It's said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This ever-touted mantra finds unique application when utilities consider upgrading or replacing their information technology infrastructures. With long lead times and tens of thousands of customers to support, the journey can indeed be a long one. Whether that first step is submitting an RFP for a new CIS, shopping solutions for an upgrade, or simply visiting websites to learn more about the options available to you, as solution providers we must always be ready to advise, guide and support our customers at any point in their decision-making process.

For Vertex, whether our customers are taking that first step or one hundredth one, we take pride in understanding the challenges they face in their customer journey. I’ve been privileged to see the tenacity, resilience, and industry experience every team member has used to better support our customers through the years. When I joined the company in 2013, we operated a utility call center that gave us deep, first-hand insights into exactly what utilities themselves need from a CIS. This allowed us to stay ahead of emerging trends and developments, allowing us to identify each of our customer’s unique position in their journey and this to help them meet the needs of their customers in an unprecedented way.

Developing technologies based on real insights into utilities and their customers

The insights from years in the call center led us to a very important discovery: that the industry needed a customer information system purpose-built for utilities. As a result, we set about building a solution that would address everything we learned from operating the call center, but also one that would utilize state-of-the-art cloud technology. We realized, of course, that while many utilities were becoming open to the idea of the cloud, some—even many—would have lingering reservations. At the time, cloud applications and capabilities were still nascent, and on-premise solutions remained the norm. While the benefits of the cloud were fairly clear, utilities still expressed concerns about security, data ownership, and system integration capabilities, all issues we sought to address by developing our fully-hosted and managed CIS suite, VertexOne.

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But as every utility is at a different stage of the journey with regard to customer service technologies, we knew it was important to create an on-premise version of VertexOne. And because not everyone needs to replace their existing CIS, we built our capabilities in a modular fashion, so customers can upgrade and add-on to their legacy systems.

As a technology service provider, this realization—as well development of a visionary software architecture—allows us to continue serving and supporting utilities wherever they are in the journey. For customers ready for the cloud, we can take them there. For those more comfortable staying on-premise, we’re there for them, too. And for those not yet ready for a new CIS, our modular applications help us integrate the latest in web and mobile self-service, field service management, analytics and more—extending the life of their existing CIS for years, until they are ready. And whatever that next step is, and whatever need it addresses, the most important thing a service provider like Vertex can do is to offer a proactive way forward. 

Applying the right technology to each customer journey

To illustrate this, we had a customer enter the market for a new CIS system, but they were at a crossroads as to the type of solution infrastructure they should pursue. They already had technology on-premise but wanted to explore a cloud-based solution to maximize future return on the new investment. We successfully determined where they were in their journey—shopping for a CIS replacement—before presenting two options: one for a cloud-focused solution in line with their wishes to modernize, and the other, a more traditional on-premise application. This allowed them to explore the vast cloud capabilities, while also offering an on-premise option that might prevent them from rushing into technology they were not ready for.

The customer returned to us with detailed questions, and we opened a continuous dialogue as their trusted partner. Eventually, we worked together to deploy a hybrid cloud and on-premise solution to meet their specific needs right in their proprietary data center. We turned our understanding of this customer’s position into a custom solution purpose-built to support their organization.

Understanding your customer’s journey is the key to making that journey even better

We’ve always known that every utility is at a different place, not only as to what they need in their CIS but also as to what type of infrastructure they are willing to support—on-premise, cloud, or hybrid. Our experiences over the years further enforces our belief that to be stewards in each customer’s journey, we have focus on understanding exactly where that utility is before determining which technology best meets their needs and requirements. When we make this careful consideration, we build stronger customer relationships with provable success and ROI. We can’t take the customer’s first step for them, but we can show them a solid path and help them establish a foothold to take that step themselves.  

 At the end of the day, the customer journey is a mutual consideration. We learn as our customers learn. As their knowledgeable guides, we lead them on their journey and experience it alongside them. This way, we learn from their experiences and turn these learnings into even more robust solutions that all our utility customers can benefit from.

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