The digital transformation of personal entertainment and communications has made consumers increasingly comfortable with digital tools and platforms. To the consumer, it’s iTunes Match, Google Drive, Apple TV and Pokemon GO. People who are completely unaware of IT are using cloud storage, file streaming and augmented reality, usually without any understanding of the underlying technology or its complexity. Consumers now expect this comfort, availability and ease of use to extend to all other areas of their lives, especially in dealings with service providers such as telcos and utilities. For instance, consumers do not want to call in and wait in a queue to report a damaged pole, when they could simply alert their utility via Instagram.
The challenge for utilities now is to provide a digital experience that informs customers, in a concise manner, about matters that are relevant to them, such as outages or upcoming extreme weather events, and to do it as easily as they capture a Pokemon. Today, customers expect to deal with their utility-related concerns with the same ease that they manage their banking transactions, where their fingerprint helps them log into their bank account using their smartphone. To enable this, utilities must mix customer presentment solutions, such as billing and customer portal solutions, with data from social media, and add information gathered from enterprise solutions to provide customers with complete situational awareness. The focus is on the end-to-end digital transformation of the entire utilities value chain—across network utilities, supply utilities and central markets.
A new approach for the digital age
In response to these new expectations, utilities are tailoring customer support processes and tools. Some of the methods that they already have adopted include:
- Proactive customer notification, where traditional utility communications paths are being replaced with text messages, emails and push-based notifications.
- Crowdsourced damage assessment, where smartphones are turning customers into ad hoc field damage assessors, snapping photos and tweeting in real time about ongoing events.
At CGI, we facilitate this flow of information and use our knowledge and capabilities to facilitate our clients’ end-to-end digital transformation. Our Pragma* suite of products provides an instant channel of communication between utilities and their customers. Our solution includes advanced storm management, outage and field work management, and customer notification modules that draw data from multiple sources to allow utilities to efficiently run the electric distribution business. In addition, while new mobile tools increase workforce productivity, recent digital enhancements enable intelligent automation of critical processes in the outage management life cycle.
Today, the change that Pragma brings lies in the immediacy of our information. For instance, crowdsourced image identification provides field crew with real-time information and helps them determine the probable point of failure, while also sending personal notifications to customers using the information gathered within Pragma. These digital tools improve the quality of information available to field crew, enhance customer service and accelerate digital transformation.
With these potential benefits, digital tools are increasingly gaining popularity and transforming the way that consumers interact with utilities. Using these tools, utilities are modernizing customer communications, streamlining processes, eliminating waiting time, and improving the quality and timeliness of information.
The changing role of the customer
The paradigm shift also brings the role of customers to the center stage, and makes them active participants in the entire restoration process. While in the past, customers usually reported an outage over the phone, and then called back to check on progress every 20 minutes, now information is actively pushed to customers. This equips them with complete knowledge about their situation and increases customer satisfaction.
Recognizing this, CGI is committed to enhancing customer satisfaction for utilities by implementing solutions that streamline a utility’s communication process, making customers an integral part of the restoration process. Organizations that already have this capability can predict the time needed to restore their services more accurately. As a result, they consistently exceed customer expectations and routinely win top rankings in customer satisfaction surveys within the utilities industry.
*Pragma is a registered trademark of CGI Group Inc. or its related companies.
About this author
Peter Barnes is the product manager responsible for the evolution of CGI’s PragmaSMART solution suite. He has 25 years of experience in the design and implementation of outage, network and workforce management solutions at various different utilities.