Utilities: How do you manage operational ‘growing pains’?
Whilst some new entrants to the UK Energy market are excelling at customer service, over the past few months we’ve seen increasing numbers of news stories highlighting issues with other new challenger entrants – particularly focusing on customer service and billing processes. And not only is there an impact on business reputation, there is also the worry that Ofgem will pay attention. While the Big 6 may be among the offenders also, the last thing an ambitious challenger Energy Supplier needs is a regulatory investigation.
This is nothing new. Historically, we’ve seen some Energy companies struggle when they get to a certain size – they hit a ceiling with process and people and struggle to scale. There’s a well-documented trail of Suppliers who have struggled with rapid growth, and, here at Abtran, we think there are two main reasons why this might happen.
Small suppliers, with centralised decision-making and operational delivery, can cope with ad-hoc processes that have evolved over time. But as companies scale this can really impact on all elements of the business, from customer service to billing to debt management. And not only can getting these elements wrong create a really poor customer experience and unwanted regulatory focus, they can have a direct impact on the bottom line. It’s important to get these processes right from the very beginning so that they are embedded within the business. Getting this right up-front will bring very tangible financial and customer benefits, allowing your business to scale efficiently.
Everybody has ambitions to grow their business at pace, but, as you grow, how do you recruit the experienced people you need? And it doesn’t stop with recruitment. Do you have the physical work-space? How will you train your people? What are the IT requirements? Can you handle all of these areas as your business begins to scale rapidly? It’s also important to understand issues such as how billing can impact inbound enquiries. When are you going to see peak contact volumes? How do you manage failures and exceptions?
So how do you counteract these issues making sure your business can scale rapidly while focusing on delivering Operational Excellence – keeping your customers happy and staying off the regulator’s radar?
Firstly, you need to get process design right. Before you even begin the process of Controlled Market Entry, you should have a clear view of your customer journeys and map out all the data and customer service flows you will need, no matter what size your business. Modern back-end systems will scale with you, but how many internal processes can you automate? What are your hand-offs between teams and what internal expertise do you need to recruit? This will help you start your resource planning. At which points are you going to bring in more resources? How will you grow your physical space and infrastructure to cope? What training do you need to put your people through?
This all sounds like a lot of work, but working with the right partner will give you the flexibility and skills you need to rapidly scale your business. Using a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) partner means you can utilise their skills. The right BPO provider will have in-house resource planning, extensive customer journey mapping and process optimisation skills, as well as the ability to scale and flex the resources you need, when you need them. They should also have deep experience in your sector and understand the regulatory and legal requirements you need to abide by. By bringing the right partner on board, your business needn’t suffer from growing pains, but can scale for success!