The Midwest utility integrates disparate customer information systems after a merger and an acquisition.
Posted Nov 15, 2004
Vectren Corporation, an energy and applied technology holding company with more than 1 million customers, is the product of a merger between Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company (SIGECO) and Indiana Energy (completed in 2000). Shortly before the merger SIGECO planned to begin a customer information systems (CIS) implementation for its customer set, but since Indiana Energy had gone with a system the year before, the decision to have one common system for the enterprise was made after the merger. Vectren then acquired the natural gas assets of Dayton Power and Light, which complicated matters more as it had its own CIS and individual methods for processes like billing and meter reading.
"Some companies choose to keep multiple legacy systems," says Daniel Bugher, vice president of information technology at Vectren. "Our strategy was to consolidate each utility on the same platforms to achieve operational consistency and merger savings."
The utility wanted to stay as true to the base product as possible and only making modifications where necessary, and so selected enterprise-asset management and service-delivery management software provider Indus International's Customer Service Suite. After several workshops with Indus Vectren brought in IBM to partner with the companies on systems integration and to provide additional technical support for the implementation.
Vectren had three go-live dates: August 2001, November 2001, and March 2002. As a result, the company has multisite support and has optimized field operations by combining the Indus Customer Suite with Indus mobile dispatch capabilities. According to Brad Wachter, manager of customer systems, uniformity is a major benefit of using the Indus solution. "The three companies each had their own processes around billing and meter reading, and...now have the same process," he says. "That was a huge cost-savings." In fact, Vectren is typically at about a 99 percent billing rate for all of its customers, says Laura Haviza, manager of CRM systems support. "Of the accounts that are randomly selected for billing accuracy checks, we have been at a 100 percent accuracy," she says.
Customer approval levels have also risen: Vectren enjoys a 94 percent customer satisfaction rate for its utility customers, which is based on various components, including its billing and contact center performance. "Since our customer representatives use the Indus Advantage product to manage customer contacts, there is a direct tie of good application performance to customer satisfaction," Bugher says.
The utility's success with Indus has also been felt in other areas of the company's business plan, including Vectren's Customer Choice program, which allows utility customers to select their natural gas supplier. In its early design phase Vectren anticipated enrollment to hover around 15,000 to 20,000 customers, but now that figure has more than tripled, to about 67,000 customers enrolled. "We had to work with Indus to make many modifications to handle customer choice requirements, and Indus has made most of these product modifications part of their base product going forward."
In comparison to the Indiana Energy implementation Bugher considers the new system's operational stability a vital element. "[That previous implementation] really stretched the technical support team, as well as the billing administration team, and because several capabilities were not in that previous product there was almost a nightly issue to resolve." According to Bugher Indus has a stable system that enables technical support resources to have time to focus on changes and updates to meet new business requirements. "The billing administration does not have to constantly deal with a backlog of billing issues that of course, if left unresolved, will generate incremental customer call volumes and negatively impact customer satisfaction ratings."
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