UC ROI in the Utility Industry
This is the fourth of an eight-part weekly series of articles that leads up to the UC Summit 2012 that will take place May 6-9 in La Jolla, CA. See the UC Summit website for more details. Provided by Samantha Kane of Kane-MacKay & Associates, a UCStrategies Expert.
Kane-Mackay & Associates provide many Utilities across North America with people, process and technology advice. The following is a successful case study in the North East of the USA that covered several states with electricity services.
In the Utility industry there are many examples of successful UC ROI. Most vendors think that Utility clients want front door ROI services such as self service to drive costs down, typical driven by a VP of Customer Care and the cost of a center. But working in the utility industry has proven to us that there are many opportunities in the back office to not only drive costs down, but add value, become pro-active rather than reactive and reduce the number of complaints that get sent to a Utility Commission for investigation by understanding the UC and CEBP.
The Utility industry has several areas in their “back office” environment that are very costly, require 7 x 24 staffing and are intense when fired up. One example is their Communication Command Center for Storm Management. The function of this center is to analyze storms in different environmental states, how that is affecting customers, the foot print that the storm is taking and how it changes in service requests from a six-hour footprint into a 24-hour footprint and then a 48 and 72 hour when outages are high, complaints high and communication overwhelming.
Traditionally all set up and delivery, co-ordination and communication have been manual in nature creating an intense schedule with no time to spare. In analyzing this business process it became very apparent that a UC model using conference automation, presence, mobility access and time zone issue trees co-ordination could bring core teams together, automate access to people and documentation, access to Scada operations and the tracking of the storm footprint. This allowed different skillsets to participate from their current positions, bring in experts when needed, historical information on similar storm patterns and provide real-time communications to complaint management and when necessary the commission who monitor these storms and their affect on customers in those particular states. Note this is a Utility that services several states and therefore is monitored by several Commissions, none of which have the same SLA requirements.
The implementation was approached as a phase cut starting with the automation of conference bridges and resource lists, expanded into presence then added mobility, then Scada and finally grid model information and radar tracking to the overall picture.
The end result was a re-assignment of five FTE’s per shift (this is a 7 x 24 when in full swing) which meant that over a three-shift period, 12 FTE’s were reduced because of the UC success. In dollar value this represents $698,000 a year, addressed any union issues, created efficiencies in the overall operations of this center and reduced operation costs such as licenses, desktop maintenance, etc, by a minimum of 12%. Additionally the number of complaints to both internal sources as well as external sources was tracked by 27.8 %. The average cost of a response to a complaint starts at $300 and can total as much as $1,200 in time and effort. The reduction of outage calls to the call center dropped by 31.5%, therefore reducing the need for outsourcing on storm days, another significant reduction of costs
Using this model, the client has added three more back office areas to this model in Scada, complaints and other forms of internal communications tied to scheduling within distribution. The results cannot be published but exceed the original models stated in this paper.
Any UC vendor reading this paper should acknowledge that understanding the “As is” process and applying common sense and UC tools provides the client with these types of successful “To be” rewards. The key to this particular project was to start small where there was a real pain point to the client and their clients, resulting in Utility Regulatory intervention. All those components made it a great place to start. The next important factor was to take a tight control over the roll out. Having a consultant PM the job helped take pressure off the vendors and gave the client a comfort level they may not have had.
The third factor was being able to have the client fill in the ROI with their own costs and participate in the findings. This provided a sense of ownership to the client with empowerment and accountability. All great results.