Employee Apps For Utilities Companies: The Essential Features You Should Include
The utilities industry has been a slow adopter of mobile technologies; however as the benefits of apps continue to become obvious, we can expect the industry to slowly catch up.
The appeal of mobile apps in this industry lies in the nature of the work itself, which is often done in the field and away from the office environment. As mobile devices can be easily carried around, mobile apps can facilitate communications and make business processes smoother, resulting in improved productivity and better collaboration..
But how can apps do this? In this article we outline some of the main benefits and use cases of mobile apps in the utilities industry.
Benefits of apps for the Utilities sector
- Increased productivity. Mobile apps can make communication, training and access to information faster than ever before and extremely convenient, as employees become able to access it no matter where they are. This saved time can additionally allow employees to generate extra business and potentially revenue.
- Instant access. By allowing all data to be centralized in one place, a mobile app makes it easier for employees to find information than old-fashioned methods such as the Intranet. By allowing employees to access this information wherever they are, an app can also help reduce problem-solving time by allowing them to self-assist.
- Improved communications. With a traditionally geographically dispersed workforce, internal communications apps can help employees of utilities companies communicate better and assist each other much more efficiently. One area of particular strength is group conversations, which can be displayed in a “chat room” format. No more forgetting to “Reply all” on emails!
- Better decision-making. Finally, mobile apps can be incorporated into business processes themselves, for instance by allowing employees to use them to make daily tasks faster. From reference guides to calculators, mobile apps can be used for an unlimited number of tasks. Moreover, they can help reduce the risk of human error in the process by making the process more automated and less reliant on manual processes.
What kind of apps?
But what kind of apps could help your company take advantage of all these benefits? Here is our list of favorites as well as the key features you should consider including in each:
1. Sales app
A sales information feature can be used by employees to familiarise themselves with the company’s services or to display these services to potential customers. An app can also make sales information much more visually engaging and interactive.
The app could include not just basic sales data but also other app-specific features, such as a calculator to give customers a rough idea of the expected costs according to usage.
A competitor comparison feature can help your company differentiate itself from competitors during the sales process by comparing the benefits of your services and plans to those of other companies.
This information could be pulled from price comparison websites such as GoCompare and MoneySupermarket and displayed on the app in a way that accentuates the comparative benefits of your company’s services.
2. Reporting app
A task that field workers of the utilities industry often have to undertake is logging large amounts of data as part of field surveys and reports.
Traditionally, this is done on paper and later transferred onto a database once employees are back at the office.
An app can make this process a lot more efficient by allowing workers to log this data directly into the app, which then submits it directly into the database, eliminating the need for the double handling of information. Not only does this save huge amounts of time but it also reduces the risk of human error significantly.
Although field workers often work away from any Internet connection, a reporting app can be designed to work offline and save data on the device until it becomes connected to a network.
An app can also be used to create and deliver custom reports of this data to be sent to upper-level management.
Using a calculator feature as part of this logging process can make the process even smoother by allowing field workers to quickly and accurately make calculations on their mobile device, reducing the risk of errors.
3. Support app
Customer and employee support
By making communications more efficient, you can also ensure that customer and employee support are likewise sped up.
Customers and employees experiencing issues can, for instance, take a picture of the problem and send it to support via the app. Support can then communicate with them directly on the app.
Technical staff may need technical advice or permission to go ahead and replace a part; the support team could easily deliver this instantly via the app, speeding up the process for technical staff.
Health and safety
Health and safety issues can also be reported via the app in a much more efficient way, which can be particularly useful in the field environment.
Employees can use their mobile phone sensors to monitor environmental factors and send this data directly to headquarters in real time.
Health and safety hazards can be reported using images and video with GPS coordinates attached, making it much easier to accurately document and locate them.
The health and safety feature could also include a summary of the main health and safety regulations and the appropriate procedures in case of accidents, making it much easier for employees to react in a suitable way.
A document library with support-related documents, such as reference guides and how-to guides, can help speed up support by enabling staff to self-assist and ensure that they are abiding by field regulations.
The library could even contain how-to guides to help employees make the right decisions during repairs and eliminating the need to seek guidance from headquarters.
4. Disaster recovery app
Any disaster recovery app needs a directory with the relevant emergency numbers and contact details, whether it’s an office-related emergency or an environmental one.
The app could display only the relevant contact information according to day or shift taken from a central database. That way employees can ensure that they are contacting the right person.
Enabling employees to tap on the relevant contact’s phone number or other details to get in touch with them directly can also help speed up the disaster reporting process.
A list of all existing regulations in place for emergency situations, coupled with appropriate response plans, can also help employees ensure that they are abiding and taking the right course of action during an emergency.
5. Communications app
Internal communications apps can be beneficial to any company no matter the industry, but they can be particularly beneficial in the case of utilities companies due to geographical disparity of the workforce.
An app can, for instance, ensure that employees working in the field can remain in touch and updated about what’s happening at other locations.
At the same time, communications apps can help you track employees present at hazardous or hostile locations, ensuring that they are safe and that they can receive support if they encounter any problems.
6. Project management app
Due to the extensive field operations that any utilities company undertakes, a project management app is a useful way to keep track of all field activity and to track daily operations, progress against targets and costs.
This can be done by enabling field workers to update the app directly by submitting the relevant data. This data can then update a central database, allowing upper-level management to check in on the latest progress at any time and notifying them of any important developments.
7. Training app
Finally, a training app is a must-have for most companies including those in utilities; it can significantly speed up learning for new employees and for existing employees about new technologies, regulations or projects.
Training apps make learning easier by enabling the inclusion of interactive content, such as video, embedded documents and interactive charts. This makes information stand out in comparison to PDF or paper alternatives.
The app can also include “gamification” features such as exam or quiz functions and assign points and badges to those employees who are scoring highly on learning. This can provide an additional incentive for employees to continue learning while making the whole process much more fun and engaging.
Mobile apps can help your company speed up business processes and make decisions faster by making communications and access to resources more efficient and enabling them to include mobile technologies in their daily tasks.
Are you using mobile apps in your company? Did we forget to include any useful features? Let us know in the comments below.