Utilities to streamline communication efforts
By Dave Thomas
Whether it is an ordinary day in the communities they serve or a day where weather and other unforeseen incidents are causing mayhem and havoc, utility companies are best served when they are able to streamline their communication efforts.
As more utility providers are discovering, not only does streamlining communications make it easier to serve customers, but it also can reduce the company’s overall expenditures over time.
Options abound for providers
Although there are a number of options available to utility companies when it comes to communications, most are best served finding a provider that can meet a variety of needs, namely solid tech support, a reasonable price, and equipment that staff can easily be trained on, including when upgrades are necessary.
Given phone communications are essential to having direct contact with customers; working with the best phone system should be a top priority for utility companies.
From Megapath PBX to a variety of other options, utilities should review the following when choosing a hosted PBX phone system.
Among the factors to look at:
1. Cost – Sure, any utility provider wants to save money, but careful what you wish for. As most businesses and customers for that matter know, you essentially get what you pay for. With that in mind, check to see if you will be required to purchase or lease PBX equipment (see below) when moving to a hosted PBX phone system. Also read the fine print of any contracts you are expected to sign. At the end of the day, your contact center is the lifeblood of your operation, so look to lower your expenses while still meeting the needs of customers;
2. Equipment – Another item to research is the equipment you may or may not need to use. There are instances where you could require new phones, not to mention a voice gateway among other items. Depending on your equipment needs, how easily trainable will your employees (especially newer ones) be with it? Also make sure the provider offers equipment for your mobile and virtual workers outside the an office call center;
3. Customer service – Last but not least, the provider’s customer service record should never be taken for granted. As all utility companies know, emergencies can happen 24/7. When utilities must communicate with customers to answer their questions and oftentimes calm their fears, having a trusted phone system is critical. Before investing time and money in a system, get as much background information as you can on the provider’s customer service record. If it leaves something to be desired, step away from them.
Mergers can mean changes in how you communicate
Keep in mind as a utility provider that changes to your company ownership can happen sooner than you might expect.
According to a January PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Q4 of 2013 witnessed an increase in both the volume and value of power and utility industry merger and acquisition deals surpassing $50 million. The fourth quarter witnessed 14 deals that compared to a dozen in Q3 2013.
With mergers and other alterations to company ownership, what may have worked in the past as it relates to customer service may not be useful now.
By offering both your employees and customers the latest in communication services, you can improve the odds of being that shining light that the public turns to for years to come.
About the author: Dave Thomas covers a wide array of subjects, among which include marketing, small business, and technology.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.