Utility customers have changed. They aren’t just dutifully paying their paper bill each month like they had in years past. Today, they are asking more of their utility provider and demanding that they be able to interact in ways they never have before.
It’s a byproduct of our Internet culture. Online retailers and businesses in service-focused industries have made customer interaction simple. Consider the bank that allows customers to make a deposit by simply taking a picture of a check. Or the mobile phone carrier that makes it possible for customers to check data or minute usage in the middle of the month. These are the kinds of experiences that customers want from any company they do business with, and utilities are struggling to provide it.
For example, a 2014 Booz Allen report titled “Digital Migration for Electric Utilities found that only 26 percent of utility companies had developed a mobile application, and we are quickly getting to the point that having an app is table stakes for almost any business.
A Unique Midmarket Solution: The Cloud
Utility companies, especially the mid-sized utilities that are already running with a lean staff and lean budgets, they need to look to better technology in order to meet this growing demand for a better customer experience.
The age of many utilities’ CISs can be measured in decades. They are built using programming languages that have long since died, making it difficult or impossible to repair or upgrade. And they aren’t able to provide the ability to interact with customers across multiple channels like so many are starting to demand. So even if the CIS is still able to perform its core duties, utilities should be considering an upgrade so they can serve their customers in the way that they want to be served.
For mid-sized utilities, though, that’s easier said than done. While it’s never an easy process, a CIS upgrade is something that large utilities can tackle more readily. They set aside the budget and put together a team that will be in charge of replacing the CIS. But for utilities that are mid-sized or smaller, that can be much more difficult. There isn’t money in a budget to allocate to a new or augmented CIS. And even if there were, there isn’t the staff to spare for development and implementation, a process that usually takes nearly two years. What that means is that while the problems that utilities face aren’t unique, the solutions to those problems, at least for the mid-size utility, have to be.
Benefits of a Cloud-based CIS
So what does a unique solution look like? A cloud-based CIS with proven processes built in. This allows a mid-sized utility company to have a modern, Tier 1-level CIS for a fraction of the cost and delivers three distinct benefits over replacing the utility’s existing CIS with another on-premises system.
Faster time to benefit. Without hardware to procure and software to customize, a cloud-based system that includes proven processes already built in can be launched in a fraction of the time — less than a year — that it takes to get a traditional CIS operational.
A cloud-based CIS is better aligned with the business model. Moving to the cloud eliminates the surprise expenses that often come with an on-premise CIS. That means the total cost of ownership is extremely predictable.
Cloud allows for a flexibility that can change as the utility’s needs change. Included with a cloud-based CIS are all the advanced features that come with that system. Now, there are likely elements and features that certain utilities may not need right from the start, but can easily be added those in the future.
This is just the first in a series of blog posts, and we will explore each of these benefits more in upcoming pieces, but if you want to know more about how a cloud-based CIS might be the solution your midmarket utility needs, download our eBook, Exceeding Expectations on a Midmarket Budget.