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Western Power surges ahead with cloud-based enterprise modernisation

Western Power builds, maintains and operates an electricity network that powers the lives for the 2.3 million customers, stretching from Kalbarri to Albany and Kalgoorlie to Perth.

It’s fair to say that in 2018 not all of those customers were thrilled by the service they received from the State Government owned organisation. With a Net Promoter Score (NPS) that was in negative territory and a patchwork quilt of disparate systems that featured pieces of customer data, Western Power acknowledged that it was falling short in terms of delivering a rich customer experience.

Today the organisation has turned its NPS around to a positive score that continues to rise, has a modern customer relationship management platform, and a sharpened appetite for digital transformation across the enterprise.

Tristan Bell is the project leader for the customer experience transformation project and explains that in the past, with customer information scattered in 33 different applications there was no single source of truth that detailed the customers’ journey and transparently displayed all their interactions with Western Power. It could lead to frustration and delay for staff and customers alike.

Kerry Kennedy-Lennie is Western Power’s customer experience manager and explains that from the outset the company wanted to cast its net wide to find the very best solution for its needs. Microsoft Dynamics 365, she says, genuinely won on its merits, with IT Consultancy and Managed Service Provider, ASG Group, selected as the implementation partner to support the modernisation, reflecting its experience with utility-focussed digital transformations and human centred design processes.

Better for customers, better for employees

Starting in 2018 Western Power worked with ASG Group to scope the project

Two Western Power employees sitting at their desk with headphones on
Modern technology has streamlined customer interactions and automate workflows for employees, leading to a significant improvement in customer reviews (Source: Western Power)

and flesh out requirements. It focussed on creating better ways of working for employees, and better ways of engaging for customers.

While the organisation had used some cloud-based systems in the past, the migration to Dynamics 365 was the first enterprise level use of public cloud at Western Power. The project was closely scrutinised from a security perspective – and is now recognised as a beacon for future cloud projects in the organisation.

Using an Agile approach, and working with ASG Group, Western Power deployed Dynamics 365 starting with Customer Engagement, Field Service, then Sales and it has also rolled out the Power Platform to create customer facing portals. It has also leveraged ClickDimensions, a marketing platform for Dynamics 365, and Maptaskr that enabled them to geospatially generate marketing lists.

According to Bell, Western Power’s Agile approach to the program means that there have been 74 releases over the last two years and around 400 employees – or around 15 per cent of the workforce – use some elements of the platform.

“We had a key rule with the project and that was ‘no going and asking for more time and no going asking for more money’.

So the only thing that was ever on the chopping block was scope and we generally delivered more scope than what was required as well. So it’s been a really good project from that perspective.

It’s also helped deliver a significant improvement in NPS from customers which has moved out of negative territory and now stands at +20;

Portrait image of Kerry Kennedy-Lennie
Kerry Kennedy-Lennie, Customer Experience Manager, Western Powerhas lifted efficiency across the group; and is on target to deliver more than $3M of business savings by 2024 – directly supporting Western Power’s aim to keep their costs low.

Delivering on the investment is critical says Kennedy-Lennie because as a regulated entity Western Power’s investments and performance against plan are reviewed regularly by the industry regulator.

“We’re actually right now in the middle of a regulatory review on this project, making sure we did in fact deliver the benefits that we said we would deliver. And happily we’ve ticked every single one off. In fact, we’ve gone over and above on many of them as well,” she says.

One of the impacts she is most delighted with is the turnaround in customer experience, evidenced by a rising NPS.

Kennedy-Lennie acknowledges that customers don’t often think about Western Power until they have a problem – they just expect that the power will flow.

Now if there is a hiccup, the company has systems to streamline customer interactions and automate workflows so that customer interactions and issues are solved as fast as possible.

For example if a street light isn’t working, customers can report that online, data is collected in Dynamics 365, a workflow is triggered sending the data to the required systems, and a crew dispatched to fix the problem. They can also now keep the customer informed along the way so they can track the progress.

According to Bell; “The big benefit there is that when our customers previously reported that fault, it would go to the contact centre as a case, and then they would manually type it into another system before it got sent to a field crew. But they couldn’t see it’s progress, so weren’t able to close the loop with the original customer.

Now all of that is automated and; “People are reporting a street light one day and it gets fixed the next, which really is extraordinary from a customer point of view and a customer safety point of view as well,” he says. It also means contact centre personnel have greater availability for more value adding work.

That’s also the focus for Western Power’s recently deployed Power Virtual Agent which is able to handle many online queries, escalating them where necessary to the contact centre, and keeping customers informed about the status of their inquiry.

Bell credits the human centred design process for the streamlined workflows that have emerged from the modernisation prompting productivity improvements of up to 60 per cent in some areas.

Dean Langenbach, Chief Executive Officer, ASG Group says, “We understand that achieving meaningful outcomes requires more than just successful implementation of technology. Our approach of working in a highly collaborative fashion with our customers, as we did with Western Power, results in powerful and transformative end-to-end solutions that shift the dial on both customer and employee experience.”

Our approach is also to work in a highly collaborative fashion, and with Western Power that has resulted in a powerful and transformative end-to-end solution that is shifting the dial on both customer and employee experience.

Enterprise-wide transformation plans

Two men in safety gear attending an electricity pole
Western Power has seen the power of a transformative end-to-end solution that is shifting the dial on both customer and employee experience (Source: Western Power)

The impact that arose from Dynamics 365 CE led Western Power to explore other applications, for example it has replaced Salesforce with Dynamics 365 CRM which is now used to manage leads and the sales pipeline. Dynamics 365 is also being used to help manage the organisation’s warehouse and supply chain.

The move to the cloud played a significant role in helping the organisation respond to work from home requirements during WA’s pandemic related lockdowns.

Kennedy-Lennie says; “I’m not sure if we could have been quite so responsive and been all pretty much working from home within a space of just a few days if we didn’t have this system. Literally a couple of days of the whole business having to down tools and then start working from home. I don’t think that would’ve been doable, so I think having this in place definitely helped with that.”

She adds that Dynamics 365 is now viewed across Western Power as “a broad business tool not a customer contact center tool” – and that ongoing modernisation across the enterprise increasingly starts by looking at a business challenge through a Dynamics 365 lens.

To Kennedy-Lennie it’s welcome confirmation that; “We have truly delivered an enterprise system here.”