Why utilities haven't scored at e-commerce.
From what I hear, utilities would love to junk their call centers, whether or not they run them in-house. Call centers had their moment in the sun, but today the Internet makes them look feeble. Why hire a minimum-wage sales staff to take orders by phone when consumers will gladly input their own bids at the click of a mouse? You can't trim transaction costs any closer than that.
On the other hand, if a customer's revenue potential is large enough to warrant voice contact, then you're probably better off meeting the customer face to face. A call center is just smart enough to cost money and just slow enough miss out on dramatic cost savings. And good luck if your call center staff is union labor. Then you're really stuck.
Let's admit it. Utilities are floundering in the world of e-commerce.
I even hear warnings that upstart companies formed only within the last few years might launch hostile takeovers of century-old utilities. That fear isn't so far-fetched. Dot.com upstarts, built from the ground up for the online world, appear poised to take over. Wayne Gretsky said he skated to where the puck would be, but if he had played e-hockey against utilities, he would have likened it to shooting at an empty net.