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Improving Telecom Workflows for Better Customer Service: A Guide to Enhancing the Customer Experience Through Better Field Force Automation

It’s well-documented that higher customer satisfaction directly impacts customer loyalty and retention—and that ultimately boosts customer lifetime value and profitability. In a highly competitive industry like telecommunications, the ability to deliver exceptional customer service can reduce the odds of consumers or businesses switching providers and drive down customer acquisition costs.

Yet, telecom providers face a host of challenges when it comes to delivering the service experience their customers expect, from regulatory obstacles to labor constraints to rising costs. With subscriber volume and data usage increasing exponentially, it’s not uncommon for customers to suffer through long on-hold times or experience delays and difficulties in getting their service issues resolved satisfactorily.

Download the Guide to Learn:

  • Trends impacting telecom customer service
  • Challenges that telecom providers face in delivering the service experience today’s consumers and businesses demand
  • Five telecom workflows that can improve customer service through automation
  • Use cases that illustrate the impact that telecom asset management software can have on customer service

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Working Faster & Smarter: A Guide to Automated Field Crew Scheduling

For utility companies today, field crew scheduling is one of the costliest and most complex tasks they undertake – and one of the more critically important. According to industry research, field operation labor costs typically represent as much as 60% of the overall asset maintenance costs utility companies incur. For many water and gas utilities, these costs can be as high as 80% of total spend.

This is because so much of the scheduling and workforce management processes are carried out manually by utility personnel. While this labor-intensive approach was sufficient for the needs of the industry years ago, today’s public is accustomed to much faster, more responsive services from the organizations that touch their lives (think Amazon and Netflix), and utilities must digitally transform their service models to keep their operations in step with what consumers today expect from them.

In this report, we cover the benefits of using an automated work scheduling solution to increase utility companies’ worker efficiency and productivity.

Read the guide to learn:

  • How the utility industry workforce is changing, leaving companies shorthanded and missing key institutional knowledge and skills

  • How automated work scheduling software can increase worker productivity and efficiency, allowing them to spend more time completing work rather than on manually tracking and transferring data

  • How to find the right scheduling tool for your company’s field automation needs

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How to Use Geospatial Technology to Automate and Streamline Your Utility Field Operations

For many utility companies, data collection is largely a manual process, or one that involves a mix of technology and manual record keeping. Data must be collected, digitized, processed, and kept up to date when on-site infrastructure and assets change. Field workers are often also deployed to remote areas with no online connectivity, making it difficult to access and enter the data required to do their jobs. 

In-office personnel also face a variety of challenges around field workforce management – namely, the sheer volume of data being collected from a variety of sources. Data recorded in legacy, on-site systems is also challenging to disseminate to teams of field workers, particularly when it is siloed in disparate computer systems and applications and needed in real time. 

So, what is the solution? With the geographic reach and service demands of utility companies continuing to expand in both size and complexity, the need to digitally streamline operations is more pressing than ever. The right geospatial technology can help companies automate and streamline the management of their geospatial data. 

Key advantages of geospatial technologies include: 

  • Integration of data into operational and business workflow processes to influence decisions on resource allocation and expediting the deployment and management of field crews. 
  • Ability to display physical assets digitally in interactive maps that allow utility personnel to drill down to pertinent details about the assets and their surrounding terrain. 
  • Fast, easy workflow creation and management, efficient work scheduling engines, and data synchronization modules for asset map data. 
  • Integration with enterprise GIS and business applications used by employees and other stakeholders, including Oracle, IBM Maximo, and SAP.

View the recording of our recent webinar, “Uncover Opportunities to Automate & Streamline Field Operations Through Geospatial Innovation”, to learn more about geospatial technologies, as well as the features to look for when selection the right solution for your company.

View the Webinar Recording

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Automating Tracking and Traceability Processes: Minimizing Human Error for Better Field Outcomes

With industry technology digitally transforming so quickly, the pressure is on for natural gas companies to embrace new tracking and traceability tools as they are brought to market and to modernize their systems, applications, and organizations.

In this report, we explore how digital tracking and traceability tools are revolutionizing the natural gas industry and providing for easier, safer, and more efficient field operations.

Read the guide to learn:

  • The latest regulatory requirements affecting the natural gas industry, such as ASTM F2897
  • Why it’s important to make the investment now in automated tracking and traceability technology
  • Key features to look for when selecting a digitized workforce management solution

Download the White Paper

Modernizing Your Approach to Vegetation Management

The safety and reliability of power line systems is essential to consumers and businesses alike, and in the era of climate change, vegetation management has never been more critical.  

