Improving the delivery of services

The Problem

The Central Electricity Board [CEB], a parastatal body wholly owned by the Government of Mauritius, was set up in 1952 and empowered by the CEB Act 1963 to “prepare and carry out development schemes with the general object of promoting, coordinating and improving the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity” in Mauritius. As many utilities in the world, the CEB has been operating as a natural monopoly in the transmission and distribution of electricity and presently serves approximately 410, 000 customers.
The CEB, in line with its initial mission, has been connecting customers to the grid as a priority without giving a proper focus and care to its applicants and thereby losing track of its service delivery. It should however be pointed out that the activities regarding customer services was handled then by the Transmission and Distribution Department and where the emphasis was always laid on technical aspects of the network. Consequently, this resulted in the a general perception that the organisation was not transparent and that different people had a different level of service. On the whole, customers in vulnerable groups were feeling more victimised and were therefore more affected. Poor customer service was one of those factors that would yield a bad image of the organisation.
Furthermore, increased standard of living on the island, rising prices, increased level of education, radio broadcasting liberalisation, dissemination of public information, and awareness of local people have given rise to increased expectations from customers.
The organisation had to do something about it so as to meet customers’ expectations and recognised that it would have to face threats and challenges in different forms both at national and international level and which would impact both directly and indirectly on its business performance. As pre-emptive measures, the organisation today is auto-regulating its business operating condition so as to emulate a competitive market but at the same time ensuring that its social obligations are also achieved. [321 words]

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The creation of the Customer Service Department, with objective to change the organisational focus from product-orientation to customer-orientation has brought several changes to way of doing business and for which the public at large has benefited from.
The CEB has embarked on a world class journey to service its clients through streamlining of its business processes, training of 400 employees in the field of customer services, promoting culture change through regular brainstorming sessions with customer service employees, and encouraging improved efficiency by introducing a system of electronic performance system for all employees with a linked reward system.
The two main Key Perfomance Indicators set up to monitor the level of service are KPI Insp which is based on the number of days for inspection from date of application, and KPI connect which refers to the service time between payment of connection fees to the effective date of connection. Monitored on a monthly basis, they ensure satisfactory level of performance of the organisation. The KPI Insp has improved from 15 days in 2007 to 4 days in October 2011 while KPI connect has improved from 30 to 4 days for the same period. Therefore it shows that setting up of the KPIs has brought a culture change for service delivery and much improved level of service. Customers/Applicants have obviously benefited from an improved service delivery.
Outsourcing a 24/7 Fault reporting system and Emergency repairs service has enabled the CEB to despatch faults and record customer complaints scientifically. Moreover, this system has introduced the feature of traceability for complaints which can be resolved in a quicker way. The number of complaints managed by the Call Centre help desk ranges from 231, 826 in 2009 to 204, 416 in 2010. Furthermore, the database of fault records has enabled the company to focus on areas requiring immediate maintenance and reconstructions.
Renovation of four of CEB’s existing Customer Walk-in centres’ have been completed which is in line with the company’s new customer-focussed strategy. The objective here is to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the office and providing a peaceful atmosphere that would make customers and employees feel cool and comfortable. Three more offices are expected to be renovated by end of 2012.
Furthermore, several projects have been initiated in partnership with banks and Telecommunication companies so as to provide more payment channels to customers by making use of innovative technology through internet and mobile banking, using ATMs of the State Bank of Mauritius, point of sales at Winners Hypermarket, and payment through mobile phones (sms) as well as using direct debit facility.
Provision of access to electricity supply and equity has been extended to social vulnerable groups through the setting up of two financial support schemes for applications involving the Low Voltage Network extension and also the displacement of network. As at date, 709 needy households have been connected to the electricity grid through this network extension scheme while 7 needy households have benefited from the displacement of network scheme. [495 words]

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The setting up of the department was proposed by senior employees of the CEB and also approved by its management in its endeavour to change the focus of the company from a product-oriented to customer-oriented one. The action was initiated by the recruitment of an external consultant, following a tendering exercise, to look into the problem and to find a solution to resolve the problem. The foreign consultant’s report was submitted to the Board and it was based on the best practices for electric utilities. The consultant’s team worked in close collaboration with CEB employees to investigate about the then prevailing situation and also about the future changes that were required to achieve the proposed customer-focus strategy. [117 words]

