Avari discusses what it is that sets HCL apart from others and its unique philosophy of “employees first.”
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UMC: Everyone is very familiar with the concept of “The customer is always right”, until reading up on HCL, I had never come across a philosophy that puts “employee’s first”. Can you elaborate on this approach and explain why it’s so important to customer satisfaction?
Perzad Avari: Every employee who interacts with our customers is capable of creating high or low value for them. The whole intent of ‘Employees First’ is, to do everything that we can do to enable those employees to create the highest possible value. In other words, we want HCL’s management to be as accountable to our employees as our employees are accountable to the management. This has led us to take a number of actions to invert the organizational pyramid. Every year HCL employees provide anonymous feedback on executives which is then available for the entire organization to see. It’s like holding up a giant mirror for the management to help make decisions and execute actions in favor of their people. Happy employees beget happier customers.
UMC: Since its release in 2011 HCL’s Value Portal has produced 40,000 ideas generated from interactions between HCL employees and customer interactions. That is quite a feat and a really unique approach to diving into the customer psyche. What inspired the portals inception?
Perzad Avari: Vision and values cannot work unless we build institutions with responsible custodians to make them a part of the work culture. These beliefs led to some behavioral patterns emerging among our employees where they were coming up with ideas, carrying them forward and finally taking them to fruition. To facilitate and encourage these behaviors throughout the entire organization, we developed Value Portal for our employees to harness their ideas into viable solutions.
UMC: Can you provide an overview of HCL’s services in the Energy & Utility industry ?
Perzad Avari: HCL has over 22 years of experience working with Utility companies in System’s Integration, Infrastructure Hosting, Applications Support and Operations. We consider ourselves as a full-scale provider of both business and IT servicesin the utility industry and as such, we’re currently engaged at 25 utility companies in North America.
UMC: What differentiates HCL in the marketplace from other providers ?
Perzad Avari: Over the years business contracts between utility companies and their IT service providers have transformed from Time & Money based agreements to Fixed Price projects or annual contracts. Service providers are willing to sign-up for a fixed fee due to a higher degree of standardization in scope of services. HCL however, has pioneered an outcome-based approach that goes beyond just Fixed Fee projects or annual maintenance contracts that only produce standard deliverables and meet technical results. Our experience in this industry enables us to contract with utility companies on performance-based terms to deliver actual business outcomes, ones that can be measured to report performance at an organizational level.
UMC: Out of all the utility verticals (Water, Electric & Gas) that you serve who has been embracing technological upgrades the most?
Perzad Avari: While each vertical has evolved dramatically in the recent years, the electricity vertical has embraced and evolved the most with technical change. Foundational changes such as smart meter deployment and advanced grid management have changed the volume of insightfull data available and removed labour deployment dependencies. This in turn has significantly changed CIS collections and customer engagement processes. Microgeneration and solar programs are also being becoming common place in residential utility processes. The dramatic changes in solar storage options that will be available in coming years will continue create news ways of customers engaging with their utility.
UMC: Why do you believe that particular vertical is so much more involved?
Perzad Avari: The electricity vertical is more evolved because of the spectra of elements in play in the modern electric utility landscape. While that gas utilities have implemented smart metering programs, they are prevented from changes such as remote disconnet/reconnect. Similarly microgeneration is typically not applicable to the water and gas verticals
UMC: What are some of the drivers behind IT modernization and advancements being in the utility industry ?
Perzad Avari: If we only consider electric companies, deployment of the Smart Grid has been the biggest driver for IT modernization in the last decade; whereas for gas and water we’ve seen Aging Workforce, Applications Consolidation, Regulatory Mandates as leading drivers. Going forward we believe Customer Engagement will become the main driver behind modernization initiatives. This trend has been prevalent in deregulated markets and will now pervade all markets, because customers receive world-class service from companies such as Amazon, Uber, Starbucks and now expect the same from their Utility.
UMC: What is HCL doing to address these market changes ?
Perzad Avari: Current Commercial Off-The-Shelf software do not fully deliver functionality to meet the evolving needs of today’s customer, especially millenials who require immediate access to information on the tip of their fingers. We’ve placed the customer in the driver’s seat to build a fully-integrated Customer Engagement and Billing platform called Engage, which enables utility companies to deliver top quartile customer experience. More Information: http://microsite.hcltech.com/engage/
UMC: What are some of the new solutions that Engage offers ?
Perzad Avari: Engage is primarily focussed on it’s namesake – Customer Engagement. New solutions for social media integration, self service advancements such as interactive chat-bots and seamless website to voice handoffs deliver the next level of customer intimacy. For next level call center processes, Engage offers predictive customer interactions to enable customer service reps an unprecedented level of customer knowledge during call handles. Big data and in-memory computing have been game changers in this regard. The increased understanding and connection to the customer from data both inside and outside of the utility is paramount to the modern customer experience.
UMC: Historically utility companies have always retained control of their customer data due to security and privacy concerns. Do you think utility companies will adopt cloud technologies on a large scale ?
Perzad Avari: Some of our customers that are also multi-million customer utilities are already taking advantage of Private and Hybrid Clouds hosted and managed by us. Due to security reasons utilities will not subscribe to multi-tenant models or public cloud for customer data.