Watkin speaks about the company’s origins, various solutions offered by KUBRA, and their upcoming conference, iConnect.
UMC: You’ve recently celebrated your company’s 25th anniversary, congratulations! What would you say is the key to a quarter century of success?
Rick Watkin: The key to our success is our longstanding commitment to innovation. Much has changed over the past twenty-five years of business. We’ve seen huge leaps in available technologies and customer demand and our ability to be agile has kept us at the forefront of this Customer Experience Evolution. We have continued to shape our products and expand our solutions throughout this time, allowing us to predict, create, and deliver the most current solutions for improving customer experience and satisfaction. Of course, our ability to provide a dependable and scalable product offering is fueled by the talented individuals who make up the KUBRA team. Over the past two decades, our technology and target industries have experienced transformational change, and our team’s spirit of innovation remains steadfast.
UMC: How has the landscape of the company changed since the early 90’s?
Watkin: KUBRA launched our first product, iMail, in 1992. KUBRA was originally founded on the principle that businesses would want to outsource non-core back-office processes, and iMail enabled our clients to expedite key printing and mailing needs. Fast forward twenty-five years: we’ve grown from a small garage print shop in the heart of Mississauga to a full-deck customer experience management provider serving more than 325 companies across North America. Just as our company has expanded, our product offering has as well. Along with our billing and payment services, we also provide alerts and preference management, utility maps, and mobile solutions, all of which are integrated into a Customer Experience Platform (CXP) that operates harmoniously for our clients and all their customers.
UMC: What is the average day like for a KUBRA employee?
Watkin: KUBRA offers billing and payments, alerts and preference management, utility maps, and mobile solutions to our clients. That being said, we have an incredibly diverse employee workforce to make this product offering possible. We are armed with incredible teams of engineers, print operators, developers, project managers, and analysts (to name a few), and while each employee’s workday is unique, every member is expected to bring enthusiasm, creativity, and innovation to their work. While some team members orchestrate large-scale print projects and work with complex machinery, others explore next-generation technology and create leading software in an effort to support our ubiquitous CXP.
UMC: What led to the decision to partner with Code.org? Can you tell us a little bit about the organization's mission?
Watkin: As a part of our 25th anniversary and “Future Forward” campaign, KUBRA has committed to investing in future generations. In order to make this happen, we’ve partnered with Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. We believe that by focusing on providing educational resources to students, we can help bridge the gap between today’s workforce and that of the future. We’re honored not only to partner financially with Code.org, but also to have an incredible team of employees who volunteer their time to help bring coding instruction to local classrooms.
UMC: What has been the customer response to the Utility Maps? What incidents are reported the most?
Watkin: In the last 10 years, utility maps have grown from their infancy into an absolute requirement for utilities. Our most frequently utilized maps are outage maps that allow customers to view and report power outages while providing utilities a platform to tell their story in a very visual way. The outage maps allow customers, the media, and other community stakeholders, such as first responders, to see the big picture impact of an outage event. KUBRA is proud to be the largest developer of outage maps for the utility industry today. Over the past five years, we’ve also expanded our utility maps to help utilities and government entities share and track other information such as restoration plans, gas leak monitoring efforts, streetlight outage repairs, smart meter rollout plans, planned outage events, and other incidents such as potholes that need repairs. Our services provide the insights our utility clients depend on in order to reduce costs while providing an intelligent and meaningful customer experience.
UMC: What are the tools featured in the KUBRA iMobile app? Which tools do the customers use most frequently?
Watkin: The KUBRA iMobile app solution allows utility companies to provide their customers with leading self-service tools directly from their mobile devices. These tools include billing and payment services, account management, interactive maps and issue reporting, notifications and preference management, photo transactions, and key contact and social media links. Customers use the apps regularly for viewing bills and balances and for paying and analyzing their monthly bills. In addition, customers access the apps to view outage information and report outages during storms such as the recent hurricanes.
UMC: I know it’s still a bit early, but are there any big plans for your iConnect conference in April?
Watkin: Absolutely. This April we’ll be hosting 150 clients and partners at iConnect 2018 in New Orleans. iConnect is our exclusive annual client conference where attendees can expect to hear from utility peers, share in networking experiences, learn about new KUBRA solutions, participate in training workshops, and, of course, enjoy the best that New Orleans has to offer. We plan on showing our clients around the beautiful city and sending them home armed with new knowledge that will help them improve customer experience at their companies. We have made significant investments in Business Intelligence, driving demand and usage for conversational devices and messaging bots, and we are very excited to showcase this level of technology that we will be releasing to the market.
UMC: In your opinion, what is the “next big thing” with regard to technology for the Utility Industry?
Watkin: KUBRA is in the business of innovation. We intend to always deliver solutions that are in step with the latest technology. That being said, I am really excited to see how pre-pay options, data analytics, and natural language processing affect the utility industry. KUBRA is exploring solutions to leverage additional payment options and utility data. We are also already building software that will deliver the customer experience management solutions our clients depend on, adding new communication channels such as Amazon Alexa and Facebook Messenger. I definitely believe this direction is the “next big thing” for utilities, and we’re ready for it.