Want to learn how intelligent automation can help you address issues related to aging infrastructure, switching to renewables, and customer experience, read our article!
The pressure on utilities to deliver on customer experience, invest in new infrastructure and technology and deliver shareholder value has only been intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic, which exposed the shortcomings of semi-manual business processes that were over-reliant on people.
As a result, current operating models have proved unsustainable in the face of dramatic change in the industry, driven by competition from new entrants, customer demands for a truly digital experience, brand erosion, rising operational costs and a fall in return on equity.
A widespread dependency on large numbers of people to perform low value, repetitive tasks cannot continue in the face of these trends. Dependence on people working in expensive offices to rigid schedules and prescriptive practices limits responsiveness and the rapid evolution of business models.
The ongoing digitization of operations has the most significant impact on the way utilities function. However, research shows the majority of organizations are some distance away from reaping the full benefits of digitization and automation.
For example, the Capgemini Research Institute’s report Intelligent Automation in Energy and Utilities finds that while technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence offer the potential to save between $237 billion and $813 billion over the next three years, most organizations are not yet ready to make a success of them.
In core functions, only 18% of organizations are deploying quick-win use cases such as forecasting, energy trading, yield optimization, grid behavior interfaces and complaints management. Just 11% of organizations are focusing on quick wins in support functions such as order management, contract management, employee data management, and defect detection.
Yet somehow, utilities need to cross this productivity and acceleration gap to build more agile and responsive operating models. The complex models commonly used today tend to equate to steep operating costs because of maintaining a high head count and lack of efficiency in back office and customer services, which means cost-to-service claims and contracts are also punitively high.
However, the notion of replacing IT systems to deliver a more cohesive set of processes is untenable for utilities, which are already wrestling with managing the costs of legacy infrastructure and addressing inefficiencies exposed by the pandemic.
As with so many areas of life and business, the pandemic has changed how UK water companies manage their repair and maintenance planning processes—perhaps forever.
They were already facing technical and engineering skills shortages, but a combination of illness and shielding during the pandemic put even more pressure on the availability of staff with the experience necessary to resolve problems or undertake maintenance work.
This, together with the requirement for social distancing, has led to the need to fix faults first time, every time, rather than to make several visits to remedy a situation. It has also meant having to deal with repair and maintenance tasks in a more orderly fashion than in the past, since it is more efficient to plan out work for scarce resources, so they follow the most sensible routes.
So, what could energy companies be doing now to get ahead of the game and how can intelligent automation play a part?
There is an alternative, which is to use intelligent automation to embark on a short-to-medium path to value, starting with the digitization of customer and worker experiences. These relatively simple processes may not be strategically game-changing, but still have huge impacts on the efficiency of an organization, and the time that can be freed up for other, more complex tasks.
Having identified quick wins, utilities can move on to bring further improvements to customer service centers, back office processes and risk management. Some real-life examples of where utilities have acted at pace to automate processes using intelligent automation are below:
Utilita cleared £6.4 million of debt by implementing a change of account types to pre-pay, while saving 12-14 hours per week on average by using digital workers to validate, collect and transfer data from prepayment smart meters.
DTE automated 35 processes over the course of nine months and gave 250,000 annualized hours back to the business
Npower renegotiated 95% of expired contract transactions through intelligent automation.
Using intelligent automation to predict demand and safeguard efficient usage in an agile and highly responsive way will therefore become a necessary element of tomorrow’s operating models, together with a higher quality customer experience.
Benefits of intelligent automation for the energy and utilities sector
• Consistent and more personalized communication with customers
• Seamless customer onboarding, tariff changes and account updates
• Investigate and correct bills with exceptional readings
• Accurately update core billing systems for improved customer experience
• Faster, more agile response to new regulation requirements
• Reduce compliance risks with proactive automated auditing
• Generate accurate compliance performance reports
By opting for automation, the utility sector now has a solid foundation for their business. At a micro level, customers can get processed quicker and employee workload can be reduced, particularly when it comes to laborious and repetitive tasks. But the real benefit can be highlighted when talking to third parties as their innovative way of working can demonstrate that, by operating more efficiently, the company can be more marketable and therefore more attractive to investors. They can secure financial sustainability now and in the future.
With intelligent automation, any new utility and energy company can now have the platform to broaden their product portfolio and the scope of their revenue streams. They can even take the automation processes they’ve developed to benefit their customers and sell them to the rest of the industry on a SaaS basis.
Thus it is now proven how automation not only strengthens productivity across processes, but it also creates shareholder value.
Want to try our intelligent document automation platform VisionERA, simply click on the link here to get a detailed walkthrough from our automation experts. To try VisionERA by yourself, use our trial version.
Note: Right now, VisionERA can be implemented in your organization at $0 invoices.