Over the last decade, the energy industry has witnessed a transformation in the utility-customer relationship. To flourish in a new energy economy, utilities are coming out with robust, innovative customer offerings and more comprehensive customer experiences. There has been a steady convergence of digital innovation and customer experience transformation spearheaded by other verticals. We find ourselves at a key moment when technology is able to fully support today’s customer-centric business models. Now presents the perfect opportunity to create an technology stack for utilities that can evolve with both customer experience and business goals.
Diversification, distribution, and digitalization
The distributed grid necessitates the need for distributed digital intelligence. Around the world, energy systems are undergoing transitions that are transforming how we drive our businesses fuel our cars and keep our homes warm. Today’s transmission and distribution systems and no longer centralized. They now must support a complex, distributed network of generation and transmission. Having said that, consumers, both residential as well as business, expect best in class experiences and want providers to earn their business. Customers have more power than ever and it is imperative for utility companies to evolve into a customer centric, digital first model.
Customers: the utility’s most valuable asset
Utilities have a chance to service growing customer demand by using agile digital technology and customer-experience centric design. The objective is to sustain trusted customer relationships and boost lifetime value of a customer. But what does that entail? Here are some developments that have transformed the overall landscape and augmented the pace of change.
Clean energy, Smart devices, and utility marketplaces offer more choice to customers. The shift to a renewable, sustainable, and distributed energy model is gaining momentum globally as the cost of solar, wind and battery storage becomes more and more viable than fossil fuel based generation. While demand for electricity continues to grow, the choices available to customers is expanding for cleaner, localised, and non-utility-owned sources of energy. Customer demand is also increasing for renewable energy options, rates that better fit their consumption patterns, or incentives for conservation or demand-management behaviours that keep the grid reliable, safe, and green. Utilities need to offer multidimensional offerings to address the needs of a dynamic and fragmented market.
Digital engagement is the new way for customer communications. And customer expectations are increasing, and they have more choices than ever in both regulated as well as free markets. Unlike the traditional vanilla model, customers today wish to engage with providers for several reasons other than to report an outage, resolve billing issues, or augment service. Utility customers are becoming smarter which leads to more complexity, choice, or market fluctuation. They expect utilities to know them personally because of the data being collected about them. Consumers want all their touchpoints to connect to deliver a seamless journey — from text alerts and call centers to chatbots and service calls.
It’s a very different landscape compared to just a few years ago. Utility companies now need to have the systems and processes in place to sustain and grow. Significant challenges also translate to greater opportunities for better performance and growth for utilities that are more agile and responsive to rising customer expectations.
Choosing the right platform
To propel the innovative, creative re-imagining of the customer experience, the utility needs the right platform and a digital transformation strategy in place. At Salesforce Industries, we have seen utilities take many tactics that boil down to a few general approaches. Some are more successful than others at achieving business objectives, but only one is truly future-proof and flexible. There is no doubt that technology innovation has become superior, faster, and cheaper to deploy, delivering customised solutions that drive customers delight and business growth.
Customize, upgrade, or replace the utility (CIS)
Utilities on customer systems or older, highly customized solutions are faced with replacing their customer information system (CIS ) as a first step in the move to the cloud. These initiatives are expensive, risky, and long, but necessary. While CIS upgrades are a requirement for cloud transformation, they are not sufficient to put you in a better position for agility and innovation. They are merely better repositories, but they do not position the utility to exceed customer expectations. Billing systems are not the most foundational first step in digital transformation. Improving customer billing is certainly a good start to improving customer experience, but if you are getting bills out the door, now is not the time to replace your billing system as part of a customer experience transformation project.
Bolt-on custom-built extensions
Some utilities choose to bolt-on more functionality to key customer gateways like contact center portals, commercial and industrial (C&I) account management portals, customer web portals, or mobile apps. These are often costly to maintain, and with scarce IT resources, utilities cannot keep pace with innovation. If a utility chooses this option, it would be hard to be successful unless they have a systems integrator advise on their data models and help them develop extensions that will allow them full access to — and value from — that customer data for future innovation.
Use small-point solutions (like chat or social) to solve problems
Like call center upgrades or billing systems upgrades, the use of small-point solutions like chatbots seem like a good entry point for both digital evolution and customer experience improvement. This can be a good strategy for some quick wins but often leaves the utility with siloed information and sometimes costly integration.
Adopt a CRM or customer engagement solution
Some CIS vendors are working on upgrading their platforms to offer cloud computing and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. A common way that CIS vendors choose to accelerate this is to reuse code developed for other clients. Beware of the tendency to overlook your business goals to meet their time frame. System integrators do a great job of connecting systems, and they do a good job of configuring them and coding where necessary, but most of these systems are not best-of breed cloud solutions — and do not bring with them the needed industry innovation.
