Improving customer outcomes with mobile field enablement

Martin Deehan

Martin Deehan of Electricity North West explains why customer service – not operational objectives – should drive digital transformation.

Most electricity companies now recognise at a strategic level that operational decision-making needs to focus on delivering the best customer outcomes. However, in reality, maintenance and customer service all too often operate as two separate worlds, instead of coordinating their efforts to make customers’ lives better.

At Electricity North West, we’ve been addressing this issue by making our operations much more customer-centric. As a result, the way we think about asset management has changed. Keeping our assets in excellent condition is still critical to our success, but we don’t treat it as an end in itself. The higher priority now is to deliver the best outcomes for our customers in every situation – and that means making smarter operational decisions about how we manage and prioritise our work.

We’re proud of our customer service levels – for example, we’re number one in the DNO league table for the politeness of our contact centre. But good customer service has a much broader scope: it needs to be supported by field operations as well as customer-facing teams. If a customer is off-supply, they want to know when their power will be restored. And if you want to be able to give them that information, you need to know what’s happening out in the field – accurately, and in real time.

That’s why mobile solutions are such an important tool in improving customer outcomes: they enable you to understand the situation on the ground and feed information back to your customers. This helps you respond to their inquiries, set their expectations and rapidly address any issues. It also gives you the data you need to analyse trends, identify areas where your field operations are not delivering optimal customer outcomes, and take corrective action.

One good example is our new mobile-enabled process for assessing storm damage. When a storm hits and the first reports of outages start coming in, we immediately dispatch reconnaissance teams to check the affected areas of the network. As soon as they locate the cause of the outage – for example, a tree that has fallen across some power lines – they use a mobile app to pinpoint, describe and take photos of the damage. This data is immediately sent to the local incident centre, which can equip and send out a repair crew.

This mobile reconnaissance process makes smarter use of our engineers, because when we send them out to do a job, they always have the right skills and tools to complete a full repair of the network.

Even more important, though, are the advantages that mobile reconnaissance gives us in terms of customer service. Because we can understand the extent of the damage much more quickly, we can not only repair faults faster – we can also give our customers a much more accurate prediction of how long it will take to get them back on supply. By setting their expectations more accurately, we can help them decide what they need to do to get through the outage safely and with as little disruption as possible.

From a customer service perspective, the ability to give customers the information they need to make these kinds of decisions is almost as important as the speed with which we get them back on supply. And that’s where you see the real benefit of a field mobile solution: it helps you not only make smarter decisions about work management, but also gain insight that helps you respond effectively when your customers call.

For more information on digital transformation and enabling better customer outcomes, visit our digital mobile solutions page »