Customers' Expectations from Frontline Managers in Utility Sector: Case Study of Power Distribution Companies in Central India

Customers' Expectations from Frontline Managers in Utility Sector: Case Study of Power Distribution Companies in Central India

Suresh Vishwakarma (University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, India) and Alka Dwivedi (University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0143-5.ch006
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Abstract

Consequent to power sector reforms, customers' satisfaction is gaining vital importance at power distribution companies. Customers are now getting a choice of choosing their electricity supplier as well as options of investing in their own power generating equipment. The threat of losing customers is driving power distribution companies towards ensuring customer satisfaction. Apart from availability of electricity supply on a 24 / 7 basis, electricity customers now expect ease in getting new electricity connection, advice on most suitable category of supply, timely meter reading, billing, and handling of grievance. To provide customers with great satisfaction, power distribution companies have to give quality attention to offering excellent services that attracts customers and clear up all customers' complaints. Frontline managers play a very significant role in the electric utility companies. They act as an inter-face between the customers / public and the company. This chapter attempts to elaborate customers' expectations from the frontline managers in power distribution companies.
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1. Changing Scenario And Key Challenges Before Power Distribution Companies

Reforms in the power industry are bringing major changes to the operating environment everywhere demanding strengthening sales capabilities, total service capabilities, increased management efficiency and responsiveness, rationalizing, increasing speed and efficiency of operations, and also strengthening internal auditing functions to ensure that losses are within allowable limits.

Prior to reforms, the customers’ satisfaction was of course important at erstwhile electricity boards and departments but the customers hardly had any choice of choosing their electricity supplier. However in the ongoing deregulated environment, customers can not only choose their electricity supplier but also invest in their own power generating equipment to bypass the grid in whole or part. It will inevitably be more pronounced in the future, when distributed generation options will be more widespread and affordable. The threat of losing customers to competitors and potential bypass of the conventional electric distribution system by customers through distributed generation is driving power distribution companies towards ensuring higher customer satisfaction. Losing customers has a large impact on unit rates. Attracting and retaining customers to keep electricity prices affordable is therefore more important now for the power distribution companies than ever.

New electricity customers now take the same approach to energy that they take to everything else they buy. They now demand more from the products and services they purchase. If they are not satisfied, they will go elsewhere. Satisfaction of electricity customers largely depends on whether the services being provided by their electricity supplier meets, exceeds, or falls short of their expectations. Apart from availability of electricity supply on a 24 / 7 basis, electricity customers now-a-days expect a high quality in a number of services including but not limited to ease in getting a new electricity connection, advice on most suitable category of supply, timely meter reading, correct billing, quick redress of grievances, and customer education. To provide customers with great satisfaction, power distribution companies have to give paramount attention towards offering excellent customer services to attract them and retain them. One of the major objectives of forming regulatory commissions at centre and states, subsequent to deregulation was to protect customers’ interest and ensure acceptable services to them.

In the deregulated scenario full of competition and opportunities, electric utility companies need quality-trained manpower in several additional areas of expertise in addition to the existing ones. Apart from experts on latest technological updates, utility now require quality trained manpower in business economics, statistics, finance, marketing, operations, human resource, industrial relations, cost accounts, regulatory practices, legal matters, public relations and many others areas to be able to efficiently operate in the changed scenario.

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