How utilities can avoid compliance risks and consequent falls in trust

Posted by David Costello on 19-Jun-2018 12:07:57

It’s no secret that utilities providers are going through a crisis of consumer trust – a crisis that’s being exacerbated by the continuous need for compliance with ever-changing regulations. The average  customer trust rating across the utilities stands at just 6.2 out of 10, and this mood has been both the consequence and the cause of high profile rows about profits and transparency.

To some extent, customer trust in utilities can only be regained through time and sustained effort – perhaps even concerted efforts, such as Utility Week’s research partnership with the WNS.

In the meantime, utilities providers need to do themselves the favour of staying absolutely up-to-code. Any failure to meet regulations would represent a setback for the reputation of the company – perhaps even for the reputation of the wider industry. No pressure then.


How utilities can use technology to ameliorate trust-damaging compliance risks

Failures to comply with regulation are not the only reason customers have doubts about their utility providers. However, this is one key area that providers can control to a significant extent, using appropriate technological solutions.

One of the challenges that comes with regulatory change is ensuring staff stay up to code in everything they do. Historically, maintaining the level of awareness and support required for compliance has been an ongoing training and knowledge management problem for providers. Inevitably, errors have slipped through the net – especially where legacy paper-based systems have allowed scope for human error.  

Digital systems can ensure a reduced risk of compliance errors, if set up in such a way as to block non compliant actions from being processed. For example, where regulations dictate that customer information or assent is required in order to legitimise an action, the system can block further progress until the required information forms have been filled in and saved.

The ideal scenario for customer data input is a system that uses logic to progress the agent or customer to the next required field, during the data entry process. By making compliant actions easier to carry out, we can increase the likelihood of compliant behaviours. As we all know, regulations change regularly, so the system should be designed with sufficient flexibility as to allow easy reconfiguration, via coding or a backend interface.


Dedicated compliance software vs integrated compliance safeguards

Some digitally transformed utilities providers  use standalone compliance software, instead of or as well as bespoke safeguards, to ensure their activities are compliant. Such software typically involves features such as access to regulatory texts, compliance task management, regulatory reporting and access to global compliance registries in which regulations, citations, permits and policies can be viewed and managed.

We recommend using a dedicated compliance software alongside your integrated compliance safeguards to ensure compliance with minimal disruption to your processes. Through this approach, your compliance software can be managed by dedicated team members who turn information from the software into actions that feed into your how your system’s safeguards are configured. Meanwhile, other team members can go about their work in full confidence that the systems they are using will ensure their compliance.

However your technological approach to compliance shapes up, bear in mind that having a robust solution in place is important. Failure to meet regulations can lead to fines, sanctions and damage to your reputation amongst customers, peers and regulators. Conversely, an exemplary compliance record will build customer trust in the long-term.



If you work in compliance in the the Utility & Telecommunications Sector, download our Playbook for Compliance Managers for more detailed info on this and other related compliance issues to help safeguard against regulatory breaches.

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Topics: Utility Week Live 2018

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