An electric and natural gas utility serving nearly 1.5 million customers United States aspired to win the J.D. Power award for retail electric providers within four years. The utility wanted to be among the best in customer service delivery according to J.D. Power ratings, which are based on survey responses from millions of customers who have actually used a particular service, and are leveraged by companies worldwide to improve quality, satisfaction, and business performance.
The utility had long-focused on public relations and was doing good works in the communities it served, but was behind the times in its technology and operations. For example, to set up automatic bill-pay with the utility, a customer needed to fax or mail in a form with a voided check. Customers were not given the option to choose their bill cycle, and customer service communication was limited to in-person, phone or mail.
Multiple key elements blocked the delivery of the world-class customer satisfaction necessary to achieve the award. The utility knew its technology infrastructure was not conducive to modern web and mobile services, but as a regulated entity, it had limited amounts of capital reserved for investments. There were also data quality concerns, with core customer data lacking integrity or missing.
In addition, the utility faced difficulties managing its many projects; there was a lack of project visibility across the organization, too many teams chasing too many projects, and insufficient employee training to execute business critical initiatives.
The utility’s leadership knew that achieving and maintaining best-in-class customer service would require improvements to its business processes, technology, and customer-service experience, but did not know the full extent of its challenges or what to prioritize in order to win the award. The utility needed expert consultants skilled in organizational, technical and business analysis of large organizations to assess the organization’s current state against its goals and develop a comprehensive multi-year roadmap to guide the utility into its future. They found this expertise in AIM Consulting.
AIM Consulting led a small team of consultants to perform a systematic analysis of the business and technology framework and develop an extensive project roadmap to lead the organization toward its goal. The roadmap was in large part a quantified gap analysis between the utility’s current state and the customer experience criteria used by J.D. Power for the award.
The roadmap envisioned a stabilized foundation for critical systems impacting the customer experience, upgraded technology where appropriate and necessary, and strategic programs crafted to energize internal teams and create visible results. It had three major components:
- A portfolio of all customer experience projects driving customer satisfaction that should be addressed over the next several years, with prioritization based on cost, known business needs, risks, resource availability of key teams and systems, KPI and LOE determinations, and other measures.
- Dashboards to provide executive-level visibility into progress and success from the business and IT perspectives for each calendar year from 2013 to 2015+.
- A strategy playbook with tools to maintain currency with the technology roadmap deliverables in the real world. These tools allowed the utility to continually update the roadmap according to factors such as project completion and overall progress. AIM recommended quarterly milestone reviews to determine progress against goals.
The roadmap allowed for the building out of foundational technology while providing incremental value to customers, a key factor in improving customer satisfaction over time.
Projects were organized around four major facets:
- Customer Empowerment (billing and payments, communication with customers, pricing, customer service
- Customer Communication (website improvements, increased device type support, targeted customer messaging)
- Outreach (corporate citizenship, customer engagement)
- Technology Foundation (stabilization, enhanced IT infrastructure)
In addition, AIM was able to identify technology gaps that, if addressed, would help the client achieve regulatory compliance while at the same time modernizing its infrastructure.
The utility company began by hiring a third party to periodically survey its customers and determine its customer service standing compared with what AIM identified it needed to attain the J.D. Power award. The results of the survey confirmed the necessity of the projects outlined in the roadmap.
In fact, the visibility supplied by the roadmap juxtaposed against the results of its customer service rating helped executive leadership to start immediately addressing issues that had been negatively impacting the customer experience for some time.
With a solid understanding of its current state, clear goals for the future, and a multi-year strategic roadmap to follow, the utility can now pursue the necessary projects needed to provide a truly world-class customer experience.