Beyond the Front Lines: Investing in Back Office for Utility Success

Avertra Corp

Mona Zeedan . Product Marketing Lead

7 minute read

In the bustling world of utilities, the spotlight often shines on customer-facing roles. However, behind every thriving utility company is a back office quietly powering innovation and growth– for those who invest in it that is.

 It’s time to zoom in on this critical area and understand how investing in a strategic back office transformation can revolutionize your entire organization.

The Hidden Powerhouse: Why the Back Office Matters

Think of the back office as the backbone of any utility company. It quietly handles all the behind-the-scenes tasks, from billing to maintaining systems, that keep the company running smoothly. If we neglect this vital area, small issues can snowball, affecting the entire organization. As the saying goes, “what goes around comes around,” and this is especially true in the back office. 

Many believe that focusing on the front office alone is the cure-all for organizational issues, but ignoring the back office can lead to disruptions that ripple through every part of the business, ultimately hurting the customer experience. While the back office might not interact directly with customers, its impact is significant.

“60% of sources of customer dissatisfaction originate in the back office functions.”

Let’s take a quick look-see at some of the main back office struggles that tend to translate into even bigger ones for utilities, and how to overcome them:

1. The Grind of Repetitive Tasks

If there’s one certainty, it’s that no employee wants their day consumed by monotonous, manual tasks. While this may not seem pressing to some, it’s this burnout where errors start to creep in—errors that do not go unnoticed by customers. Just like that, you’re now looking at a higher volume of customer calls, putting additional pressure on the front office and leading to longer wait times, increased frustration, and additional costs. Your employees are unhappy, your customers are unhappy, it’s a lose-lose situation no matter which way you look at it. 

On average, employees spend 10-25% of their time on repetitive tasks that can be automated. Aside from being a drain on productivity, it’s also a costly inefficiency. For example, processing invoices manually can cost companies between $5-$25 per invoice, representing a significant expense.

So why not take the robot out of the human? By allowing automation to step in and carry that load of manual exceptions, back office employees are able to do what they do best—think, analyze, and focus on more value-driven and meaningful work. It not only addresses the issue of costly inefficiencies but also significantly boosts productivity. In fact, it was revealed that 79% of employees name increased productivity as one of the main benefits of using automation.

Overall, with 85% of companies reporting greater speed, accuracy, and volume handling as a result of automation, it’s safe to say that it can take your lose-lose situation and transform it into a win all around, for both your utility and employees .

2. The Hidden Troubles of Ineffective Training

There’s a big focus on simplifying the customer experience (and rightfully so), but it’s important to remember that the foundation of it lies in providing an even better employee experience, especially for newcomers. Starting a new job is nerve-wracking enough, but when the software involved feels like it requires a Ph.D. to operate, it creates a steep learning curve. In turn, this leads to an inability to effectively train employees, meaning that your team is always a step behind, trying to cope with day-to-day tasks rather than focusing on strategic improvements and customer enhancements.

Start nurturing learning journeys and invest in intuitive, self-paced training programs supported by intelligent guided procedures.  A survey has shown that 58% of employees prefer self-paced training, which allows them to master their roles confidently at their own speed​. In doing so,  you simultaneously improve operational efficiency, boost morale and the experience for your customers, creating a cycle of success.

3. Bottlenecks that Cook Up Chaos

The back office department can be similar to a busy kitchen, everyone’s trying to cook but keeps bumping into each other because there’s not enough space. It’s here, in the cramped quarters of routine tasks and outdated systems, that bottlenecks form quietly. Being so much more than minor annoyances, they’re the silent chaos that slow down everything from processing applications to updating customer records. When the back office can’t keep up, it’s not just the paperwork that suffers, customers start feeling the delays, turning what should be a smooth process into a drag for everyone involved.

It’s time to rethink that kitchen.  Instead of having everyone crowding around and creating chaos, streamline the setup. Advanced analytics can identify exactly where the bottlenecks are and suggest the best ways to clear them. Research has shown that removing bottlenecks not only improves workflow efficiency but also boosts productivity, leading to a 30% increase in overall efficiency​. This means creating more space for your team to work efficiently and enabling faster decision-making.

4. Supervision in the Dark

Understanding how hectic unsupported back office departments can be, imagine trying to manage one. It’s no surprise that supervisors find themselves constantly feeling like they’re flying blind and putting out fires rather than preventing them without a clear overview of team performance and proper task management. The consequences? Inefficiencies, miscommunications, and missed opportunities for improvement. 

Light up the dashboard and provide supervisors with a holistic view of their team’s strengths, weaknesses and progress. This kind of transparency is a game-changer, with companies reporting up to 15% time savings per week. When supervisors have real-time data and a comprehensive overview at their fingertips, they can shift from reactive firefighting to proactive strategizing through clear, actionable insights. Just like that, teams become more accountable, communication improves, and supervisors are able to make informed decisions that drive performance through the roof. It’s like having a bird’s-eye view of the entire operation.

After all, to empower their teams, supervisors must first be empowered themselves.

Back Office, Big Impact: Transforming Utilities from the Core

Business handshake, happy employee, and a completed checklist, symbolizing successful back office transformation in utilities.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that the backbone of any utility isn’t just the people we see but also the ones we don’t. The back office holds one of the keys to driving excellence, yet their challenges often remain unseen. However, with the right effort to turn vulnerabilities into strengths, it becomes possible to ignite a cycle of positive change across the entire utility landscape.

Investing in the back office isn’t just about improving internal processes; it’s about creating a ripple effect of benefits. Enhanced back office operations lead to faster service delivery, fewer errors, and higher customer satisfaction. Employees experience reduced stress and greater job fulfillment, fostering a motivated and productive workforce.

For customers, this means quicker resolutions and a smoother experience. For employees, it means a supportive work environment with the tools they need to excel. And for the community, it means a utility that operates efficiently and effectively, contributing to a brighter, more reliable future.

It Starts with You.

Change begins with a decision to act. By focusing on key process improvements, you’re setting the stage for significant operational gains and driving excellence from the core. And in doing so, you ensure a better future for your customers, employees, and the communities you serve.

Ready to be a part of the change? Take the first step and check out MiCustomer DXP and explore a robust back office strategy that ensures your key contributors have the tools they need to thrive.