There is a thoughtful, alternate approach to the twin challenge of customer innovation and digital transformation. It is possible to both enable your utility to deliver value to customers and business units while lowering risk and also laying a future-proof foundation for agility, transformation, disruption, and innovation. This approach means transforming your employee and customer experience without the risks that come with custom solutions or major changes to legacy customer systems. This approach also requires a best-in-class, true cloud platform and an industry-specific product grounded in customer-centric innovation.
Buy a generic CRM platform
A generic cloud CRM solution gets closer to the twin goals of customer experience and digital transformation but will still be costly to implement and integrate to the CIS and other systems because it is not industry-specific. It doesn’t know anything about a premise or a service agreement, let alone a complex multi-step transfer of service process.
While each of these approaches can solve for some immediate hurdles, a more flexible and future-ready approach is to start with proven best practices for cloud-based CRM and make that the standard by which you measure the gaps or limitations in your existing CIS.
Best solution — a customer-first approach with your utility business in mind
A cloud platform for customer-centric innovation
Why Cloud? Cloud has always promised security, scalability, performance, and availability. Why Platform? A platform is an aggregation of technologies that are used as a foundation upon which other apps, processes, or tools are built. It is the connective tissue that utilities need to manage the diversity of their legacy systems, third-party systems, and new digital capabilities. A cloud platform allows utilities to configure, code, build tools, and accelerate innovation. In addition, the platform should be easy enough and robust enough to sustain an ecosystem of partners — the majority of whom are running their businesses on Salesforce.
An industry-specific product
Why Industry-specific? The risks are too high to embark on turning a horizontal system alone into a utility CRM/CX. The Utility IT team will end up having to develop a lot of custom code, which will mean costly support and testing. In our experience, it’s wiser to start with a foundation in the industry and configure from there. Why product, as opposed to a custom accelerator? With the other risk factors that utilities face, there is no reason to go with a custom accelerator or one-off code, which do not offer continued industry innovation, nor a long-term product roadmap. System integrators would agree that a dedicated product solution is the smartest.
The Salesforce Energy & Utilities Cloud
Modern, personalized digital customer engagement requires a new approach with fresh thinking and leading cloud innovation partners. Salesforce Energy & Utilities Cloud is a complete CTM and customer experience platform uniquely built for energy and utility companies. Salesforce helps utility service providers transform to digital engagement faster while mitigating risk through delivered industry capabilities, including pre-configured industry processes and productized integration procedures with leading utility CIS platforms.
Build: Establish a purpose-built cloud platform
Agility in business starts with a robust cloud platform that sustains scalability and flexibility. But, agility for utilities requires a cloud platform that’s built specifically with energy and water utility business models in mind.
Industry-specific cloud software now aims to create an enterprise platform that consolidates and/ or replaces such point solutions and operates the entire front, middle, and back offices. For example, Salesforce chose to extend the world’s #1 CRM cloud platform into a full energy and utilities stack.
Salesforce’s industry solution eliminates the need for custom development to support business processes unique to the energy and utilities industry. And, building on Salesforce supports guaranteed uptime, security, and an established cloud platform.
But no matter which vendor you choose, take time to consider technological solutions that lay the groundwork for current and future needs.
Questions to Ask Yourself for Platform Selection
Can you quickly adapt to changing market conditions, regulations, and competitors?
Speed to Market
Can you easily configure customer offerings and promptly launch them in the market?
Can you easily integrate applications – internal or external, and future acquisitions?
Lower Operating Cost
Can you minimize the software, hardware, and human resources needed to manage business processes?
Can you improve and create consistent experiences for members, providers, producers, employees, and partners?
Do your analytics help you to understand business performance and compliance?
Girikon is a Gold Certified Salesforce Implementation Partner and delivers industry-specific, digital, omnichannel solutions for customer-centric industries. We enable companies to achieve business agility and greater productivity. Contact us today to know more.
Most healthcare organizations today still depend on electronic health records (EHR) to manage clinical data. And when the pandemic struck, forcing them to deliver care in new ways, EHR systems revealed their limitations. Care providers needed a more effective way to integrate their clinical and non-clinical information to assess their patients’ needs and preferences. Without this understanding, care providers risk losing patients whose expectations have risen dramatically in the pandemic scenario.
The fat is, if care providers rely only on EHR, its very likely they will deliver a disconnected and in-effective patient experience. And the reason is, they don’t have a single source of truth for all patient data – clinical as well as non-clinical, which makes it a daunting task to provide access to care from anywhere and often keeps patients waiting for vital information. In other words, patients are compelled to manage their own healthcare.
How can care providers turn this around? It begins with cloud-based healthcare. Let’s understand what that means and how it can benefit both providers and patients.
What is cloud-based healthcare?
A cloud-based healthcare solution solves many common challenges and allows providers to focus on what matters most: the patient.
With a cloud-based solution, you can store your data with best-in-class securely and access it from anywhere. Cloud solutions work on a global network of secure data canters, so you don’t have to worry about procuring servers and managing them in-house.
A cloud software or application can easily connect to an EHR or any other system through APIs, allowing healthcare organizations to centralize data.
