Improving customer service at Domlec
The main driving force behind Domlec’s decision to change its billing and information system was rising customer expectations, particularly in terms of speed and efficiency of service. The needs for more flexible reporting and enabling lower level staff to make decisions were among the other main reasons.
Domlec is the sole electric utility on Dominica, a Windward group island lying between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south. Covering an area of some 750 km2, it is extremely mountainous, with numerous peaks over 1350 m in elevation, and has extensive areas of tropical rainforest. Power is supplied by oil-fired diesel and hydro, making the island, which has a population of some 76,000, virtually self-sufficient in energy.
The new system provides Domlec staff with software that gives them the information to handle and solve customer questions and problems immediately. It will thus improve communication between customers and staff as well as between staff and management, and thereby ultimately improve customer service.
The ability to monitor, track and report on pending and completed field work was also seen as a key element in the improvement of the quality of customer service delivered by Domlec.
Domlec began the search for a new CIS solution in early 2001. The search process, which was led by Domlec’s chief operating officer, Bob Watson, involved examining several CIS options, conducting product demonstrations and checking vendor references. An important aspect was that all levels of staff were involved in the process, and that users, managers and the executive group support the choice. On the completion of the process, Advanced Utilities Systems Corporation’s (AUSC) CIS Infinity was chosen as a modern billing and customer information solution.
AUSC is a privately owned and operated software and services company based in Toronto, Canada. Since its start-up in 1997, the company has served some 45 water, electric and natural gas companies through its CIS Infinity software.
From Domlec’s point of view CIS Infinity met all the criteria mentioned above, as well as the following:
- User control over all aspects of billing and customer service operations
- Software interfaces with accounting packages, report writers, meter reading and mapping software as well as spreadsheets, word processing and Internet programs.
The implementation of CIS Infinity has progressed well and is nearing completion. The implementation has involved several key stages. The first was the conversion of data from the legacy system to CIS Infinity. Technical experts from Domlec led the data extraction phase of the process, while AUSC co-ordinated the data mapping and placement in the new system.
Software set-up to reflect the unique operations at Domlec is a second key stage, which is well underway. CIS Infinity uses user-defined control files so that the operating practices of Domlec could be established without “hard coding” or “heavily customising” the software. The set-up is then tested through a process of “soft parallel testing”, whereby individual processes or activities are tested, and “hard parallel testing” where the entire system is tested and compared to the existing system. Only when balances match exactly will Domlec move to a live environment.
A third critical stage involves training. CIS Infinity is user-friendly and intuitive for many users, but training in areas such as billing, cashiering, asset management, report generation, system administration and collections is necessary. An initial overview training session was held at AUSC’s offices and the remainder of the training has been conducted on-site at Domlec.
A fourth stage involves the testing, by both AUSC and Domlec, that occurs throughout the implementation. The tests done by AUSC’s quality assurance department are to ensure that the software is operating exactly as it was set up. The team from Domlec is directing its efforts more on testing that the processes work to design. Both are intertwined, however, and they must move forward together, with each ensuring that CIS Infinity provides the anticipated improvements in customer service.
After going live (scheduled for March 2002), a three-month software warranty period follows, and after that users of CIS Infinity will be provided with help through the CIS Infinity support desk.
Once installed, CIS Infinity will provide Domlec with a state-of-the-art customer information and billing system that will help achieve one of the company’s business objectives of significantly improving customer service in the areas of customer service delivery, billing and information. This achievement, along with staff development and empowerment, will enable Domlec to provide an unprecedented level of customer service.