Over the next decade, most electric utilities in the United States will apply smart grid, including advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), technologies to:
- Operate more efficiently.
- Reduce distribution line losses and increase reliability.
- Support distributed and renewable generation solutions.
- Manage the electric load from plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.
As utilities’ power distribution operations evolve, so too will the demands on their call centers—from customers seeking to understand the new devices in their homes, as well as new services, rates, and billing options.
Have you considered the potential impact on your call center operations? And, more importantly, do you have a plan in place to ensure your call center is ready to handle the changes in volume and types of calls?
An opportunity to reduce operating costs.
The move to a smart grid will require new capabilities, new knowledge, and ways of working within your call center. If you are preparing to introduce smart grid solutions, including AMI, you should be prepared for changes in:
- The number of calls received.
- The type of calls you receive.
- How your agents resolve calls and escalate issues.
- Normal and peak-period call volumes.
Adapting to these changes—in an environment of cost constraints, staffing limitations, and union requirements—can be easier said than done. At the same time, though, it may offer opportunities to reduce costs and improve customer experience by taking advantage of best-in-class knowledge management tools and other available technology.
Enable the smart grid value proposition.
Considering your future call center capabilities now—before they become urgent needs—not only supports your utility’s investment in a smart grid; it can help you:
- Reduce operating costs over time by utilizing less-expensive, technology-based contact channels to address certain customer needs.
- Improve agent effectiveness by delivering the right information at the point of customer contact.
- Implement changes in a practical, focused manner.
How we help.
West Monroe Partners has extensive experience establishing and optimizing call center operations, as well as deep expertise planning for and implementing smart grid programs.
We work with utilities to identify call center operations that will be most affected by a smart grid initiative, and then we develop a call center roadmap for aligning future operations with the smart grid program.
To develop our initial assessment, we typically interview call center managers and agents and review current call types, call center technologies, key performance indicators, and reports. We also take into consideration the culture of the organization, as well as the customer mix (residential vs. commercial).
The result of this assessment is a call center roadmap for aligning an organization’s future call center operations and technology with the smart grid program. As part of this process, we also work with utilities to quantify the operational and capital costs, as well as quantifying the potential cost savings in the call center operations by implementing the call center roadmap.
In addition to this assessment, West Monroe Partners helps utilities implement these capabilities as a part of a smart grid program and serves as a strategic advisor for managing changes to customer experience as the organization implements a new, smart grid-driven customer service model.
Dave Tilson is a director in West Monroe Partners’ Customer Experience practice.