When vegetation around the power grid is left unchecked, it can interfere with power line systems, with catastrophic results. In fact, vegetation grow-in and fall-in remain the most dominant causes of power outages today. Even more concerning is the devastating impact unmanaged vegetation can have when power line systems are impacted by extreme weather events, such as windstorms, which can bring lines down and send dangerous sparks into the surrounding terrain.  

While in 2021, the financial impact of Western states wildfires reached an alarming $10.9 billion, the human costs of wildfires fueled by downed lines are simply beyond measure. Consider, for example, California’s 2018 Camp Fire, caused by extreme heat and wind conditions that damaged power lines and ultimately ignited one of the worst wildfires in our nation’s history. The Camp Fire consumed a full 153,335 acres in just two weeks, took the lives of 85 people, and destroyed 30,000 homes. Moving at a pace of 80 football fields per minute at its peak, this out-of-control blaze ravaged the entire town of Paradise in four hours. 

To help mitigate the effects of wildfires and power outages, utility companies today are making vegetation management a top priority, seeking new tools and technologies to aid in the fight.  

Why Digitization Is the Answer

Inspections and forecasting of vegetation are key mitigators of vegetation management and drivers of operational priorities and budgets for utility transmission and distribution departments. To effectively reduce the risks of vegetation fall-in and grow-in around power supply systems, utility companies need deep ongoing visibility into exactly where vegetation growth is posing the greatest threats.  

To gain that level of visibility, utility companies conduct routine line inspections and gather vegetation data from a variety of different sources as well, such as aerial imagery and LiDAR, which is typically employed to capture data from above, using helicopters, airplanes, and drones. Because all this data is collected via disparate manual and digital processes in a range of different technological formats, structuring, synthesizing, and processing it presents challenges.  

The vast amount of data available to utility companies today also presents technological challenges – along with opportunities. For example, rapid deployment of new satellites is increasing the geographic data available to the industry exponentially, information that can be used to dynamically track the state of vegetation around the power grid. However, processing all this data in an efficient manner takes immense computing power, and utility companies are often restrained by existing legacy infrastructure that lacks the high-performance computing required to analyze such volumes of data. 

Utility companies also often suffer from an inability to convert raw data into the standardized formats required to leverage new advanced technologies available to them, such as AI and machine learning. Going forward, utilities must modernize their approach to vegetation management by advancing their infrastructure to keep pace with innovation, digitizing and standardizing the data they aggregate, and automating workflows to streamline their operations and meet the high vegetation management standards the industry has set. 

Selecting the Right Technology

As a first step, utility companies should invest in a single, enterprise-wide platform that serves as both a central repository for field data and point of integration across systems and applications. Having the right digitization platform in place will ensure universal data access by stakeholders and ultimately help streamline workforce deployment workflows. Integration across the environment will help eliminate workflow bottlenecks and enable support for innovative new technologies as they emerge. The most sophisticated solutions in the industry today are web-based, offer expansive support for mobile devices deployed in field operations, and are built to scale.  

The ideal digitization platform should also capture and standardize data from a breadth of resources, including drones, satellites, mobile devices, and manual documentation. Support for new, emerging industry AI and machine learning solutions is essential to have as well.  

Optimally, the platform should also automate business processes from end to end – including scheduling field personnel, tracking work in progress, assessing performance, managing assets, and identifying opportunities for improvement.  

Meeting the Challenge with EpochField

While there are many digitization solutions on the market today, few offer the functionality, flexibility, and scale needed to meet the vegetation management demands of the utility industry. 

A web-based, enterprise-wide solution, the EpochField workflow automation and management platform is tailored for utility companies and can be configured to an organization’s specific needs. EpochField comes with full-featured modules for field workflow creation and management, work order and workforce scheduling, and asset map data distribution to the field, and is built for seamless integration across the infrastructure, from field mobile devices to on-premise servers and cloud-based applications. As the use of emerging technologies becomes more widespread, EpochField will continue to adapt to these and other data collection sources to provide utilities with the critical data needed for ongoing decision making. 

As a foundation for network and asset workflows, EpochField offers features like offline viewing, high-performance maps, and configurable work order forms, allowing utility personnel to easily view their assets on a map-centric interface, wherever they are located – in the office or in the field. 

As a result, utility companies can meet the complex challenge of vegetation management head on, dramatically increasing system uptime while preserving lives, property, and the environment surrounding the power grid. 

