Taming de-regulated electricity market
iSIGMA served IOUs (investor-owned utilities), Co-Ops, and Municipals in the regulated energy markets since 1997, before taking up the challenge to operate in the deregulated market in 2002. It was the year when the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 7 enabling 6.5 million individuals and corporations in the nation’s first ISO – ERCOT, which allowed consumers to choose their retail electric provider. “Unlike other commodities like water and gas, managing electricity services is complicated in deregulated markets because power has to be generated, transmitted and consumed as electricity cannot be stored,” explains Ramachandran.
“We have the core engine; the ideas for further improvements came from what our clients wanted and what the industry required”
iSIGMA’s Customer Care and Billing solution (CC&B), specifically designed to function in generate-and-consume scenarios help power generators, transmission and distribution companies, and retailers to look into their customer base and evaluate the amount of electricity required. “This is a very important factor for energy service providers to stay in business,” says Ramachandran.
Tailoring solutions to suit customer needs
Another big trend in the deregulated electricity market is the scenario where retailers compete to add more utility services in addition to what they already offer. “Back in 2000 when the rigid billing and customer information systems were in use, it took enormous amount of time and money just to add an additional service or to add a single line item on the bill,” explains Ramachandran. “Built to counter these issues, iSIGMA’s CC&B solution can incorporate any changes the clients want, at any given time,” he adds.
For instance, if a client wants to incorporate security monitoring system, or gas and water as an added service, they need not wait for months or spend huge money. “Our solutions are designed to keep evolving with this dynamic industry. The system is architected to incorporate industry required and clients requested changes,” says Ramachandran.
“We have the core engine; the ideas for further improvements came from what our clients wanted and what the industry required,” extols Ramachandran.
Whenever a client approaches the company for additional customization and enhancement, iSIGMA relies on its own research and analysis processes to see what needs to be done so that the changes go in hand with current market scenario. Also, since the solutions are delivered in hosted model, iSIGMA can remotely incorporate any changes to an already deployed solution.
Helping retailers win customers in a fiercely competitive environment
iSIGMA’s transition from regulated to deregulated electricity market helped its solutions embrace the concept of multi-functionality. “The evolution has helped our solution to address one of the major challenges faced by the energy retailers— the competition; since they offer the same commodity to the same customer base,” says Ramachandran.
In this fiercely competitive market, customers’ loyalty shift towards the best services at a given price point. “Hence the retailers should develop a good customer relationship by not only giving them information about their consumption, or possible interruptions, but also by offering good deals,” explains Ramachandran.
“They need to communicate with the customers all the time besides sending those bills,” he smiles. The CC&B solutions of iSIGMA looks into the customer data base and formulate tailored offers and promotions to keep them enticed.
When it comes to referral programs, the software not only manages the role of ’recommenders’ but also that of commission agents. “Our system can track these agents, record their number of referrals and pay them the commission at the end of the month. We foster retailer and agent relationship,” says Ramachandran. In addition, the analytics and reporting feature of the solution records the number of new customers gained by the client for a particular day and help design programs to keep them engaged. “We provide all this information in an attractive dashboard that is easy to understand,” says Ramachandran. “More than 50 percent of iSIGMA’s clients have moved from another billing platform to iSIGMA and the rest of our clients have started operations ground up with iSIGMA’s CC&B platform,” emphasizes the CEO.
Engineering the prospect to cash phenomena
In Energy life cycle it is always either meter to cash or the prospect to cash. Most of the utilities do just meter to cash as they don't have to prospect for the customer.
In a regulated market the customers are left with no option but to buy electricity from local utility. It is a simple meter to cash model where consumer uses the power and pays for it and the utility body need not go in search to get more customers. But in case of deregulated market, it is completely a different scenario. “There are more than one player who are trying to woo the customers. The prospect to cash comes into light in this case,” and this is where we differ,” states Lucius Koshy, VP- Business Development, iSIGMA.
When the customer calls in, iSIGMA’s solution provides a real-time interface to customer care professionals to serve them from prospecting to payment acceptance. iSIGMA facilitates self-service portals that allow a prospect to go through the enrollment process, and a customer to access their account, view current and previous bills, review usage histories, and make payments.
Helping clients save loads of money
“Our services are used for multiple commodities including electric, gas, water, as well as non-commodity add-on services in the regulated and deregulated markets. You’ll find iSIGMA as the customer care and billing provider behind the scenes at many of the larger as well as smaller retailers who just entered the market,” says the CEO.
You’ll find iSIGMA as the customer care and billing provider behind the scenes at many of the larger energy retailers as well as smaller retailers who have just entered the market
In one of the instances, an electric retailer that was losing a lot of money due to the inefficient billing system approached iSIGMA for a solution. The client was not able to incorporate the hike in rates into the billing that led to monetary losses. Their inabilities to track losses on the monthly basis led them to lose a million dollars per quarter. “This was easily taken care by our standard system configuration” says Ramachandran. iSIGMA noticed that the rates were changing between two billing periods and loss was not being captured by the existing billing system. “When you have thousands of customers, the few cents lost while billing adds up to millions of dollars,” he sighs. iSIGMA’s solution was able to capture the incremental amount and show it as a line item in the bill—saving the retailer loads of money.
Future looks bright for iSIGMA
“We are very excited to incorporate the latest technologies such as Mobility and Big Data,” says Ramachandran. Using Big Data, the company wants to help customers make smart decisions and adjust their power consumption by voluntarily shifting to different plans. iSIGMA also wants to provide retailers an extraordinarily detailed view of their customers’ usage by interval. This can help them gain competitive advantages by properly shaping the wholesale power purchases, rate design and pricing. “With the latest technologies, iSIGMA is also processing data at extremely high speeds and providing the capability to respond quickly to market needs,” says Ramachandran. “Above all these, our mission is to provide solutions that enable organizations of all sizes – from Top Ten retailers to start ups – to grow, covering the entire customer life cycle, from prospect to cash management,” concludes Ramachandran.