There is a lot of talk in the water market about “bilaterals” and the operational processes that support the new retail water market. What is this about and why does it matter? For me, the main point here is customer experience. The industry has worked very hard to get the competitive market up and running, the market processes and systems are in place and customers are switching. It is still very new and this “newness” stimulates interest and activity. But if poor customer experience takes the gloss of that new market, then we risk deflating interest. And that is where the operational processes and “bilaterals” come in.
The operational processes are the plumbing (pardon the watery pun) that allow retailers and wholesalers to interact effectively to satisfy the needs of customers. For example: to arrange for a new meter to be installed; to make new connections; or to warn customers of potential service interruptions. Getting these operational things right is critical to the on-going success of the market. If any one of these things slips, it will be the customers that suffer, either in terms of poor service or increased bills.
At the moment, the operational processes are supported by the “bilaterals arrangements”. An article in the January edition of The Water Report talks about these with key industry players, and finds “A key theme here, and one which elicits agreement among stakeholders, is that the bilaterals arrangements, through which wholesalers and retailers exchange operational information, are ripe for greater standardisation.” At CGI we have an answer for that standardisation – a Central Operations Portal (COP).
A COP is a single portal that is used by all market participants, as the one-stop-shop for all of the operational processes. This common nature means that retailers will have one place to go and one way of doing things. Wholesalers will have a single channel for disseminating important incident information to all affected retailers. The portal will also improve industry data quality by providing user-friendly forms, pre-populated with central CMOS data, and a link to update incorrect data. These efficiency factors will allow market participants to maintain a low cost to serve with savings ultimately passed on to the customers. But above all, they will ensure the smooth operational processes that are essential to maintain a positive customer experience in the new market.
Please contact me if you want to talk about this topic. Alternatively, the article “Smooth operations: how is greater standardisation in operational processes best achieved?” in the Water Report covers the topic in a bit more detail.