Why now is the time to upgrade your customer service and billing systems

By Ruediger Neubauer

Energy customers today expect easy, intuitive experiences when it comes to their account and billing. Yet many retailers still use outdated customer information systems (CIS) and billing technology that slow down their operations and fail to meet the needs of their customers.

Migrating to newer customer service and billing systems comes at a cost, but it saves money in the long run. Security, reliability, and ease of maintenance are all significantly improved with a modern cloud-based solution. As are your sales performance, customer satisfaction, and customer life-time value.

Here are the 3 big reasons why upgrading your outdated systems.

Major benefits continue increasing each year

Rapidly changing trends in energy technology and consumer habits have strengthened the business case for upgrading your systems.

Firstly, consumers now expect easy, online, mobile-friendly customer service and billing experiences. Systems that primarily rely on phone calls and paper mailings are largely outdated, and deliver poor service. If two retailers offer similar services at similar prices, customers might base their decisions on the company whose systems are easiest to use.

Second, the power of automation has increased significantly in recent years. With artificial intelligence, more data collection, and better integration with other software, companies can improve efficiency and gain new capabilities. Technology shouldn’t just support your operations, it should empower you to completely transform them.

The user interface of modern systems is easier for employees to use as well. Employees can be onboarded and trained more easily when the user interface of the system they use is more familiar and modern. Intuitive systems also make it much easier to train remote workers and third party partners, and cut out costly mistakes through pre-configured portals.

While cost to staying on legacy platforms also increase

Like water, telecommunications, and health services, energy companies are critical infrastructure that is vulnerable to malware and other cyberattacks. This makes legacy systems — even for less critical functions like billing and customer service—a liability. Especially as attacks can spread from a poorly-secured legacy customer service system to a more critical system that controls how the grid operates.

As companies scale up their infrastructure, legacy billing and customer service systems can be a bottleneck. Billing, in particular, is crucial for all sorts of other operations, so a slow or inefficient billing system can make other IT projects more painful and costly as well.

Additionally, the cost to maintaining legacy systems grows with age. These systems might be tied to specific hardware that fails as it gets older, or might require specific skills which become rarer as employees retrain onto new technologies.

Upgrade with confidence

Migrating to a more advanced system doesn’t have to be a disruptive process.

By taking some simple tips into account, energy retailers can avoid issues while moving to a more modern system:

  • Do your homework. Make sure that the new system meets all of the company’s requirements in a test environment.
  • Consider future expansion needs when configuring the new system. Don’t just plan for new markets, plan for integrating with new technology and customer engagement tools as well. Think what your business will need to look like in 5 – 10 years, and make sure your provider can support that new operational model (or has a plan to get there).
  • If necessary, emulate the old system’s interfaces and APIs to retain compatibility with your existing technology investments.

Takeaways

Done right, the advantages of switching to modern customer service and billing technologies vastly outweigh the costs—especially since the benefits continue to increase every year. Additionally, the risks of staying behind on old systems are higher than ever. Legacy systems are difficult to keep secure and efficient, especially with changing requirements.

Given the points in favor of today’s cloud-based customer service and billing systems, every energy retailer should seriously consider migrating from legacy systems.

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Ruediger Neubauer is CSO of Znalytics