Click here to schedule a demo today. 

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How Digital Innovation Helps Utility Companies Quickly Get Things Back Up and Running After a Storm

One of the worst winter storms swept through Texas in recorded history during 2021, causing power outages to millions of people and businesses. According to McKinsey and Company, this catastrophic event led to Governor Abbot issuing a disaster declaration in 254 counties. 2020 and 2021 were two years that had the most named storms in history, with 30 and 27 named storms respectively.

From hurricanes, to devastating winter storms like those in Texas and increased weather activity throughout the country, the impacts of storms on energy infrastructures is far reaching. Managing these systems and monitoring and responding to a power crisis in real-time is highly complex. Utilities companies need to implement a flexible digital infrastructure to meet the many challenges they encounter when providing consistent and active services, and to be prepared to get services back up and running quickly in the case of a storm emergency.

Responding to New Energy Landscapes

The effects of climate change are significantly impacting the utilities industry. Frequent and severe weather conditions have pushed infrastructure capabilities to their limits, leading to power outages, lower efficiency, and higher costs.

Water, electric, and environmental regulatory environments are evolving. As a result, energy companies must reimagine maintenance and inspection goals and approach new solutions that give them greater control of their assets.

Implementing weather-resistant, mobile electrical structures like these modular e-houses that can accommodate almost any power structure could be one of the many solutions. The advantages provided by these e-houses, such as withstanding the elements while ensuring resistance to fire, explosions, and galvanic corrosion, seem to be in line with the requirements for outage prevention due to storms and other disasters. With that said, technological solutions can also come into the picture and help utilities provide immediate and timely services during emergencies.

Climate Change, Regulations, and Consumers

Amidst new climate and regulatory landscapes, utilities companies are faced with new consumer demands and behaviors that are changing alongside the digital world, like smart home environments and smartphone applications. Consumers are driven by personalized experiences that give them more control and data at their fingertips. Energy companies must deliver these experiences to keep pace with modern consumer needs for transparency and personalization.

Utilities companies should respond to climate change, regulatory environments, and consumer demands and generate value using new, innovative solutions that:

  • Optimize operations
  • Overcome the limitations of legacy systems
  • Improve the customer experience

A utility company needs the right digital capabilities and solutions that help them more efficiently manage their operations while equipping the workforce with new digital tools that improve workflow processes and collaboration. Energy companies need real-time access to the right data to assess changing environments and instantaneously react and respond accordingly.

Utilities and the Impacts of Digital Technology

When the Texas power crisis occurred, harsh weather conditions were devastating. In the event that power outages occur, power grids and power lines are damaged, utilities companies require the capabilities to respond and restore power quickly.

Energy companies need customizable solutions that put their customers first and equip their employees with new capabilities to deliver and enhance services in a modern digital world. They must reimagine how they approach numerous business functions like asset management, workforce deployment, field workforce management, and vegetation management.

Assessing damage and quickly deploying field service crews helps energy companies restore power rapidly to their customers. EpochField, a solution from Epoch Solutions Group, enhances data collection workflows with tools that enable strategic planning, field data collection, and real-time analysis. It integrates operates with existing systems including outage management (OMS), work management (WMS), geographic information (GIS), and customer relationship management (CRM).

Innovative digital solutions like these improve damage assessment back-office functions. Teams utilize dashboards to provide a better view of to view outages, crew locations and work locations on a spatial map with integrated GPS tracking. Systems receive notifications when outages occur, and field crews are quickly deployed.

Also, scheduling optimization tools help utilities companies efficiently assemble and deploy large groups of field crews more accurately and efficiently. Field crews also use their mobile devices for online or offline work orders, sending and receiving information from the back office, electronically syncing data with the back-office enterprise systems. Any system user can create work order forms, document inspections, streamline maintenance, and demonstrate compliance to regulators.

Organizations need to prepare for today and tomorrow. Digital solutions from Epoch Solutions Group enhance utilities companies’ agility, resilience, and flexibility. Epoch Solutions Group drives innovation and opportunity with a technology platform that helps organizations respond to digital transformation, enhance operational efficiency, and overcome the challenges resulting from climate change, regulatory environments, and shifting consumer behaviors.

Digitize Your Utilities Operations

Schedule a demo today and discover how Epoch Solutions Group can help your energy company prepare for storm outages, the impacts of climate change, new regulatory landscapes, and changing consumer behaviors.