News & Events

September 21, 2014:

First Quartile Consulting Announces 2014 Transmission Benchmark Study

 

First Quartile Consulting (1QC) is pleased to announce an agreement for First Quartile to take on the delivery of the Transmission benchmark study that was performed by Southern Company Services from 2002 to 2012. The agreement marks the transition from the founding utility to a consulting firm dedicated to performing benchmarking studies for the utility industry.

 

Ken Buckstaff, Managing Director of First Quartile Consulting noted: “With a significant number of long-term participants in the study wanting to assure it continues, it was obvious there is a need in the industry for this important study. First Quartile Consulting is happy to be able to provide the service, and help the participants build on the relationships they have created over the past decade. The Transmission study will expand our benchmarking community to more companies in the Southeast, and we in turn expect to broaden the appeal of the study to other utilities across North America.”

Wendy Dobbs, the Program Manager at Southern Company Services who oversaw the study in recent years, said “Southern Company is very happy to have found a firm with the background and capabilities of First Quartile, combined with a long-term commitment to success of benchmarking in the utility industry, to take on the study, for the benefit of the entire industry. We look forward to working with First Quartile over the coming months to ensure the study continues to grow and meet the needs of the participant community.”

 

About First Quartile Consulting: First Quartile brings the experience of performing large-scale benchmark studies in the utility industry for over 25 years. Today the firm provides benchmarking services in the areas of electric Transmission & Distribution, and in Customer Service for electric, gas, and water utilities. Further, the firm provides a broad range of management consulting services, including diagnostic assessments, process improvement, performance measurement, regulatory support, and others for our utility clients.

 

To learn more about plans for the 2014 study, contact:

Debi McLain Cook

760-272-7277

debi.mclain@1qconsulting.com

 

February 24, 2014: First Quartile Consulting Launches 2014 Customer Service Benchmarking Study

You can be part of the 2014 First Quartile Customer Service Benchmarking community.  Join Exelon, Westar, Oncor, Entergy and PSE&G and many more for insightful, thought-provoking discussions leading to solutions to the key challenges that your utility is facing. All of the utilities in our benchmarking community are listed at http://1stquartileconsulting.com/community_links/community_list.html

One of the benefits of joining the 1QC benchmarking community is the opportunity to participate in a series of webinars where leading utilities can discuss topics that are timely and important. Each discussion will be facilitated by one of our Directors and include contributions from our utility community. At the end of the webinar series, community members receive a summary of findings and hear from peer utilities on practices and lessons learned.  The discussion topics for 2014 are “Reducing Cost and Improving Quality in the Contact Center” and “Credit and Collections: Aligning Credit Needs with Contact Center and/or Field Execution”

 

First Quartile Consulting leverages 25 years of industry experience to provide solutions to the many challenges and obstacles faced by utilities across North America. We provide a full range of consulting services including continuous process improvement, change management, benchmarking and more. Specifically in benchmarking, our expanding panel of utilities shares industry best practices and knowledge to evaluate and improve performance in support of their organizational goals and objectives. Our benchmarking community relies on our expertise in key Customer Service and T&D functional areas to facilitate this sharing of knowledge

The questionnaire for the Customer Service study will be issued in early March. To learn more about our benchmarking programs or how to join, please visit http://www.1stquartileconsulting.com.

Contact:

Debi McLain

760-272-7277

debi.mclain@1qconsulting.com

 

 

 

February 20, 2014: First Quartile Consulting Launches 2014 T&D and Customer Service Benchmarking Studies

The Leaders in the 1QC benchmarking community recently met to determine the course for the study for 2014 and help tailor the questionnaire and discussion topics to meet our benchmarking communities’ needs. Join CenterPoint, Exelon, Entergy, Oncor, KCP&L, PSE&G and many more for insightful, thought-provoking discussions leading to solutions to the key challenges that your utility is facing. All of the utilities in our benchmarking community are listed at http://1stquartileconsulting.com/community_links/community_list.html

 

Each study begins with the issuance of the questionnaire for the year. This year, the Customer Service questionnaire will be issued in early March followed approximately a month later by the T&D questionnaire on in late March.

