In a previous post, I said that consolidation reduces costs. But it does more: consolidation eases implementation of systems to reduce dependency on the particular knowledge and experience of key individuals. This is particularly clear in 2 areas:
- Work Scheduling and Dispatching. Advanced schedulers, such as ClickSoftware, may automatically dispatch field crews based on skillset, equipment and availability, without relying on dispatchers’ particular knowledge and experience, especially for unplanned (emergency) work. In reducing human interventions, dispatchers become supervisors of the overall process, focusing on difficult situations that the system cannot process effectively by itself. In addition to more efficient truck rolls, the number of dispatchers and schedulers (now consolidated) can be reduced.
- Customer Relationships Management (CRM). Large utilities may have sophisticated Customer Information Systems (CIS) for millions of residential and small commercial and industrials accounts, but there is often no system to manage the hundreds of large commercial, industrial and institutional (CI&I) customers. Therefore, these remain the privy of local resources owning the customer contacts. The lack of rigour in regard to customer contact is probably a contributor to low CI&I customer satisfaction often observed. It would not make sense to implement a large system for a few customers, but a light CRM, such as Salesforce.com, can be cost effective and have a relatively fast implementation time
Full disclosure: My father worked for 25 years as a utility dispatcher. He is long dead now, but I am sure that he would be amazed to see the tools that dispatchers at modern utilities may have now.