Anyone who has tried to understand their electricity bill knows that deregulation has brought both fierce competition and massive complexity to the marketplace. Estimated or disputed reads, difficulty switching suppliers, and long waits for the call centre are common complaints against the big electricity suppliers.
When OVO Energy entered the energy market in 2013 they set out to change things by offering simple, efficient, and transparent customer service together with energy at attractive prices.
With a business emphasis on “big service, not big profits” OVO Energy’s call centre needed real efficiency. To achieve a truly high level of customer service this required new software that would deliver fast response times, so customers didn't have to wait for answers; the effective management of their transactions requiring data from other parties, e.g. suppliers and new tenants; plus, it needed to fully integrate with core management software for tracking client usage and billing. Improving cash flow was another imperative.
When wholesale energy prices are increasing but energy customers are paying a fixed direct debit per month, cash costs can quickly overtake cash revenues. With hundreds of thousands of energy customers it is no mean feat for a supplier to calculate new direct debit values, apply them and communicate these to the customer. This was an absolute necessity for the success of the new system.
Ballard Chalmers is one of the UK’s foremost experts in energy sector custom software systems development and integration, with a track record of delivering on projects for many of the sector’s major players. Our relationship with OVO Energy extends back to 2010 and as such, we were contracted to develop their software system based on BizTalk Server 2010, ASP.NET 4.0 and SQL Server 2008 R2 and 2012.
ASP.NET web pages are used directly by call centre operatives, whilst BizTalk Server handles the business processes, long running transactions and integration with the account management and financial systems that run the business.
The software system automates a number of functions, including:
- Direct Debit Refunds: Allows refunds to be given to individual clients where requested. The system calculates the amount of refund based on the user's energy consumption.
- Direct Debit Review: Recalculates customer direct debits based on their consumption pattern.
- Direct Debit Batch Review: Performs batch review of large numbers of accounts to ensure that direct debits are correct.
- Change of Tenancy: Manages the switching of an account between old and new tenants in rental properties, both of whom have to be contacted to complete the transaction.
- Disputed Reads: Manages the disputed read process which typically occurs when customers switch suppliers and suppliers claim different readings.
- Collection Management: Managing payments from customers that have not managed to keep up with their direct debits, through the use of pre-pay meters and other methods.
- Smart Meter Installation: Automated booking system for managing the installation of Smart Meters, for use by the call centre and direct online use by customers.
Ballard Chalmers continues to work with OVO Energy in 2015 on innovating new ideas to allow them to offer an advanced service to their customers. These include extending the Smart Meter booking system to enable close management of booking patterns, so as to ensure that there will be sufficient booking capacity to cover market demand. There is also a project for the extension of the collections management system to include more automation of data transfers between OVO Energy and third-party debt collection organisations.
The software developed by Ballard Chalmers has enabled OVO Energy to implement and maintain simple, efficient and transparent customer service. In 2014, OVO Energy won ten of the twelve categories at the uSwitch awards, which are voted for by energy customers and in January 2015 they were awarded the first ever “Which? Recommended Provider.”
Geoff Ballard, Ballard Chalmers CTO said, “With customer service at the core of OVO’s business model, it was imperative that everything we developed delivered on this promise. And it does, both on the initial project and all of the software development we have completed since.”
He added, “We believe in the simplicity of making things work better. Technology evolves so quickly, so even when software is implemented and working perfectly, we’ll look at it afterwards and see how we could build upon it. This modus operandi ties in well with OVO because they too want to improve on perfection! We’ve been working with OVO since 2010 and the relationship continues to grow because we both believe so strongly in customer satisfaction as the end result.”