Skip to main content Skip to footer

December 06, 2023

How utilities can turn geospatial data into a CX win

Five tips on how utilities can map geospatial data with customer data to reduce service costs, boost efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.

Severe weather has changed the game for utilities when it comes to addressing power outages, which have more than doubled over the past two years in the US. According to independent researcher Climate Central, power outages have increased 64% from the early 2000s, and weather-related outages are up 78%. 

The upshot: It’s become essential for utilities to reduce the cost and time required for repairs.

They can do this by making better use of the geospatial data they already have. Many utilities use GIS (geospatial information systems) to locate assets that need maintenance and repair, whether it’s a downed transmission line in a remote area or a blown transformer under a city street. However, because most utilities adopted their GIS systems long after implementing their customer relationship management systems, relatively few have integrated this geospatial data with their customer data.

Keeping GIS and customer data separate poses many unwanted consequences. If the data was integrated, customer service reps would have accurate maps showing the location of both their customers and nearby utility assets. When it’s not, it can lead to delays in dispatching service crews and restoring service, crews sent to the wrong sites, and an inability to tell customers when to expect their electric, water or internet service to resume.

By integrating GIS and CRM data, utilities can reduce costs and improve efficiency throughout the repair process.

In our work with one utility, we project that GIS utility mapping will drive double-digit reductions in misdirected and redundant service calls. AI-driven analysis of this integrated data could also enable higher levels of preventive maintenance to avoid outages and costly repairs.

Here’s how GIS integration with customer service can help, and some recommendations for how to achieve it.

Siloed data = higher costs, slower repairs

Currently, when a customer service agent receives a call, email or text reporting a problem, the only data they have is the location reported by the customer, which they pass on to the service dispatcher to create a service request. This manual process not only takes time and effort but also introduces the likelihood of human error through incorrect or vague information supplied by the customer, or faulty data entry by the service agent or dispatcher.

The technician then travels to the reported location and identifies the assert experiencing the problem—which is not always the asset identified by the service agent. When that happens, the technician needs to update the service order with the proper asset and its location.

In some cases, it can take multiple visits for the right technician with the right skills, and the right equipment, to resolve an outage. Further, the technician often must access a separate GIS system to determine the location and maintenance history of nearby assets that could be contributing to the outage or that can be used as backups while the damaged assets are repaired.

Customer service agents have no way to tell whether multiple problem reports from the same area are caused by the same asset, potentially leading to multiple service orders. Service agents also lack the information required to update customers on an expected restoration of service and are not trained to do so.

If they had access to not only customer but also GIS data about assets, customer service agents could more quickly and accurately describe the location of the assets that need attention, their maintenance history and the location of nearby backup assets.

They could also give customers a more accurate estimate of when service will be restored. All this increases first-time fix rates, reduces travel, overtime and scheduling costs, and increases customer satisfaction.

With a more comprehensive view of the location of both assets and customer service requests, utilities could also more efficiently plan maintenance to address high priority needs and schedule the required technicians. Properly implemented, such systems can also enable customers to directly access information about outages and repair times, reducing call center costs while increasing customer satisfaction.

Integration tips

Here are five insights into how utilities can effectively combine GIS and CRM data:

  • Address master data: Update the existing master data with the longitude and latitude of each customer and each asset to allow the geospatial mapping of both in a single, integrated view. Next, integrate this master data with both the field services and CRM systems using commonly available application programming interfaces (APIs). While this integration may not be technically challenging, its sheer scale requires a carefully designed plan, as it may involve data on millions of customers and assets across far-flung geographies.

  • Strive for simplicity: We recommend keeping the structure of the master data system very simple to ensure it’s easy for customer service reps to search for, and find, the location-specific information about customers and assets that will allow them to create more accurate service orders. The master data record for each asset should include its address, latitude and longitude, information about nearby customers and service history.

  • Watch your timing: Time data integration with a functional and technical upgrade of the customer service system. Adding these new capabilities for customer service agents at the same time as other upgrades will reduce the cost and time of everything from testing to training to change management.

  • Take a visual approach: Provide a map-like interface to the GIS application that allows service representatives to see the location of a reported outage, along with all the assets in its vicinity. The service representative can then automatically create a service order, which is posted to the customer service application, so it is visible to other service agents, other internal users and even the public.

  • Rethink service KPIs: Because this data integration enables new maintenance and repair workflows, it is essential to change the key performance indicators (KPIs) on which customer service agents are measured and train them to meet these new metrics. New KPIs may include reductions in the number of duplicate or misdirected service calls, or faster and more accurate updates to customers or internal stakeholders. Such new measurements ensure the utility reaps the benefits of integrating GIS and CRM data.

Powering the future

As customers increasingly rely on electrification for everything from cars, to heat pumps, to stoves, they will need not only more power to live their daily lives but also quick response from the utility company when an outage does occur.

Utilities that take advantage of the data they already have to lower costs and speed service will be in a strong position to weather the months and years ahead.

To learn more about how Cognizant can enable your digital transformation journey, visit the Enterprise Platform Services section of our website or contact us.

Stambhit Saha

Senior Functional Architect, Enterprise Platform Services

Author Image of Stambhit Saha

Stambhit Saha is a member of Cognizant’s SAP Customer Experience and Cloud Practice and is a CX solution design and integration architect experienced in designing and implementing CX processes for the utilities, life sciences and manufacturing industries.

Latest posts

Related posts

Subscribe for more and stay relevant

The Modern Business newsletter delivers monthly insights to help your business adapt, evolve, and respond—as if on intuition