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As gas, water, electricity, and other utility vendors conduct maintenance, repair, and installation work for the masses, it’s vital these companies maintain reliable and positive customer service. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can accommodate improved relations between utility companies and the clients they serve. The benefits of RPA start from within and extend to customers; employees are liberated from high-volume, repetitive tasks and therefore are more available to handle customer-centric issues. Beyond cost- and time-savings, the return-on-investment (ROI) from RPA is a more effective, empowered workforce focused on meeting customers’ needs. Companies in the energy and utilities industry that have implemented RPA have experienced a boost in employee and customer satisfaction for a variety of business and operational activities.
With so many different companies vying for business, outstanding customer service provides a competitive edge. Customer satisfaction equates to glowing reviews (online or word-of-mouth) and a solid reputation. Conversely, negative reviews can have devastating effects. According to Entrepreneur, “Bad news travels very fast. Think viral. Warren Buffett once said, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’” Often, these detrimental bad reviews for utilities stem from the amount of time it takes vendors to resolve issues or even respond to customer inquiries or complaints. Well, it’s RPA to the rescue since RPA software robots (bots) can simplify the bottlenecked procedures and cut down response time significantly. Chatbots can be configured to instantaneously trigger an automatic reply to customer service requests. RPA technology can also improve the customer experience by enabling a self-service option for some transactions which reduces call volume. Call centers can become more high functioning by automating key components so they can deliver solutions to customers in real-time.
Organizations that have a high volume of repetitive transactions that result in billing customers will quickly realize the return-on-investment (ROI) of applying RPA to operational or business processes that require complete accuracy. ComTec asserts, “Sometimes a human error could lead to generating an incorrect bill, which could result in overcharging or undercharging the customer. Errors like these have serious consequences on the reputation of the company.” RPA can ensure precise tabulations consistently since the bot is configured to carry out the data entry that is sometimes prone to human error or mistaken keystrokes. In addition to resolving complaints, bots can also manage customer records and transfer data across platforms.
Morrison Utility Services, an organization that supports the infrastructure of many utility enterprises in the U.K., implemented RPA for the largest gas distribution company. RPA was deployed to carry out data preparation for its e-commerce system. “Previously all data had to be input manually which was slow and prone to error. Now, the robot prepares the data for entry into the system so that the company knows it is accurate.”
Utility and energy companies have to meet the needs of people who live and work in the community day-to-day, as well as those in times of emergency. Utilities that prove their resilience to customers during hard times by continuous service, profit from a client base that will, in turn, remain loyal. ISG says “How an organization handles a crisis lives on much longer in their customers’ memories than how it handles a customer when everything is going well.” As observed during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses across the globe had to adjust to new regulations, economic constraints, and varying workplace conditions. Stressed by the unknowns of a new health crisis, companies had to adapt to all changes and press ahead despite major obstacles. Many utility providers rose to the challenge during the pandemic and took practical steps to remain fully operational—like employing RPA to alleviate pressure on already anxious employees. As RPA technology relegates mundane tasks to bots, thereby streamlining time-consuming processes, workers could still fulfill their responsibilities—whether working from home, on-site, or in the field delivering services to customers.
Utilities that have invested in techniques to improve customer service, know RPA heightens productivity, while also reducing costs since it frees employees from humdrum back-office functions so they can engage in client-facing matters that result in a better experience for customers. The largest supplier of electricity to businesses in the U.K., EDF Energy has realized the cost benefits of adopting RPA within its Financial Shared Services Center. Center Director Robert Gilhooly explains, “Continuous improvement is vital to us, but there are only so many ways that you can make a process more efficient and cost-effective. We realized that robots would allow us to automate many repetitive parts of our process and support our staff by removing some of the mundane activities from their workload.” An economical solution, in the long run, a software bot can assume several low-level tasks previously done by a human—without interruption 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. EDF Energy achieved 6x ROI of time and money by automating eight processes.
According to a GlobalData report, many utility companies are looking to make their operations more resourceful, responsive, and reliable for customers through RPA since highly skilled employees can incorporate it effortlessly despite existing systems and processes that are complex. RPA interacts with spreadsheets, email, and legacy systems and can easily extract, manipulate, and transfer data. “RPA can be adapted to the vertical-specific needs of utilities more quickly, and can be devised so that each implementation is unique and matches the needs of each utility and its regulatory environment and infrastructure more closely, without the need for training new staff.” Though being tech-savvy isn’t required, and RPA tools are easy to use and maintain, organizations that partner with vendors offering utility-specific or change management strategies will facilitate a smoother transition for employees and customers. For more information on how Tagence can provide insightful solutions for utility and energy companies, visit https://tagence.com/robotic-process-automation/.