Stedin: Ready for Innovation, Digitization and Automation of Customer Contact
The world of energy is changing rapidly. Consumers drive electric vehicles more often and generate their own energy, which they feed back into a gradually smarter energy grid. New sustainable energy sources will continue to be added in the future. Network operators have the task of ensuring that future infrastructure is suitable to absorb all these changes. More and more parts of network operators’ business processes are becoming digital. Customer contact is also on the roadmap. In this interview, Maarten van Waesberge, team leader at Stedin, discusses their digital transformation with Content Guru.
“If everything goes well, our customers will not notice much of the work we do as a grid operator. For example, we do not send an invoice to customers. We don’t have much contact with customers, so we are not that visible to them, ”says Maarten van Waesberge, team leader at Stedin. “The contacts that do exist enable us to keep in touch with what is happening in our catchment area. This is essential, because a lot is changing in the field of energy. The use of natural gas is being phased out, decentralized generation is on the rise, we are working on hydrogen pilots and we are driving more electrically. Our infrastructure must be made suitable to deal with all these changes: the capacity of the network must not become a challenge, and adjustments in this also have an impact on our stakeholders, such as companies and consumers. ”
In order to cope with these changes, Stedin must become more agile and flexible in all areas, to make it easier to innovate and digitize.
Until recently, Stedin’s customer service team used an on-premise contact center solution. Integrations with other applications for the customer contact operation were almost non-existent, which meant that employees had to “copy-and-paste” a lot – visible on the keyboards in the form of worn C and V keys. Alongside this, regular exports via Excel were required to work with other applications. This method takes up valuable time and increases the risk of errors.
Van Waesberge was closely involved in the selection and implementation of the new customer contact solution that Stedin has chosen, as part of a largely cloud-based innovation calendar (more details below). “A large list of requirements in terms of functionality has been drawn up. One of the conditions was the possibility to expand the solution easily and in phases. Technology is also changing rapidly in customer contact and for Stedin, digitization and automation of customer contact are on the agenda. ”
After an extensive decision-making process, Stedin chose storm®, Content Guru’s solution. “Ultimately there are many benefits to all the different solutions; but vision, degree of involvement and overall offer in particular were the deciding factors for going with Content Guru.”
A modular, cloud-based solution storm offers Stedin the opportunity to implement a complete roadmap full of innovations in a relatively short time. One of the first steps that has already been taken is integration with workforce management (WFM). Previously, scheduling was done using Excel, but this makes planning around digital channels difficult, for example. “With the implementation and integration of our WFM solution, Calabrio, and storm, we can offer our employees many more options to help organize their own work,” says Van Waesberge.
When asked about the collaboration with Storm’s team, he says: “These kinds of integrations happen almost automatically – our own project team brings the right internal and external people together and we have a daily standup. What helps is that storm‘s specialists have expert knowledge in the field of utilities. Sometimes we have to search for the right words, because this type of consultation is largely done in English. But on the other hand, we interact directly with experts who work on the application. ”
“With storm, we are also able to do much more with analytics, voice and making existing tools such as our IVR smarter. WFM will be implemented this quarter, and in Q2 we will work with social. Then, in Q3, we will implement artificially intelligent (AI) agents and integrate storm with our CRM solution, SAP4HANA. By the end of the year, we are aiming to be ready to get started with voice and RPA and to integrate with our knowledge base. We are convinced that each step will yield its own specific benefits. The CRM environment will be our core system, and storm‘s softphone function will be given a place here as a widget. In particular, the integration with our CRM tool will lead to more efficiency and fewer errors. ”
Stedin’s IT strategy
Stedin has an explicit cloud strategy. It has been rolled out since 2018 in collaboration with IT partner Sentia. Stedin now works 95 percent in the Microsoft Azure cloud. The high migration rate has been achieved by combining a structured approach with so-called landing zones. This makes it possible to migrate applications more easily to the cloud, as the landing zone facilitates continuous development and automatic testing for security, performance and stability.
Stedin is one of the network operators in the Netherlands. Stedin is active in most of the Randstad, including The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam and the Rijnmond port and Botlek area. In these busy, urban areas, there is a complex infrastructure, where energy dependence is high and energy must always be available. Stedin’s activities include the transport of gas and electricity, but also the construction, management and maintenance of networks and the installation of smart meters. Stedin has 550,000 contacts with customers (companies and private individuals) annually via telephone, e-mail, post, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. The customer service team consists of approximately 70 FTE.