With the cloud, healthcare organizations can connect, store, and maintain a patient’s health information such as blood test results, scan diagnosis and contact preferences. All information on the patient is accessed securely using a single console across the organization. EHRs are not replaced; they are seamlessly integrated with the cloud system.
Once you integrate the cloud system with your HER or other systems of records, you can extend further with app libraries like AppExchange. App libraries provide tailored solutions to help solve varied healthcare business needs such as verification of patient medical insurance. An API can fetch data from a any system and collate all the information in one place.
Behind the curtain, the cloud system provider maintains the software and upgrades it on a periodic basis. This frees up healthcare IT professionals to customize the platform to meet the unique needs of their business.
How can a cloud based system enhance the work of healthcare organizations?
Providers create data silos from multiple sources of information. The time spent in searching multiple systems coupled with the lost opportunity to get insights from that data frustrates both healthcare staff and patients. Here’s how cloud-based healthcare does the hard work for everyone:
Care staff can access the data they need from a single app, instead of having to switch between systems, and they can view all information at an aggregate level. This allows them to quickly answer patient questions, manage patient preferences, and turn insight into action.
Organizations can also automate time-consuming tasks. Think of a patient who needs to schedule a knee surgery. Instead of the appointment desk having to manually go through their calendar to find an available slot, the cloud can automatically suggest available appointment times through the channel of their choice. The cloud system can also deliver a series of messages or emails with important information such as pre-visit instructions to post-visit health tips.
Personalize patient care
With a single source of truth for all patient data – clinical and non-clinical, care manages can get a complete view of a patient’s health. They can easily view the treatment history, social contributing factors of health, history of tests and procedures, and details of the extended care team. They can also access any queries the patient may have submitted through any channel or device.
At the same time, in-built intelligence in the cloud system can analyze data to help providers identify at risk patients, ensuring those most in need are not overlooked. This frees up care staff and doctors to focus on interacting with the patient instead wasting time in record-keeping and scanning historical patient information.
The cloud empowers clinicians and other care staff to access patient information from anywhere on any device.
For example, a physician who is at another facility, away at a conference or at home, can still access patient information from a single console. Or, when patients need to see a physician but because of time constraints, distance, weather conditions, or lack of transportation make it difficult, they can go for a virtual appointment instead. Care providers are more accessible to patients with multiple option available, and care providers have more access to their patients. This connectivity reduces time to deliver care and improves patient outcomes.
Reduce mistakes and inaccuracies
Although digital options are available to streamline the care process, many patients with complex conditions prefer to keep their healthcare records in physical binders. Patients often request their providers to send records to each other via fax.
Not only is this time-consuming and produces illegible, incomplete forms, but it’s far from being accurate. That’s because the fax machine is most often unattended. And adding to that, when patient information is uploaded from faxed forms, there is a significant room for error such as a misspelled name or uploading an outdated prescription list.
With a cloud system, patient cases can be quickly reviewed and processed, by unifying the document management process and automatically routing the patient case to the right queue.
A cloud based healthcare system can hold a humongous amount of data and information at a very minimal cost. Cloud computing works on the pay-as-you-go model, which means you only have to pay only for those services which you are availing and only for as long as you use it.
Cloud computing is a paradigm shift in the IT budgets from Capex to Opex, and reduces your in-house infrastructural costs and associated operational costs to a bare minimum. In fact, cloud based healthcare systems make it possible even for smaller hospitals and care facilities with smaller budgets to adopt the technology.
Scalability and Flexibility
Healthcare providers operate in a dynamic environment. Cloud facilitates technologies that are used in healthcare like patient portals, IoT, mobile apps, tele healthcare, data analytics. It provides hassle-free scalability and flexibility, which in turn powers the decision-making process.
In traditional systems, along with 24*7 availability, healthcare providers also need to scale the data storage and network needs as per the service demands. Cloud technology can increase or decrease these storage requirements on an as-you-need basis.
Moving to the cloud not only reduces risks but also improves data handling, minimizes downtimes, prevents information leaks, and augments security practices.
Speed is a critical criterion when you have to take a decision about selecting any technology. The beauty of a cloud-based system is that they can update and upgrade their features at a regular and consistent pace with minimal intervention, and you get real-time updates on all relevant information.
One of the major benefits of cloud computing in healthcare is unmatched speed and faster access to information, which can overcome the stumbling blocks which the clinicians and patients have to deal with on many occasions.
How do you get started with cloud healthcare?
The good news is you don’t need to take down your existing systems to make room for a cloud solution. In fact, the cloud software allows all systems to work together seamlessly. You can fetch data from EHRs as and when needed and present it with other information, such as communication preferences, for a 360-degree view of the patient.
With a cloud based healthcare system you can:
Turn information into action
Personalize every interaction
Respond to patient needs quickly
Engage, collaborate, and innovate from anywhere
Contact a Salesforce Consultant to know more about how the World’s No. Cloud platform can help deliver success for your healthcare business.
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