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CS Week 2018 Executive Perspectives


Andre Van Honschooten, VP System Integration, Vertex

Managing risk is a fundamental responsibility of every major system implementation. Van Honschooten identifies two important system replacement drivers, one being aging platforms coupled with utilities’ inability to recover from process or infrastructure failures when support staff is fading into retirement. The second is characterized by the utility industry’s need to match Amazon and Uber standards for seamless integration with other systems to enhance customer experience. He then offers specific ways utilities can mitigate system replacement/implementation risk by:

  • Starting data migration early,
  • Planning for organizational change management,
  • Trying on preconfigured business processes before requesting customization,
  • Working with third party application vendors at the beginning and
  • Agreeing to governance and processes around data sharing.

By starting with a prebuilt application, utilities can reduce risk and instead spend time testing their data, parallel testing their processes between the old and new systems and ensuring the business is ready to perform work at Go-Live. More and more utilities who want to focus on the core business of providing utility services are adopting Vertex’s approach.

Faster. Better. Cheaper. Strong Customer Service/IT Partnership Makes This Implementation Dream a Reality

Charles Kiely, Asst. GM Customer Care & Operations Tom Kuczynski, Chief Information Officer, both of DC Water and Sewer Authority 


Who in their right mind simultaneously implements five major customer-facing systems on a 12-month schedule? Charlie and Tom’s DC Water team, that’s who. With a group of 43 customer service and IT professionals “locked in” a dedicated space where the motto, “I work for Charlie and Tom, not DC Water,” was framed on desks, these committed partners, together representing 73 years of utility customer service and IT experience, implemented

  • a new cloud platform for CIS
  • a mobile work management application,
  • a new customer mobile app,
  • a new customer portal, plus
  • they upgraded their aging smart metering solution


Listen to the way this water utility has changed the traditional command and control relationship characteristic of IT and customer service organizations to one supported by mutual respect and a shared understanding of customer-facing goals. These partners proved that risky projects are achievable with clear management objectives and trusting people to do the right things. Would they do it again for their 135,000 customers? Listen and find out.

Managing Customer Service with an Engineering Mind: New Exec Spells Out Master Plan

Brent Baker, VP National Customer Experience Operations, Liberty Utilities

A man on a mission, Brent Baker has an ambitious master plan as Liberty Utilities’ new VP for National Customer Experience Operations. Baker’s training and former experience in engineering guides his four broad initiatives:

  1.  Bring together all regions and corporate staff now under the Liberty Utilities umbrella as one group to improve customer service operations through process review that standardizes core processes and ends up with key industry benchmarks in five major areas;
  2. Make sure the right system/application products are in place through future RFP and implementation efforts for billing and payments and the customer contact center/phone system; 
  3. Act upon Liberty’s commitment to the community by improving CSAT and JD Powers ratings; and
  4. Invest in Smart City infrastructure and initiatives to make the communities they serve competitive, filled with economic development opportunities and places where young professionals want to live and work.

Hear about his vision for what Liberty Utilities’ customer service will look like five years from now.

Good Customer Experience Goes Hand in Hand with Reducing Cyber Risk

Dave Craven, Director, Customer Care, Union Gas

With 30 years' combined customer service and operations background, Craven appreciates changing customer expectations and the need for a solid, repeatable utility customer experience. He recognizes two fundamentals: customers are cost/price conscious, and they want to self-serve in the format they select. Building on these realities, Craven and his team have identified four initiatives that focus on:

  1. Multi-modal communications;
  2. Website changes that enable customers to interact more easily;
  3. Using employee ideas to streamline operations; and
  4. Finding ways to transition customer correspondence away from paper that also reduces postage fees.

Enmeshed in these customer experience initiatives are the realities of cyber security. Craven lays out tangible ways utilities can reduce their risk of viruses, identity and data theft, phishing campaigns and unauthorized access. He describes ongoing penetration tests, strong passwords, two point authentication processes and Union Gas’s portal for third party agencies to upload documents to a tertiary server as ways utilities are reducing cyber risk while still maintaining an optimal CX.


Laurie Giammona, SVP & Chief Customer Officer, Pacific Gas & Electric

Created several years ago, a leadership model adopted by Pacific Gas & Electric emphasizes local community to better coordinate service delivery across its large, customer-heavy territory. This model became a critical factor for the company’s response to the 2017 wildfires. Each of nineteen divisions is led by a “commander in chief,” who becomes the “face” of PG&E locally and uses centralized processes to escalate issues in case they turn system-wide. Having spent her career serving customers while building brand and customer loyalty, Giammona highlights:

  • Customers want utilities to help aggregate their data and share how they can better use energy through technology;
  • The investments PG&E is making to ensure its grid is resilient to continuing crises with new ideas around vegetation management and de-energizing protocols;
  • The emergence of microgrids as a consumer resource to support what she calls “a modern marvel…the grid of things…that connects everyone to what’s important in their lives;” and
  • The strategic alignment of objectives and goals for seamless service delivery across multiple channels so customers see the effect of PG&E’s coordination and community engagement.