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The overarching strategy used was ‘Quest for Value’. Value is defined as quality over price and as the price of electricity being on the upward trend, it was imperative to gradually improve quality on various levels. This initiative required a focus on the three main enablers of a business namely people, process and technology.
The ‘people’ strategy was tackled by restructuring the organisational structure from technical to being customer-centric. This was followed by the necessary recruitment of correctly defined job profile in the customer service delivery at all levels. This process was initiated in 2006 by the Human Resource Department and is still on-going. Part of the human resources involved in customer services were migrated from the Transmission and Distribution Department to the new Customer Service Department and trained on the new requirements of the organisation.
The ‘process’ strategy was handled by re-engineering the old customer interactions business processes into more simpler and speedy processes that would facilitate applications and requests of customers. Moreover, the processes have been standardised in line with the requirements of Total Quality Management System. The processes have been reviewed by a dedicated working team being represented by employees of the technical department as well as non-technical department. The working environment has also been upgraded wherever it was possible so as to provide a conducive atmosphere for both employees and customers. A newly designed corporate uniform was also provided to the employees of customer service so as to bring a fresh look to our customer-corporate image. New payment channels have been introduced in 2011 so as to enable the customer to make payment for electricity bills anywhere possible and thereby speeding up the payment process. Setting up of customer related key- performance indices to monitor service delivery was a major factor for reviewing certain business processes. The setting up of a customer charter was also one of the activities linked to the process strategy that was adopted by the employees of customer services.
The ‘technology’ strategy was adopted by the gradual upgrading of the organisational ERP as well as equipment required for improving customer service business processes. Furthermore, the website was gradually improved so as to provide more information to customers and other stakeholders. Moreover, using state of the art technology to carry out remote reading of meters was initiated in 2011 to improve internal billing processes.
[391 words]

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The first strategy implemented in 2005, was to set up the 24/7 Centralised Fault Management and reporting system so as to replace the former decentralised fault reporting system which operated up to 22 hours only. This strategy has brought significant improvement to the CEB through its centralised operations and optimisation of resources, enabling building up of a database, better management of complaints regarding power cuts and forecasting for maintenance in areas having regular technical problems. This has also eliminated the fact that the customer needs to drive to a customer service centre to notify of the fault that has occurred at the customer’s premises.
The establishment of a Service Level Agreement [SLA] in 2006, between the Transmission and Distribution Department and the Customer Services Department ,defines the services offered and the escalation process from start to finish thereby also spelling out the reporting lines of employees involved in the business processes as well as their accountability.
The Key development was bringing forward the Key-Performance Indices in 2007 as a first step to investigate into service time. The two main KPIs for a new service are KPI Insp which is based on the number of days for inspection from date of application, and KPI connect which refers to the service time between payment of connection fees to the effective date of connection. Monitored on a monthly basis, they ensure satisfactory level of performance of the organisation. The KPI Insp has improved from 15 days in 2007 to 4 days in October 2011 while KPI connect has improved from 30 to 4 days for the same period.
Redesigning the electricity bill (2008) was another main achievement. The customer has been provided with more details of invoices and payments on his/her electricity account inclusive of tariff, meter number and past three average monthly consumptions. Coupled to this strategy, almost all customer-related processes have been re-engineered to simplify business processes and streamline them. Standardisation of procedures has also added value to the service chain. The above has finally enabled the CEB to show its commitment to improving service delivery by publishing the expected standards of service delivery for different services offered on its website (Please refer to URL for more information).
2008 also saw the setting up of the LV Network Extension Scheme that provides financial assistance to applicants for electricity supply and who live far from electricity network. 709 needy households have benefited from this scheme as at date. The Displacement of Network Scheme also introduced in 2009, provides financial assistance to customers who have no clearance from distribution network with regard to approval of their plan for Building and Land Use Permit. It enables insulation of the present network as well enable power supply to residential customers. Seven needy customers have been found to be connected through this scheme
The 2008-2014 programme of renovation of Customer Service Offices is ongoing. It is also a motivator as employees look forward to having a new office environment to operate into. Three more offices are expected to be renovated by end of December 2012.
This year, several projects have been initiated in partnership with banks and Telecommunication companies so as to provide more payment channels to customers by making use of innovative technology through internet banking, using ATMs of the State Bank of Mauritius, point of sales at Winners Hypermarket, and payment through mobile phones (sms) as well as using direct debit facility. Customers are to benefit directly from this strategy. [577 words]

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The Customer Service Department has been fighting several obstacles on its way to successfully implementing its initiative. The most important one was about shortage of human assets. Recruitment and selection re exercise that have not moved swiftly during the past few years but fortunately four Customer Service Officers were recruited in January 2011. They have started adding value to the service chain following an intensive on the job training in the department. More customer service agents also need to be recruited on the front desks so as to provide a more reliable service during lunch hours.
The finance processes and supply chain processes have also proven to be lengthy, cumbersome and cause unnecessary delay to customer-funded projects. They end up killing the initiative and hence progress is seen to be very slow where purchase of tools and equipment are required for the proper upgrading of customer services. These are being revisited to ensure a better service delivery and hopefully 2012 will bring more light in the tunnel.
The biggest obstacle met though is reluctance to culture change. Employees are still bound to their old processes and way of doing things and hence time to adapt to new methods has been a bit lengthy. Culture change from product orientation to customer orientation is still a major issue as some Head of Departments do not realise that culture is a driver of change.
Culture change was braved by organising meetings and forums in sections to communicate the vision, mission of the organisation as well as communicating the agenda of management for the Customer Service Department.
[263 words]