 

First Quartile Consulting leverages 25 years of industry experience to provide solutions to the many challenges and obstacles faced by utilities across North America. We provide a full range of consulting services including continuous process improvement, change management, benchmarking and more. Specifically in benchmarking, our expanding panel of utilities shares industry best practices and knowledge to evaluate and improve performance in support of their organizational goals and objectives. Our benchmarking community relies on our expertise in key Customer Service and T&D functional areas to facilitate this sharing of knowledge

 

To learn more about our benchmarking programs or how to join, please visit http://www.1stquartileconsulting.com.

Contact:

Debi McLain

760-272-7277

debi.mclain@1qconsulting.com

 

 

September 13, 2013: First Quartile Consulting Announces Offering To Optimize Scheduling and Field Service

 

First Quartile today announced a service offering aimed at optimizing utility Short-Cycle Order Management Process for Customer and Distribution functions.  “For the 3rd consecutive year, the results of our annual benchmarking study show a 30-40% opportunity for improvement in field services operations”, said Rob Earle, Senior Manager.

 

First Quartile is excited to work with organizations seeking to improve order completion rates and work backlogs, optimize crew size and outage response times.  A typical engagement will require partnering with Metering, Construction and Maintenance organizations to enhance the management of orders such as turn-on, turn-off, credit & collections, meter exchanges, simple service sets, "no lights", street light patrols and various feeder hardening efforts.  

 

At the completion of an initial 4 week assessment, utilities will understand opportunities to reduce overtime, increase productivity, provide more timely trouble response and re-allocate resources to support reliability initiatives.  “We believe this service supports companies as they seek to better leverage technology by addressing process and organization”, said Earle. “With the benchmark “truck-roll” cost at $30, the opportunity for savings is substantial”.

 

Contact: Rob Earle 315-944-7610

 

September 12, 2013: First Quartile Consulting Director Debi McLain Cook will be speaking at the APPA Business & Finance Conference in late September on the topic of Measuring Customer Service Performance.

 

 

The presentation will discuss how a company can improve performance of total customer service operations by focusing improvement efforts at the point where work gets done. It’s not just about having high-level measures such as cost per customer, but appropriate process-level measures such as % of Meter Routes Read on Cycle and working toward improving performance at the process level.

 

Contact: Debi McLain Cook 760-272-7277

 

September 9, 2013: Benchmarking Storm Restoration: Superstorms call for superior responses

 

Tim Szybalski and Dave Carter, of 1QC published a paper on benchmarking storm restoration in SPARK, the on-line publication of Public Utilities Fortnightly. The article, “Benchmarking Storm Restoration: Superstorms call for superior responses” uses key findings from our Electric T&D benchmarking survey to explore questions such as “What are the frequency, magnitude, and average response times for different types of storms?” We thank Jesse Medlock, Robert Jones, and Rocky Morris of Oncor Electric Delivery for their contributions to this article. 

 

One finding noted, in the article, of our analysis of storm restoration data is that “The best performance was exponential, whereby the restoration was more rapid in the early hours than in the later hours (perhaps due to sectionalizing and bringing on big blocks of customers early). The worst performance was almost linear, with a constant restoration rate.”

 

Contact: Tim Szybalski 925-878-5066

 

September 7, 2013: T&D Asset Investment, Construction and Program Mgmt Project for a utility in Asia

 

First Quartile Consulting (1QC) and Navigant have partnered to assess the effectiveness of the Power Supply Business Group of a major utility operating in Asia. The two firms will be conducting a comprehensive benchmarking study on cost and service performance. The assessment will include all the major areas of transmission and distribution (covering cost, safety and reliability) as well as a detailed review of construction costs and practices in substations and transmission line. Several North American utilities will be asked to share information on their construction projects. 

