Public Utilities Reports

PUR Guide 2012 Fully Updated Version

Available NOW!
PUR Guide

This comprehensive self-study certification course is designed to teach the novice or pro everything they need to understand and succeed in every phase of the public utilities business.

Order Now

Managing Service Quality: The Customer Is Always Right

Service-quality improvements need to be thought through in advance and managed.
Fortnightly Magazine - June 2004
  • documented, and the underlying technical or process causes need to be discussed and fixed. This outage documentation needs to be shared with the impacted managers and the action plan to resolve the outage causes needs to be agreed upon.
  • Online response time is normally straightforward to manage, which unfortunately often means balancing this key area of internal service quality with needed incremental investment. Batch performance also affects everybody, but not so noticeably. Alternate business processes need to be set up that kick in when a batch has problems or runs long. More importantly, the causes of batch problems need to be aired and discussed.
  • This is the fuel the organization needs to power through its jobs. Whether the output is financial reports, service orders, collection notices, updated online files, or bills and statements, each output should be measured continually by its receiver for timing and quality. A simple listing of all daily outputs with committed delivery times and a daily report of success in meeting those deliveries are necessary and helpful.

Process Management Service Quality

Your internal processes affect service quality to both the external customer and the internal staff. Key among these processes is change management. There is no larger cause of system and service-quality disruption than regular "planned" change. The organization needs to be thoroughly involved in changes to the core systems, especially CIS, and needs to sign-off on the change itself, the back-up and back-out strategies, the dates and times for the changes, the support staffing, and the communication and decision processes. The infrequent large changes often are handled in this fashion, but it is the small, seemingly innocuous changes that get you. All changes need to go through a disciplined, well-communicated review process.

Your delinquency follow-up, noticing, disconnection, and write-off processes not only affect the financial strength of the organization but have a tremendous affect on customer satisfaction. All of the classic collections metrics, such as account aging analysis, champion-challenger collection strategies, and individual collector effectiveness measurements should be in place. But the magic comes in gaining an understanding of why people are not paying. Your collectors know why. Feedback from the collectors can bring to light bill quality or delivery issues, rate inequities, bill calculation or estimation issues, fairness of fees, and dozens of other problems that are probably being felt by the rest of the customer base who quietly pay month to month, but grit their teeth every time.

Another major process area that affects customers every day is metering and exception management. We live in the world of stuck meters, missing registers, unread routes, mis-keyed reads, and repetitive estimations. The process for identifying suspect reads, working the exceptions, dispatching for re-read or repair, and gaining an accurate billing reading needs to be smooth and customer-centric. The use of estimations needs to be thought through completely from a customer perspective, knowing that repeat estimations will almost always cause phone calls and grief.

Action Plan

Start with your organization. Make sure you really want to have satisfied customers. Make sure you believe that it is more cost-effective