To help drive funding from regulators, South East Water aimed to boost its Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) score. How could it deliver rapid and effective services to ensure customer satisfaction?
South East Water worked with IBM Business Partner Vetasi to implement a mobile workforce management solution based on IBM Maximo Asset Management Scheduler and IBM Mobile Foundation.
99 percentfaster access to maintenance and repair reports
Boostscustomer satisfaction scores
Drivesfuture funding via the Service Incentive Mechanism
Business challenge story
Raising satisfaction to new heightsIn the UK water industry, a Government body—the Water Services Regulation Authority, or Ofwat—is responsible for prescribing the limits on pricing for consumer water and wastewater services. As a proxy for economic competition, each supplier’s customer services are assessed and scored every five years against a set of quantitative and qualitative measures. The resulting Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) score determines the maximum prices that a supplier may charge for its services.
For suppliers such as South East Water, the challenge is to ensure the highest possible levels of supply availability, and to offer customers responsive services if they call to report maintenance or repair issues.
Dhiraj Sood, Operations System Manager at South East Water, takes up the story: “Because our funding model is based on our SIM score, delivering high-quality customer services is one of our top priorities.
“At certain points during the five-year pricing cycle, Ofwat runs satisfaction surveys for customers that have recently called our contact center, and asks them how well we dealt with their enquiry. Because these responses are an important driver of our overall SIM score, we also conduct our own surveys to monitor customer perceptions of our services.”
Like many leading utilities, South East Water manages its extensive water supply network using IBM Maximo Asset Management, part of the IBM Watson Internet of Things portfolio.
Dhiraj Sood continues: “South East Water is responsible for a network that includes more than 14,000 kilometers of water mains, which means that robust asset management capabilities are essential to maximize the availability of our assets. For many years, we have relied on our IBM Maximo solution to help us efficiently manage our asset data, and coordinate planned and unplanned maintenance work.
“In the past, our contractors working in the field would document the work they were carrying out on paper forms, which were then manually rekeyed into the IBM Maximo solution. This meant that there was often a delay of two working days between work being completed and the information being entered into the system.
“The challenge with this way of working was that our contact center was unable to gain an accurate view of when work was scheduled to take place, and by when it was likely to be completed. This made it difficult for us to manage operational incidents and resolve customer inquiries effectively on the first call, and threatened to reduce satisfaction.
“To solve the challenge, we looked for a way to empower our operational managers and customer services team to manage work and deliver up-to-the-minute information to our customers. The ability to monitor and control key jobs using accurate data is vital to meet our regulatory targets—and an increasingly critical capability as we move towards a competitive water market in the coming years.”
Building a mobile workforce management solution
South East Water realized that mobile workforce management capabilities would deliver the visibility it needed to support more responsive customer services.
“Our aim was to increase the information we had about when our contractors were attending a site, the work they performed, and the likely date the work would be completed,” recalls Dhiraj Sood. “We knew the fastest way to capture the information was entering it directly into the IBM Maximo solution. For that reason, we wanted to develop a mobile app that could run on our contractors’ smartphones—enabling them to key in real-time updates on site.”
To capture and manage information on its contractors’ work schedules, South East Water decided to enhance its existing solution with IBM Maximo Asset Management Scheduler software. And to provide a platform-agnostic development environment for its new mobile app, the company selected IBM Mobile Foundation.
To prepare its IBM Maximo environment for the new mobile capabilities, South East Water worked with IBM Premier Business Partner Vetasi to upgrade to the latest version of IBM Maximo Asset Management.
Dhiraj Sood comments: “We consider Vetasi a trusted partner, and we have relied on their expertise around IBM Maximo solutions for many years. Vetasi doesn’t just possess the technical know-how—they truly understand the way our business works. For that reason, we were confident that their team would be the optimal choice to achieve a fast, seamless upgrade—and that’s exactly what Vetasi delivered.”
With the upgrade completed, South East Water developed a new mobile app, fully integrated with its IBM Maximo solutions.
“Because our contractors operate on a bring-your-own-device model, it was important to work with a platform-agnostic app development platform,” explains Dhiraj Sood. “Using IBM Mobile Foundation, we created an app that will work on both Android and iOS—offering us the flexibility we need to maximize use of the app out in the field and beyond.”
Today, South East Water has rolled out its mobile app to more than 80 engineering teams, delivering near-real time data to its customer contact center, technical call center and cost controlling teams.
“When we first implemented IBM Mobile Foundation, we had it rigorously pentested—and we are very satisfied with the security of the solution,” adds Dhiraj Sood. “Making changes to our apps is straightforward—we simply push the latest release directly to our contractors’ devices.”
Proactive services boost satisfaction
By enabling its contractors to enter information directly into IBM Maximo, South East Water can get information to its customer service teams—and therefore to its customers—faster than ever.
“Today, our contractors’ mobile updates out in the field flow through into IBM Maximo within just 10 minutes—orders of magnitude faster than before,” says Dhiraj Sood. “Better still, we have vastly increased the richness of the data we capture—for example, by enabling our contractors to take pictures of their completed work. As a result, our works planning team can quickly validate that the work has performed properly.”
He continues: “Crucially, the improved visibility means that we can keep our customers informed about the progress of works every step of the way. We can now resolve more customer issues on their first call into our contact center, and reach out to our customers with updates proactively. Keeping customers informed is a valuable way to increase their satisfaction—and we have already seen a marked increase in satisfaction in the two SIM surveys performed since our new solution went live.”
The mobile solution is also delivering benefits to South East Water’s contractors, who are embracing the new way of working.
Dhiraj Sood comments: “Today, we use images in IBM Maximo to perform essential quality assurance checks far faster than before. As a result, we can pay contractor invoices faster—boosting their satisfaction and improving their cash flow.”
Access to on-site images makes it easier for South East Water’s health and safety team to ensure that its contractors are in compliance with regulatory requirements. For example, the team can verify that contractors are using the correct equipment on site, and that works are being performed safely. And with up-to-the-minute information on the precise location of ongoing works, the health and safety team can perform on-site audits easily if required.
“We are receiving positive feedback across the board—from contractors in the field to the senior leadership team at our head office,” says Dhiraj Sood. “We have only been using our app for five months, but people are already telling us that they couldn’t live without the near-real time information they have now.”
He concludes: “Customer satisfaction is a key contributor to our overall SIM score, and thanks in large part to our IBM solution we have already climbed significantly in the SIM survey league. By continuing to develop our mobile app, we will strengthen our ability to deliver more effective, proactive services that delight our customers.”
About South East Water
South East Water is one of 21 regulated water supply companies in England and Wales, serving 2.1 million people living in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire. The company supplies 565 million liters of drinking water each day, and maintains a distribution network of 14,000 kilometers of water mains.
Take the next step
Vetasi is an international consultancy specializing in solutions for work and enterprise asset management, IT service management, and property portfolio management. An IBM Premier Business Partner, Vetasi’s 70 consultants and support personnel have deep experience in delivering IBM Maximo solutions. To learn more about products, services and solutions from Vetasi, please visit vetasi.com.