 

Contact: Ken Buckstaff 310-922-0783

 

 

Septmber 5, 2013: First Quartile Consulting Launches 2014 T&D and CS Benchmarking Studies
read more at Energy Central

 

June 5, 2013: First Quartile Consulting Offers Storm Models to Help Utilities Plan, Prepare, and Perform in Storm Events

 

1QC, working with MJBeck Consulting and Johns Hopkins University, has submitted proposals to two major utilities to build storm outage prediction models. These storm models can be used to predict customer and equipment outages, damage to system components, and time required for restoration. Further, results from the models can be used pre-storm for scenario planning, as well as post-storm to develop lessons learned and in reporting to regulators. Companies using this type of model will be better prepared for storms before they hit, perform more rapid restoration, and more effectively communicate to customers and the public about what to expect in a storm situation.  

For more information about the storm outage prediction models, please contact Ken Buckstaff at 310-922-0783

 

May 15, 2013: 1QC Partners with Utility to Improve Meter Reading Effectiveness and Lower Costs

 

First Quartile has been partnering with a utility to support improved performance of Meter Reading, leading to improved read rates, reduced bill estimates and lowering of costs. Partnering with a team of Supervisors and Managers over a 9-month period, teams have recently implemented processes to clarify roles, meter reading processes, and reporting across field offices in the client's Metering Operations Organization. The effort has included the refinement and standardization of assignment, distribution and management of scheduled work and the improvement of interfaces with Billing and Contact Center functions. Just this past month, training of over 100 Meter Readers and Service People was completed. To-date, the effort has yielded increases in meter reading percentages and reductions in contractor and overtime usage!

For more information contact Gene Dimitrov @301-535-0590

 

April 10, 2013: Customer Service Quality Assurance

 

We recently held the third webinar on our topic on Quality Assurance in Customer Service. We discussed how companies are staying in tune with what customer's want. One way companies are assessing customer needs is to monitor social media and hear directly from their customers. The challenge is to take that information and disseminate it down to what actually needs to be done. Knowing what to fix can be obvious, but knowing what to develop isn't as clear. So much information that’s valuable is available but leveraging it is the challenge due to lack of resources.

 

March 25, 2013:Benchmarking project awarded to examine the Accounts Payable, Procurement, Contracting, and Material Control functional areas

 

First Quartile Consulting was recently awarded a project to examine the Accounts Payable, Procurement, Contracting, and Material Control functional areas at a large municipal utility. We will be leveraging our long-standing consulting skills, proven benchmarking process, and long-term industry relationships to benchmark the processes, measures, and practices in these areas. We are looking for other large municipal utilities who are interested in benchmarking these areas to share their data with us to provide a peer panel for comparison. if you're interested in participating in this study, please contact Debi McLain, debi.mclain@1qconsulting.com or 760-272-7277.

 

March 15, 2013: Proposal to provide AMR/AMI Consulting Services

 

The 1QC team recently proposed on a project to provide AMR/AMI Consulting Services to a municipality on the west coast. The project will include the formulation of a strategic assessment of the AMR/AMI Business Case, preparation of an RFP to solicit technical vendors, vendor selection and contract negotiation, and project management pre-planning.
 

March 11, 2013: Proposals submitted for two Custom Benchmarking Studies

 

The 1QC team is committed to providing outstanding client service by leveraging our long-standing consulting skills, proven benchmarking process, and long-term industry relationships. We recently proposed on two projects to perform Benchmarking and Industry Best Practices studies for two different public utilities. One project focuses on the benchmarking and best practices in R&D management, while the other examines the Accounts Payable, Procurement, Contracting, and Material Control functional areas. With each client engagement, our goal remains the same – to improve clients' operations by providing actionable recommendations for achievable results, and through promoting peer-to-peer communication and industry best practices for sustainable success.
 

