Customer relationship key in Latin America


By Jonathan Spencer Jones

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil —(METERING.COM) — 26 September, 2006 – The relationship with customers is one of the key factors in the efficient management and development of utilities in Latin America.

This was emphasized by the two keynote speakers at the 4th Metering, Billing/CRM Latin America and Latin America Prepayment Week, which opened yesterday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lutero de Castro, president of the Rio de Janeiro state water utility Companhia Estadual de Aguas e Esgotos (CEDAE), said that the utility had faced a number of challenges in recent years, of which one has been to develop a better relationship with its 1.6 million customers.

Commenting that his background is in telephony, including involvement in the rollout of the first cellular network in Brazil, de Castro said that experiences in this sector had highlighted the importance of a strong customer focus at all levels of the utility. In order to achieve this actions have included intense personnel training and creating wider public awareness of water and sanitation, as well as more efficient meter reading and billing procedures.

Marcelo Llévenes, president of electricity utility Ampla and country manager of Endesa Brazil, also commented on the importance of the customer relationship, saying that in the past the utility appeared to be “fragmented” from the customer’s point of view and more concerned with “fulfilling procedures than customer satisfaction”. Thus customer satisafaction has formed a major component of the transformation at Ampla, while other actions have included the development of a pro-active relationship with the regulator, the efficient use of resources and significant investment in human capital within the utility.

Ampla is one of the largest electricity utilities in Brazil, serving some 2.2 million customers across almost three-quarters of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

In addition Llévenes highlighted the importance of technology as a key issue, saying that projects implemented at Ampla have included an AMR network, an anti-theft device for large customers, prepayment, energy management, and energy monitoring for consumers. The net result of these measures, Llévenes noted, is a reduction in losses by about three percentage points over the past three years, from around 24% to 21% currently, compared with a 1% reduction in the previous six years.

Metering, Billing/CRM Latin America continues over the next two days, with a focus today on AMR/AMM and other metering trends nationally and globally, billing and data management and customer relationship management.