We’re now some 15 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the first time, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine is readily available and more people are returning to work, though most utilities never shut down. Deemed essential workers, utility employees bravely pushed forward in their jobs despite the many unknowns, to ensure their customers received clean water, electricity, and gas.
Though the health crisis is not officially over, utilities and other businesses are considering what “business as usual” should look like. Especially in the post-COVID landscape. For a lot of organizations, technology integration can help ensure those efforts are effective. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the ways that utilities can incorporate technology into their post-COVID planning.
While the bulk of people pre-pandemic were paying their utility bills online, there is still a solid base of customers who chose to use in-person payment options. Given the fact that many of these customers are seniors, and are vulnerable to COVID-19 and other airborne respiratory diseases, it’s best to push even more customers to online payments.
But in order to do this, you’ll need to incentivize customers. One idea is to offer a small discount for customers who set up auto-pay with a credit card. You can also enable pay-by-phone options to eliminate the risk of face-to-face contact. No matter what type of changes you make, you’ll need a concerted communications effort. Ensure that customers are aware of the changes and understand how it impacts them. Provide step-by-step directions for how to pay with the new system, whether it’s online or over the phone.
This suggestion is directed toward utility employees, not customers. During the pandemic, telemedicine gained popularity. Telemedicine allows for virtual doctor’s visits and video chats with providers. There has been much debate in the health care industry about whether telemedicine will stick around after COVID-19, but it’s clear that patients appreciate the option. It may be practical and useful to offer telemedicine as part of employee health plans.
When businesses with essential workers were exploring ways to operate safely, one tactic that seemed to work well was alternative schedules. For some companies, that meant shift work. For others, a hybrid arrangement where employees worked at home on some days and in the office on others. Some businesses went fully remote for non-field workers.
We know that American workers want to maintain the flexibility that allows them to work from home, and technology can make that a reality while ensuring they remain productive. Specifically, within the utility industry, cloud-based field service management software levels the playing field. No matter where the employee is sitting, work can get done. Being that the software is hosted in the cloud, employees receive the same access to company processes and information that they would in the office.
Across the board, manufacturing struggled at the start of the pandemic. This is evident in shipping delays for many electronics and mechanical components. For utilities that rely on these parts for day-to-day operations, keeping tabs on inventory has never been more important than it is right now. Fortunately, field service management software can help ease that process as well.
These cloud-based platforms allow for complete visibility and real-time asset tracking. Log and track anything, from uniforms to tablets to tools for repairs. A robust field service management software system will even let you set up custom rules and alerts. For example, set floors for inventory stock and get an alert when levels are low. By setting these alerts well in advance, your utility can better plan for any shipping delays without impacting productivity.
As the world begins to navigate this “new normal” together, businesses should lean on the types of resources that make that process just a bit easier. Tech-forward solutions like the field service management software platform from EnSight+ can solve problems in many different areas, including helping utilities make remote work possible for back-office employees. To learn how we can help your business in its post-COVID plans, book a free demo today.
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