 

February 14, 2013: 2013 Customer Service Benchmarking

 

First Quartile Consulting provides solutions to the many challenges and obstacles faced by you and other utilities across North America today. We provide a full range of services including continuous process improvement, change management, benchmarking and more. Our clients count on our proven techniques that will optimize your processes and enhance the experience you deliver to your customers while creating value to meet your business and regulatory needs.

For over 20 years we’ve been collecting, analyzing and applying benchmarks to support our clients’ goals and objectives. Members in our benchmarking community draw on a pool of leading practices that cover all key customer service processes. One of the findings from our 2012 study was...
 

The best companies are issuing over 17% of bills electronically (up from 12% in 2011). While some of this is of course dependent on customer demographics, adoption rates are up in the past 5 years. Despite this increase, costs of billing have only slightly lowered meaning that utilities are not realizing the cost savings (yet) of bill presentment innovation.

Now you can be part of our benchmarking community. In just a few weeks we are kicking off our 2013 Customer Service Benchmarking program. You can join Iberdrola USA, Exelon, Westar, Oncor, PSE&G and many more as we overcome the key challenges facing utilities today. Sign up today

 

January 29, 2013: Process Improvement: Customer Contact Center

 

First Quartile Consulting proposed on a Customer Contact Center process improvement project for a large investor-owned utility. 1QC will help the organization create and define processes and measures for the IOU's Contact Center , and bring it into alignment with other functions in the business. A key start to the project is an "working session" to create a shared understanding of the current operating situation, and to define core processes and related process measures that the Contact Center organization will adopt as it proceeds.

 

January 20, 2013: Customer Service Process and Measures Effort

 

First Quartile Consulting submitted a proposal on a Customer Service Process and Measures effort with an investor-owned utility. The goal of this project is to develop a set of process measures that can be used within and across the respective customer areas to support a more process-centric organization. Through these measures the organization will be able to develop performance measures at the Supervisory level up through the Director and Officer level

 

January 16, 2013: Change Management Project

 

First Quartile Consulting recently proposed on a change management project for a large regional transmission provider. The organization established a transformation program to improve processes, align policies and address the increasingly complex management of its transmission system. If we are selected, 1QC will help the organization with successfully executing major change efforts by leveraging our industry expertise, broad understanding of the company, a proven change management model, and risk management tools.

 

December 20, 2012: Benchmarking PM Practices: Tracking changes in project management roles and outcomes.

 

Tim Szybalski, of First Quartile Consulting (1QC) has summarized key findings from our annual Electric T&D benchmarking surveys related to the Project Manager (PM) role, staffing benchmarks, outcome measures, construction role, and software tools. The summary has been published at Fortnightly’s Spark. 1QC also conducts consulting projects to help utilities improve their project management processes. Our goal is to support utilities in considering the challenges and opportunities in project management to maximize benefits from these projects.

 

December 5, 2012: Proposed on a Continuous Improvement Project in Kentucky

 

First Quartile Consulting proposed on a Continuous Improvement project for a Kentucky G&T Cooperative where we will help establish and train a Continuous Improvement team that supports the execution of a range of improvement efforts across the organization. A key objective will be to apply Continuous Improvement methodologies to the various efforts in a consistent and structured manner, while at the same time developing internal expertise in these approaches and use of tools so that the organization can meet its CI needs from within.

 

November 25, 2012: Proposed on Performance and Process Improvement project in Washington

 

1QC recently submitted a proposal to a Northwestern Investor-Owned Utility to highlight areas of opportunity for Performance and Process Improvement, in the face of significant cost pressures. For the specific areas of study within the Transmission & Distribution umbrella, the goal is to develop benchmark comparisons of costs, service levels, and other metrics, that identify areas of strength and areas of improvement opportunity. Beyond that, the study is to identify specific process areas where there are gaps between current approaches and the best practices in place across the industry. The outcome will be a list of opportunity areas to be investigated in further depth in a second-phase effort.

Follow us on: