Monica Mackintosh, Managing Director at Echo discusses the possibility of a new era when it comes to billing software...
As consumers, change is all around us. Be it emerging technologies helping us to work or live smarter, more choice in what we purchase and how we consume services, or simply changes in our own expectations when it comes to how we go about our daily lives.
For water and energy providers, change brings great opportunity but also considerable risk. Keeping ahead of ever changing customer expectations is a constant challenge, creating the on-going need to seek out new ideas and technologies to stay one step ahead.
In these times of unprecedented change one thing is clear, to continuously innovate and deliver more, essential services providers must become more agile and dynamic; not through responding quickly to change, but by driving a forward-thinking change agenda that formulates true innovation and new ideas. This not only requires curiosity and the right people, but also the right technologies – solutions that enable and not hinder change.
A time to change
At the heart of every water and energy company’s contact centre is its billing and CRM platforms; the key to delivering accurate and reliable customer bills, and the lynchpin for helpful, seamless and effortless customer service that is right first time. Choosing the right platforms is a fundamental decision for any company given the long term investment and significant commitment in terms of time, resource and cost.
Whilst at the outset a chosen solution may appear to meet or even exceed current needs, it’s never been more important to invest in longer term future-proofing; ensuring software is fit for purpose today, tomorrow and in the future.
Utility companies today remain highly reliant on their software providers to modify systems as landscapes change. And, at a time when consumer markets are changing faster than ever, this simply isn’t a robust model for the years ahead; software must enable utility providers to be agile, staying one step ahead of changing customer expectations, evolving business models and regulation.
An emerging answer
Be it the need to meet customer yearning for a tailored, personalised service, the desire to join a modern multi-utility world, or simply to gain competitive advantage; system agility and flexibility are critical to respond to both these and regulatory drivers.
And, even though it’s widely recognised that legacy billing systems are no longer fit for purpose, barriers to change have led some to retain and even upgrade these systems, choosing instead to attempt to wrap CRM solutions around them. Experience highlights time and time again that this complex integration model doesn’t work, requiring significant bespoke integration and resulting in overly complex and expensive projects in the drive for a true single customer view.
The emergence of a new type of solution, the ‘on platform’ billing and CRM solution, is however helping change this reality, opening a gateway to a world of ‘plug and play’ technology and innovation to complement and enhance customer billing without the need for lengthy software provider led integration programmes.
The era of empowerment
To be truly agile, utility companies must, of course, hold their destiny in their own hands; being empowered to configure software to match their own specific needs at a pace that suits. This has meant that the tables are turning in favour of software that allows clients to customise their own enhancements, processes and triggers however and whenever they want, creating a very real opportunity for transformation - from a ‘led by change’ ethos to becoming one step ahead of a fast evolving consumer landscape.
Perhaps most importantly, software must empower water and energy companies to seize opportunities to listen and deliver what really matters to each and every customer, using process customisation in combination with customer data to drive truly tailored and personalised service; taking customer segmentation to a whole new level.
Move forward with momentum
The world is changing and, as a sector, we all – utility providers, their suppliers and partners – have a joint responsibility to look forward. It really is the time for fresh-thinking when it comes to the fundamental requirement of utility billing. Utility companies will succeed with partners that can innovate alongside them, and on behalf of them - working in partnership to move forward with momentum.
That said, whilst agile, innovative solutions are the new preference, comprehensive market understanding cannot be underestimated; investing in pioneering solutions built without utility sector expertise at their heart could bring significant risk.
We must remember though that when it comes to customer service and satisfaction, billing software is just one piece of a much larger picture, and on its own will never be the panacea. But, the emergence of single platform ecosystems that include utility billing, CRM and other customer service software applications, means we are entering an exciting new era, one where software will no longer be a hindrance that holds utility companies back from achieving their goals.
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