilities in better roll out of operationalize

With more and more utilities struggling to engage rightly with their customers, IUKAN 2013 was torch bearer in highlighting the best practices in providing insights into the whole customer engagement process. Some of the top leaders in the utility segment presented their views on how the customers form one of the most important, yet not recognized, pillars for the success of the utility operations.

The driving philosophy behind the session was to discuss the key challenges are utilities are facing in engaging with the customers. The session also talked of the vision for the utilities to have for its customer-engagement initiatives, in light of the fast changing nature of the utility customer.
Faiz Wahid, Director & Co-Founder at pManifold, provided the background and introduction of the session. He pointed out that one of the key factors contributing towards the commercial losses at the utilities emerge out of the "forced" behaviors of the customers. responsible for a large chunk of the commercial losses faced by the utility emerge from the improper handling of customer touch-points. He further emphasized that these "softer" aspects of the utility operations need to be rightly addressed as a measure to reduce the commercial losses. Moving on, Faiz provided insights on how the Willingness-To-Pay (WTP) of the customers are affected by the perceived value and affordability of customers, and presented a case study of a large water utility in western India. The case study showcased the analysis of WTP for water-related services across various socio-economic sections of utility customers. Going on further, Faiz talked about how an utility can focus on specific sections of society to to prioritize and then address the grievances of people, so as to maximize the customer satisfaction and eventually, imbibe more ownership towards the utility. To provide ground to his comments, Faiz presented a pManifold Case Study on the Customer Opinion-Preferenes- Satisfaction (COPS) study for a leading electric utility in Central India.

Coming in next, Mr. Sudarshan Saini, Chief (Commercial), Tata Power-DDL, presented his views on how innovating and improving the service delivery goes a long way in reducing the losses. Mr. Saini showcased how TPDDL achieved an increase of approx 400% in its revenues while reducing the workforce by more than 30%!! According to Mr. Saini the big question for today's utility operators is to understand the Customer Perspective. This, he said, is the crux, as the nature of customer interfaces with the utility is growing more and more complex every passing day. Upholding the TPDDL vision to being the most trusted and admired power distribution utility, Mr Saini explained how the company had identified and areas of focus for the utility, post-handover. At TPDDL, as Mr Saini walked everyone through, the slew of technical and commercial measures to increase the customer focus and building a stronger customer relationship and imbibing a performance based culture.

As one comes to think about what is holding the government-run utilities back from engaging more strongly with its customers, Mrs. N. Jayanthi, General Manager (Customer Relations), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd.(BESCom), presented the BESCom case study and how it has gone from a typical public utility to one that is strongly coherent with its customers, growing stronger everyday. Mrs Jayanthi presented a unique point in building customer satisfaction through engaging the utility employees. She highlighted that the appropriate training of employees and use of technology to ensure more transparent methodology. BESCom, over the years, has adopted a whole bunch of initiatives to reach out to its customers and keep them well attended and satisfied with BESCom's service delivery. A change in the organizational culture of BESCom, with the uptake of Performance Ranking Cards for its officers has gone a long way in building the success story of the utility, Mrs. Jayanthi said. One of the innovative initiatives being taken up by BESCom included an employee-exchange program for its Customer Service employees with those of international utilities. In conclusion, Mrs Jayanthi walked everyone through the phenomenal results the utility has achieved over the last 3-5years in terms of loss reduction (20% to 14%) and commercial operational improvements (Avg time taken to attend complaint reduced from 118min to 36min, while Billing Efficiency improved from 80% to 86%).

A big gap exists today in terms of customer data availability and application for improved utility performance. The issue is not as much with the availability of data as much it is with correctly interpreting and using that data to understand the strategic interventions required with the data as the base.

Mr. Satish Kumar, Energy Efficiency Ambassador and VP, Professional Services, Schneider India brought to the fore the way utility data can be analyzed and presented to the stakeholders to engage with its  customers. He explained how an Energy Management Information System (EMIS) can enable a consumer to collect, store and analyze the energy consumption patterns. He further added that dissemination of this information to the users can assist in early detection of poor performances, audit the operations and lead to better energy budgeting. Mr. Satish presented a live case study of how a manufacturing plant uses the smart technology to not just store the energy data, but use it best for most efficient plant operations through OpEx reduction.

On a closing note, the session highlighted the necessity to use a blend of the right technology and right methodology to the previously often neglected aspect of the utility operations - the utility customers. The session, through its speakers also presented the success stories of some of the top industries / utilities that they've achieved through their customer engagement initiatives.

The IUKAN 2013, TV coverage, pictures, speaker presentations are available at

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