The Value Of Vendor Consolidation For Utilities
Utility companies must constantly juggle many different technical and business aspects to keep the lights on for their customers. From electricity generation to power transmission, to grid upgrades, to responding to outages, to the shift to clean energy, to the integration of new digital technology...The prospects are enough to make anyone’s head spin. While keeping those physical lights shining for homes and businesses across the service area is the number one goal, energy leaders know that keeping the metaphorical lights on at the utility is just as important and complex as utility customer communications management. They have to ensure that all customer interactions occur smoothly, accurately, and in a timely manner.
So, while power providers must focus on the actual electrons moving through their service lines, forward-looking leaders know how advantageous it can be to partner with outside solution providers for utility customer communications management. This type of partnership can be especially beneficial for smaller utilities with less available employees and resources to spend.
That said, the proclivity to outsource these needs to vendors may quickly lead to similar inefficiencies, and associated costs, multiplying if they utilize unique partners for each aspect of that journey. Instead, the shrewd utility will seek to find the perfect partner who can cover that entire utility customer communications journey, optimally, under one umbrella.
Get the best-in-class CCM expertise from the first utility customer communication, all the way through to payments, late notices, and beyond
Why utility customer communications management should be under one umbrella
When partnering with an outside provider for any aspect of the utility’s customer communications, the company must still spend internal resources to ‘own’ each vendor relationship. For each of those relationships, utility employees will be undertaking regular (monthly, weekly, or in some cases even daily) touchpoints to monitor the outputs, evaluate the process, identify areas for improvement, and put out any fires that arise.
This process can be time consuming and a waste of money. A main goal of finding these vendors was to save the time of in-house employees, but those benefits get undercut with every additional interaction required to keep yet another of the numerous relationships on track.
Further, when errors unfortunately and inevitably do arise somewhere in these processes, having unique partners responsible for various aspects of the journey only makes diagnosing the problem, triaging the plan of action, and enacting final action more difficult.
Utility representatives will be facing growing conference calls, cascading email chains that bring in multiple vendors, all with each vendor trying to explain why any error was not their fault or responsibility. In the end, all the utility cares about is simply finding the best solution as efficiently as possible. But with multiple unique vendors, the energy companies find themselves herding cats instead when trying to get all the involved and potentially impacted parties together to create an effective action plan.
Each subsequent vendor also creates a new silo, retaining and not sharing information, data, resources, and more. These silos create unnecessary walls and challenges in any business environment, as the breakdown of communication and associated inefficiencies are artificially perpetuated.
And in the end, the frustration from multiple vendors isn’t just about convenience and efficiency, but it also relates to security. The more places a utility’s data is housed and the more points of entry into the internal systems, new opportunities arise for potential cybersecurity breaches.
These challenges are no exaggeration either, as the average enterprise typically manages more than 10 different vendor relationships for a single digital initiative. With each subsequent vendor, the potential issues can only snowball further out of control and into an unenviable risk environment. But all is not lost, as utilities can turn to the following strategic solution: vendor consolidation.
The value of vendor consolidation for utilities
Vendor consolidation is the strategy wherein the utility opts to identify a single, trusted provider who can own the entire customer communication journey from beginning to end. The utility works with one, consolidated vendor without interruptions and inefficiencies associated with additional outside third parties.
The strength of the relationship between utility and vendor only grows and becomes more impactful when the attention is focused on a single partner. Further, the ability of that partner to oversee the entire process means that, if any issues arise, or if any new processes are desired, then implementation is now just a straightforward, one-stop process.
The savings can be immense...
Further, customers can notice the difference in tone, style, and process in the customer communication journey if they’re getting different messaging with unique vendor fingerprints - depending on where in that process they are. Instead, utilities operating under vendor consolidation can provide customers with a unified, direct, and authoritative voice that ushers them smoothly throughout the entire process.
This is a huge win for utilities, as they don’t just save but rather open new revenue opportunities. For example, 81% of customers, surveyed by Accenture, report confirm that a seamless customer experience makes them more likely to buy additional products and services from their energy provider.
For any utility company that’s already entangled in a web of vendors handling various aspects of their utility customer communications journey, the thought of tackling that process can be intimidating. Sticking with the status quo and making it work is the easiest and lowest inertia decision, but the positive impact of making those changes can be immeasurably great.
But to truly reap the benefits, utilities can’t just consolidate vendors on a whim, but instead, they must do so by seeking out the potential partner that can best fill their needs. Indeed, 59% of energy companies agree that engaging with the right vendor serves as a cost-cutting tool.
For utilities specifically seeking to consolidate vendors in their billing operations, Doxim provides the best-in-class expertise of these utility customer processes from the first communication all the way through payments, late notices, and beyond.
Doxim has transformed the way utility partners elsewhere have handled these critical aspects, and can bring that enterprise transformation mindset directly to your company as well.
Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, by way of Washington DC. He studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia before diving into the world of federal energy policy.
Today he runs Chester Energy and Policy LLC and publishes his blog at ChesterEnergyandPolicy.com in which he shares news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy and energy technology. You can also see Matt’s work on energycentral.com where he serves as a Community Manage with a utility industry focus.
Matt is writing a series of guest blogs for Doxim, focusing on paperless billing and digital communication in utilities.
For daily quick hits on energy and utility topics, you can follow him on Twitter at @ChesterEnergy.