may be less than healthy, unless you're ready to replace them with technology.
As competition intensifies, increasing numbers of executives are realizing that customer service may have a more important role now than just placating regulators. After all, the broad spectrum of customer service is the principal way (em other than rates (em to differentiate a utility product and the utility itself.
Executives face the added pressure of trying to maintain profitability to retain shareholder value. One popular way to do that has been through downsizing, a process that has cut thousands of jobs and selected assets from the electric, natural gas, and telecommunications industries in recent years. One of the most recent and most dramatic downsizings: AT&T and its decision to cut 40,000 jobs during 1996 for competitive purposes. Reported job cuts in the telecommunications industry are approaching 200,000 positions.
Eliminating mid-level utility managers helps strengthen the bottom line of electric, natural gas, and telecommunications companies in the short term. In the long term, however, the loss of these positions could create a decision-support vacuum (em a missing link in the communications channel between upper-level managers, field service crews, business unit managers, and customer representatives. This vacuum represents a downside of downsizing.