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PG&E Reduces Costs, Prepares for Open Market

DENVER, CO., — Pacific Gas & Electric prepares for growing competition and the high cost of compliance to utility regulations by increased productivity and a decrease in service center expenses.

The automation of both its labor- and paper-intensive processes associated with its recently installed software from the Davox Corporation, Westford, MA, brought the utility a 75 percent reduction in headcount, enabling agents to be reassigned to other key areas of the call center. The Unison call center management system for outbound calling increased agent productivity twofold by its automation of various labor-intensive, manual tasks.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest supplier of electric service in California, provides electric power to 4.4 million households and businesses across 70,000 square miles.

“We went beyond our initial goals,” said Doug Braun, director of credit and collections for PG&E. “We expected to reduce headcount by two or three people, but we cut it by 75 percent. That adds up to significant savings for us because manpower is one of our highest costs.”

Its Stockton, CA, credit and collections center is staffed by more than 200 agents who must meet the daily challenge of growing competition and strict utility regulations. The Unison system technology enables any of the 200 workstations on the network to be a dialer agent at any time.

The system simplified PG&E's final notification procedure, which requires the utility to make two attempts to notify customers — by phone — before shutting off service for non-payment of bills. That adds up to approximately 2,300 phone calls a day.

Prior to this, collections agents received a paper list each day with 120-150 accounts to call. Agents manually prepared follow-up correspondence and filled out forms in triplicate in ink. Today, all of those processes are automated and each agent has almost doubled his call volume to 280 calls a day. Within 18 months, the utility was able to cut by more than half the number of agents required to handle its final notification calls. Only six agents are currently needed.

PG&E agents utilize a GUI-based desktop application that enables them to be more productive by displaying information in a consistent, user-friendly format. Using a simple mouse click, agents can access customer accounts, leave pre-recorded messages on answering machines, and update customers' files — all from a single desktop PC.

Automatic screen pops present agents with customer data prior to dialing so they can review account information before the call is placed. By being better prepared to handle each contact, agents spend less time with each customer and process more calls per hour.

PG&E also takes advantage of the many productivity tracking features of Unison. When an agent logs out at the end of the day, the system records the log out time as well as how many accounts the agent handled that day. Supervisors use agent statistics to determine how and were they need to improve processes or individual performances.

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