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Resources used in the implementation of this initiative are mainly financial, technical, use of IT technology and systems, and human assets.
In the case of the hotline emergency service, outsourcing was proposed as the service of taking calls/complaints are not the core activities of the CEB and instead are the activities of certain professional communication companies which have competitive advantage in the industry. Thus recording of complaints and dispatching of faults are done scientifically through an outsourced service provider. Moreover, analysis of the fault statistics has enabled the insulation of several network locations where faults were repetitive.
The above are considered as a necessary investment which are high value adding to the business processes and provide an enhanced corporate image of the CEB. It is expected to gradually enrol-other services offered by the organisation through the call centre so as to improve service delivery in an innovative way.
Furthermore, financing services to private partners so as to give more facilities to customers for payment of their electricity bills has been undertaken by the Board. These services have been highly solicited by many customers who want to avoid queuing in any customer service centre for the payment of their bills. Moving with smart technology for delivering high quality service is one of the aspirations of the CEB and is being also embraced for future projects. Small expenses such as providing water dispensers, Queue Management System, and the use of Large TV Flat screens have added value to the service chain.
Key benefits from the initiative are improved customer satisfaction following a survey on customer satisfaction where customers position the CEB as the number one utility in Mauritius. Moreover, there has been a significant increase in the sale of electricity as well as in the number of customers from approximately 370 000 in 2007 to approximately 410 000 in 2011. The system losses have also decreased from about 10.5% in 2007 to approximately 8% in 2011.
[324 words]

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
We believe that the initiative is sustainable and transferable. The improvement of public service delivery is a sustainable matter as it goes in line with the strategies of all modern organizations which show that the customer is at the centre of all businesses. Without the customer there is no purpose for a business, hence this initiative can be seen to be a main driver of change.

Focusing on the improvement of service level, the resources are optimized in such a way so as to waste in all forms. Unnecessary processes can be removed from the service chain and therefore reduce the service time considerably while also meeting customer satisfaction. This can therefore reduce the number of complaints lodged at the CEB and also avoid waste of resources in complaints resolution.
More efficient business processes such as ‘daily invoicing for ledger customers’ have brought a significant increase in the CEB’s cash flow. Implementation of remote meter reading through the use of smart meter technology, for a small group of customers, has also brought improvement in the management of resources and revenue. Moreover setting up of a flying squadron to detect cases of fraud islandwide has also enabled the CEB to recuperate on its loss of revenue caused by tampering of energy meters. This initiative is in fact self-financing.
Furthermore, by providing financial assistance to applicants requiring extension of electricity low voltage network has also brought improvement in the sale of electricity to social vulnerable groups and is based on best business practices.
Increasing the number of electronic channels for payment of CEB bills is one of the most recent achievement of this initiative and is totally sustainable as it is environment friendly where customers do not need to use a transport mode for the payment of the bills and where the initiative is paperless. Reduction of transport modes could also imply reduction of carbon emissions.
Customer service is a journey, and from experience gathered, the CEB is in the process of improving further because its services are required for the economic and social development of the country. We believe that experience is transferrable to other markets that have not yet embarked on such a laudable and profitable strategy.
[367 words]

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
An initiative is seen to be successful when all stakeholders are communicated about its content and about the advantages that it will bring to them. Moreover, if all stakeholders are made part of it and that they feel they have their contribution in its implementation, then the initiative can have a better output. It is necessary to organise a brainstorming session with all employees is whenever bringing important forwards especially where a change in culture will be required.
Lessons learned are that all initiatives should be well prepared, planned and communicated so as to have better results. Furthermore there should also be means for monitoring, controlling and providing a 360 degree feedback that would enable successful implementation of the initiative. Culture of employees, behaviour, attitude, motivation, and team spirit of all stakeholders are factors that will critically determine the success of the project.
In many cases, knowledge of failure of past projects and also their critics, if considered, can also enable the organisation to do better and yield higher output.
In our case at the CEB, we can say that the initiative has been successful as we find that recognition in the eyes of our customers. There is indeed a certain level of customer satisfaction. The process does not stop here. We should keep re-inventing ourselves so as to delight our customers and excel in our performance. We endeavour to lead by example in the field of public service delivery in Mauritius.
[242 words]

Contact Information

Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Jay LUXIMON
Telephone/ Fax:   601 1100/675 7958
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   40 Royal Road, Curepipe
Postal Code:  
City:   Curepipe
Country:   Mauritius

          Go Back

Print friendly Page