In the host of information technology (IT) initiatives being taken in the distribution segment, a growing focus on the implementation of e-services has been witnessed lately.
E-services including online facilities for bill payment and complaint registration improve efficiency and transparency in operations, ensure greater customer satisfaction and provide better supervisory control, among other things.
Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEBL) is responsible for electricity generation, transmission and distribution in Kerala, and has been proactive in the implementation of e-services in its distribution area. It has launched a number of e-services and facilities such as call centres, online bill payment and automated outage information dissemination.
Smart Utilities takes a look at the e-services being implemented by KSEBL…
KSEBL formulated its IT policy in 2006 with the objective of setting up robust and state-of-the-art IT infrastructure, ensuring massive IT outreach, and providing reliable and quality services. The three pillars of the company’s IT policy are platform independence, free software and vendor neutrality.
The company launched its e-governance and e-services in 2007, with the introduction of low tension (LT) billing software Oruma. In 2009, it launched Enrgise, a high tension (HT)/extra- high tension (EHT) billing software, and in 2014, the centralised LT billing software ORUMANET. The LT billing software Oruma was developed on open source technologies by the company’s IT unit, which was later redesigned to introduce centralised billing software ORUMANET, which allows customers to make online payments from anywhere. Electricity bills can be paid at any section office through the cash deposit machine. Further, HT/EHT customers can make payments on ht.kseb.in, while LT consumers can pay on wss.kseb.in and pg.kseb.in. The company also offers a single-window payment facility at its customer care centres.
In the past two years, KSEBL has taken several key measures to improve its IT infrastructure. It has set up a data centre, a data recovery centre and a walk-in customer care centre. The customer care centre or call centre addresses registered complaints, responds to customer queries through the phone or emails, and undertakes easy bill remittance, among other things. A customer can register a complaint at the customer care centre through interactive voice response, customer relations assistants, web self-services, WhatsApp, etc. The company also has a toll-free number (1912) with 60 lines. The call centre enables customers to check the status of registered complaints, report thefts and accidents, obtain automated outage information, etc.
KSEBL also offers a host of web self-services, which allow customers to make outstanding bill payments and view their billing history, among other things. There is also an option of quick payment, wherein customers can pay their bills in a single step from anywhere. The company also offers web services for registering a complaint and checking its status. Meanwhile, in order to avail of web-based services, a valid customer number and bill number are needed. Further, a single user can attach multiple customer numbers. The company also has a presence on social networking platforms such as Facebook (www.facebook.com.ksebl), Twitter (https://twitter.com/hashtag/ksebl) and KSEB Media (www.ksebmedia.in). The company also has an online customer grievance redressal platform (http://cgrf.kseb.in).
In order to further enhance its web-based e-services, KSEBL is at an advanced stage to launch a facility to address online requests for service connections, tariff change, phase change, dismantling, etc. It also plans to launch outage information/bill information services via SMS. Besides this, it plans to launch a customer-friendly mobile application to facilitate the payment of individual bills as well as for bulk consumers, and provide a consolidated bill statement.
The launch of a host of e-services by KSEBL has benefited customers as well as employees, and improved the overall performance of the company’s distribution business. The e-services are easily accessible to customers, and are easy to use. These services have enriched customer experience and empowered customers. It has also minimised human errors and improved efficiency and supervisory control.
Overall, the services have led to improved cash flow and higher internal operational efficiency for the company. They have helped the company adhere to the IT policies of the state and central governments. The e-services establish harmony among the core business, customer interests, employee talents and cost synergies.
In 2015, KSEBL collected Rs 1.96 billion through online transactions, marking an increase of 18.79 per cent over Rs 1.65 billion in the previous year. Meanwhile, during 2016, online transactions stood at Rs 1.37 billion as of September 2016.
On the online complaint registration front, 185,222 calls were received in 2014, of which 132,708 (71.65 per cent) were registered and attended. Meanwhile, in 2015, the online complaint registration grew by 59.28 per cent to reach 295,023, of which 248,069 (84.08 per cent) were registered and attended.
Issues and challenges
One of the key challenges faced by the discom in the implementation of e-services is identifying skilled employees with domain expertise. To this end, the company has formed a team of interested skilled programmers/testers and equipped them with requisite training. The discom also encourages coordinated efforts of the management, the IT wing and the field-level support team.
Another key challenge faced with the launch of online services is cybersecurity. In order to ensure network security, the discom ensures adherence to security policies, and has equipped the network with firewall, intrusion prevention servers, and other security software. The company’s network carries certifications including Standardisation, Testing and Quality certification and Secure Socket Layer certification. It has incorporated self-protection features in business applications. Further, the company plans to equip the network with computer emergency response teams to ensure complete enterprise security for digital technology and IT systems.
On the network connectivity front, the company provides dual links at each section to ensure proper connectivity in remote areas. Further, a system support team was constituted to identify, raise, resolve and follow up connectivity-related issues.
The company also faces issues due to resistance to change. To this end, the discom provides continuous training and efficient help desk facilities, and involves the staff in the change process.
The e-services launched by KSEBL will go a long way in increasing transparency in the company’s distribution business. The services have evoked a positive response from consumers as they ensure greater customer satisfaction and increase the company’s accountability. The e-services are also in line with the central government’s initiatives to improve the efficiency of services through IT enablement as has been witnessed recently with the launch of the URJA (Urban Jyoti Abhiyaan) application to enhance consumer connect with discoms, the GARV application to keep track of rural electrification, and a dashboard for Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs.
Based on a presentation by Seenath Beevi P.T., Executive Engineer, Regional IT Unit, KSEBL, at a recent Power Line conference