Case Study: How a Texas utility is growing stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Article 2: Finding Strength in Challenging Times

How a Texas utility is growing stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We recently spoke with the inspired leader of customer service for one of the largest utilities in Texas to uncover how they were handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As an essential service to millions of consumers throughout Texas, the company already had advanced emergency planning and preparations in place. Given the state’s frequency for hurricanes and tornadoes, this high level of readiness and resiliency is essential to the company’s success and ability to serve its customers. Even though the company exercises its storm response frequently, its pandemic plan was largely untested, until this year. Its senior leadership team reviewed the plan and were able to quickly adapt it to the current COVID-19 outbreak. The plan designated mission-critical facilities along with strict cleaning guidelines essential to maintaining continuity in those locations. Instead of following standard cleaning procedures, that activity was ramped up to four times a day and is currently at eight times daily, resulting in the need for a large, full-time cleaning crew.

 

Having a pandemic plan already in place helped the company speed its response to this crisis. Being prepared also allowed them to send employees home to work right away, much earlier than mandated by the state, to ensure employees were safe. Their advanced planning also helped to reduce downtime and increase productivity as the technical infrastructure required for remote work was already in place. As the utility’s BPO partner, GC Services’ leadership team was able to work closely with their customer service staff to rapidly shift staff home to work and ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted service delivery.

 

The company has rapidly adapted to their current situation, integrating management practices to the new reality and the changed needs of their employees. All customer service teams hold a short video call with all team members each morning to ensure everyone is present and in good health. Not only does this keep operations running smoothly, but it also gives team members a sense of camaraderie knowing their teammates are safe and sound.

 

The company’s senior leaders have embraced this increased need for communication from employees. They now hold weekly pandemic readiness calls to deliver important news and decisions, while also providing Q & A sessions with management. They have also extended a tremendous amount of support to their employees as well as their families. Utility customer care calls encompass delinquencies, outage calls, and transfer of services that carry a certain amount of stress during normal times, but during a pandemic as wide-spread as COVID-19, the stress levels for our customers are substantially greater. Taking care of our agents, and their families, results in the agents taking care of our customers during their time of need in this highly stressful period.

 

Each team has also creatively rallied, using available technology, to maintain a personal connection during these stressful times. The teams have organized a wide variety of events over video, which include:

 

  • Weekly virtual pub trivia nights available to the employees and their entire families
  • Musical performances by employees’ children not able to perform at their schools
  • Virtual pizza lunches
  • Virtual happy hours

 

Despite a great deal of turmoil experienced by all, the company believes they will emerge from the pandemic stronger in 4 distinct ways:

 

  • Communications: The level of communication throughout the company has increased to meet the needs of employees, including from senior leadership. Even in calmer, more stable times, they will continue these meetings to ensure everyone understands the decisions and thinking of the leadership team.
  • Stronger Teams: Each team member is more connected to each other, the company, and their mission to serve customers. The time spent on video calls getting more deeply acquainted with colleagues, while also sharing their challenges, has drawn them all closer and led to more reliable and more productive teams.
  • Work Flexibility: Fantastic performance resulted from people working differently than their typical model. Teams are working from home, but also at more comfortable hours. They’re working around new obligations from having the entire family home, but continuing to deliver reliable performance in these alternative modes. These results give the company the confidence to offer this level of flexibility in the future, which makes it a better place for their staff.
  • Automation: They are vigorously investigating a weightier investment in automation technologies that will allow the company to more rapidly scale service delivery during crises, while also improving the quality and accuracy of their responses.

 

With strong advanced planning, a strong partnership with GC Services, and an unrelenting focus on customers, the company has successfully executed a massive transition of their customer support teams. Additionally, from this experience, they will emerge as a healthier, more resilient organization and can rely on greater customer unity to withstand, and thrive in the face of adversity.

We Want To Hear From You

We are collecting the fantastic customer experience stories of resilience in the face of this tremendous challenge, and we’d love to hear yours. Enter your email address in the form below and we’ll have an interviewer coordinate a time to talk with you.

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