Modern society depends on energy, gas, water, and waste management to function. Every household and individual also rely on these services, making Energy & Utilities (E&U) one of the most important industries in the world. Still, consumers expect energy and utility companies to operate efficiently, cost-effectively, and as sustainably as possible. This has led many energy and utility companies to invest in RPA technology.
According to Capgemini’s Research Institute, intelligent automation at scale may save the Energy & Utilities industry between$237 billion and $813 billion in costs. However, only 23% percent of energy and utility firms in the US have implemented sophisticated large-scale automation programs. That leaves significant room for improvement and enormous potential impact on global society.
Here’s a closer look at how RPA can help energy and utility companies catapult into the future.
What is RPA, and how can it help Energy Companies?
RPA, or robotic process automation, is a type of software that helps businesses automate repetitive tasks. Acompany can configure RPA software “bots” to mimic human actions, such as opening and closing applications, filling out forms, and extracting document data. In the energy industry, RPA bots can improve operations by automatically processing transactions, optimizing customer service, and eliminating errors. RPA bots can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without breaks.
Utility companies that adopt automation notice significantly fewer mistakes. Fewer errors mean happier consumers, which is criticalfor energy and utility firms to gain a competitive edge.United Utilities, for instance, invested in ten high-tech robots to “revolutionize” its service offerings. As a result, the company sped up the customer onboarding process by over 50 percent and improved accuracy using RPA bots to input data into its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Ultimately United Utilities’ customers received water service much quicker and with fewer issues.
In the past, only large companies used RPA because of the high software costs and hefty resource requirements. However, cost and complexity are no longer issues. RPA software today doesn’t require businesses to change their current IT systems or invest in techy programmers to manage the solutions. Thanks to the latest advances, RPA software is more affordable and accessible than ever.
RPA Use Cases in Energy & Utilities
Now is the time for energy businesses of all sizes and budgets to take advantage of RPA’s vast array of uses.
Meter Reading Validation
Energy and utility companies must validate a massive number of meter readings every day before billing a customer for usage. This process is essential, but it is also time-consuming, error-prone, and expensive. Employees typically handle this process manually, often misspelling a client’s name or entering inaccurate usage data. This results in incorrect billing that under or overcharges the customer. Mistakes like this can damage a business’s reputation and leave money on the table.
RPA technologies like DoqumentAI can help by automatically verifying meter readings against various data sources, including previous readings, customer usage patterns, and weather data. Furthermore, when RPA bots discover a deviation, they immediately flag it as a signal that something is wrong, instructing human employees to solve the problem. This process significantly improves accuracy and efficiency while reducing costs.
Billing and Statements
Utility companies issue numerous bills and statements to customers every month. This can be a time-consuming and error-prone process, mainly when done manually. RPA can help automate this process, ensuring that energy companies quickly and accurately issue bills, so their staff can focus on higher-level customer relations. RPA can also automatically flag anomalies, such as incorrect amounts or late payments, helping employees identify and prevent problems early.
EDF Energy, for example, harnessed RPA to optimize billing services across its retail electricity, generation, and nuclear and renewable energy businesses. In the process, it saved 70 hours a month in the pilot stage alone. After the first year, it expected to save 18,000 hours annually. EDF said it earned six times the ROI in time and money by automating eight of its previously manual tasks.
New Account Setup
One of the most time-consuming and tedious tasks for customer service representatives (CSRs) is setting up new accounts. This task generally requires CSRs to input the same information into multiple systems, leading to error and needless duplication of efforts.
RPA can automate account setup by integrating with various back-end systems (e.g., CRM, ERP, etc.) and capturing customer data from forms or emails. Bots can then enter this information into relevant systems without human intervention. RPA can also handle tasks such as password reset and account verification.
This is a win-win for customers and businesses. Customers get their accounts set up faster and with fewer errors, while companies can free up CSRs to do more ROI-focused tasks.
One company that has seen the benefits of RPA is Energy Australia, one of the largest energy retailers in the country. Energy Australia used RPA to automate the process of creating new customer accounts. As a result, the company reduced its account set-up time by 30%.
Managing technical support and improving retention
Energy companies must monitor persistent customer complaints, including account set-up issues, billing difficulties, and service outages. Fortunately, RPA can help by automatically logging, tracking, and resolving many of these standard queries, allowing reps to focus on more complex issues that require human intervention.
RPA can also help energy and utility companies proactively prevent customer churn by identifying patterns that could indicate a risk. Employees can then use this information to enact preventative measures, like offering discounts or reaching out to provide personalized service.
Energy companies can also use RPA with AI technologies for more advanced capabilities. For example, AI-based sentiment analysis can evaluate customer inquiries to determine if the person is asking a question or initiating a complaint. This analysis enables customer service reps to prioritize meaningful support to people who need it most.
RPA technology can help energy companies automate customer onboarding by entering data into the CRM quickly and accurately. Automated bots can check and update the information provided, compare it to the parameters set, and send notifications if any errors occur. This process ensures energy companies make the right first impression on customers, further supporting long-term retention.
Why RPA is Essential for Energy and Utility Companies
Analyze Data Patterns
RPA robots can tell businesses how long it took to process an order, how many outstanding transactions there are, and the procedures that caused exceptions and necessitated human intervention. Additionally, RPA can also analyze the data to help businesses quickly identify process improvements. The best RPA platforms, such as Disqover, have built-in analytics tools, allowing energy companies to turn data into action by:
- Understanding which processes are most time-consuming and resource-intensive
- Identifying process improvements that will have the most significant impact on efficiency
- Benchmarking a company’s performance against industry standards
Streamline Joint Ventures
Corporations frequently establish joint ventures in the oil and gas sectors to minimize risk, meet regulatory standards, optimize supply chains, and share access to technology, capital, and resources. To operate effectively as partners, these organizations must integrate their technological platforms. RPA can quickly and easily do this, helping each company to streamline communications and optimize performance.
Improve Customer Service
RPA can automate tasks such as handling customer inquiries, providing information about outages and billing, and issuing refunds. This frees up employees to provide higher-quality assistance. It allows energy companies to scale up and handle more inquiries with the same or fewer number of employees.
Reduce Operational Costs
Using robots to execute repetitive tasks can result in significant operational savings for energy companies. For example, qBotica recently implemented an Invoice Processing Automation solution at a Global Energy Company. As a result, the company gained 95% time savings and a considerable cost reduction. Additionally, RPA can reduce operating costs by monitoring equipment and scheduling proactive maintenance before machinery breaks down.
Improve Accuracy and Compliance
RPA can also help to improve precision and compliance. For instance, RPA can automate matching invoices to purchase orders and flag any discrepancies to ensure accuracy. In addition, RPA can automatically generate reports on energy usage to help companies identify areas where they can improve efficiency.
Scalable and Adaptable to the needs of each Utility
Deployment of RPA is possible at any stage of a company’s digital transformation journey, from automating basic tasks to driving complex business processes. RPA is highly scalable and adaptable, making it an ideal solution for energy and utility companies looking to improve their operations.
The Future of RPA for Utilities
RPA is not a silver bullet, but it is a valuable tool to help energy and utility companies overcome many challenges and significantly improve ROI. Organizations that invest in RPA technology will be well-positioned to compete now and in the future.
Schedule a discovery call with us today to learn more about how RPA can streamline your business. Our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.