February 2, 20210

By Aurangzeb Soharwardi

The power sector of Pakistan is facing numerous multidimensional challenges. To negotiate these, a comprehensive Power distribution improvement program is under way in collaboration with USAID. One of the important component of this collaboration is Utility exchange program, which caters for the training of officers of the distribution companies in various business functions and disciplines. One such program was planned for customer services and Public Relation officers of various DISCOs in Philipine from 10 june to 14 june 2013. A total of 11 officers participated in this program, in which I was also one of the participant. After completing all documentation and VISA formalities , the participants were called in USAID office in Islamabad on 7 june 2013 for briefing and coordination. Director HR & Change management USAID and HR Manager USAID briefed the participants about the travelling schedule , Boarding/Lodging, various visits and the training program in Philipine. The group had to travel to Bangkok by a flight of Thi air ways on 8 june 2013 and then to Manila -Philipine. The participants were excited and exhilarated because most of them were having their ever first international travelling experience. We reached Manila, our first destination by after noon.The group was received and well come by Andrew Palmatere , a young representative of USEA, who was our host and coordinator in Philipine. The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Repúblika ng Pilipinás), is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. The name Philippines is derived from that of King Philip II of Spain. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos during his expedition in 1542 named the islands of Leyte and Samar Felipinas after the then Prince of Asturias. Eventually the name Las Islas Filipinas would be used to cover all the islands of the archipelag To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam. The Sulu Sea to the southwest lies between the country and the island of Borneo, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea. Covering almost three hundred thousand square kilometres (over 115,000 sq mi) makes it the 73rd largest independent nation and an archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila.With a population of more than 103 million people the Philippines is the seventh most populated Asian country and the 12th most populated country in the world. An additional 12 million Filipinos live overseas. The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of an era of Spanish interest and eventual colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. The Spanish Empire began to settle with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi from New Spain (present day-Mexico) in 1565 who established the first Spanish settlement in the archipelago, which remained a Spanish colony for more than 300 years. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines attained its independence. Immediately after World War II, the Philippines faced a number of challenges. The country had to be rebuilt from the ravages of war. The Philippines has a democratic government. It is a constitutional republic with a presidential system. It is governed as a unitary state with the exception of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is largely free from the national government. The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. As of March 2010, these were divided into 17 regions, 80 provinces, 138 cities, 1,496 municipalities, and 42,025 barangays. In addition, Section 2 of Republic Act No. 5446 asserts that the definition of the territorial sea around the Philippine archipelago does not affect the claim over Sabah.The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area, including inland bodies of water, of approximately 300,000 square kilometers (120,000 sq mi). Its 36,289 kilometers (22,549 mi) of coastline makes it the country with the 5th longest coastline in the world.[3][84] It is located between 116° 40′, and 126° 34′ E. longitude and 4° 40′ and 21° 10′ N. latitude and is bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east, the South China Sea to the west, and the Celebes Sea to the south. As of 2011, the Philippines has become the world’s 12th most populous nation, with a population of over 94 million. It is estimated that half of the population resides on the island of Luzon. The population growth rate between 1995 to 2000 of 3.21% decreased to an estimated 1.95% for the 2005 to 2010 period, but remains a contentious issue. The population’s median age is 22.7 years with 60.9% aged from 15 to 64 years old. Life expectancy at birth is 71.94 years, 75.03 years for females and 68.99 years for males. There are about 11 million Filipinos outside the Philippines. The Philippines is a secular nation having a constitution separating the state and church. However, more than 90% of the population are Christians: about 80% belong to the Roman Catholic Church while 10% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the Iglesia ni Cristo, the Philippine Independent Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.As a result of Spanish cultural influence, the Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being East Timor, a former Portuguese colony.Between 5% and 10% of the population are Muslim, most of whom live in parts of Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu Archipelago – an area known as Bangsamoro or the Moro region. As of 2008, there are about 67.9 million cellular phone subscribers in the Philippines. Text messaging is a popular form of communication and has fostered a culture of quick greetings and forwarded jokes among Filipinos. In 2007, the nation sent an average of one billion SMS messages per day. Out of this growing number of avid text message senders, over five million of them use their cellular phones as virtual wallets, making it a leader among developing nations in providing financial transactions over cellular networks.The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company commonly known as PLDT is the leading telecommunications provider. It is also the largest company in the country. Its wholly owned subsidiaries Smart Communications and Piltel, along with Globe Telecom of the Ayala Group, BayanTel, and Sun Cellular are the major cellular service providers in the country.There are approximately 383 AM and 659 FM radio stations and 297 television and 873 cable television stations. For our first visit Next morning, we were ready after a sumptuous breakfast in the hotel lobby , where we were received by mr Andrew to take us to our first official visit to one of the leading companies of Manila that was MERALCO the Largest distribution utility in the Philippines. It serves 25% of the Philippine population -9,337 km2 footprint. Accounts for 50% of Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 60% of Philippine manufacturing output generated within the franchise area . Generates 75% of Luzon’s and 55% of Philippine electricity sales . Social, political, economic center of the Philippines .Sales revenues of Php256.8 billion, equivalent to US$5.9 billion. Market capitalization of Php278.6 billion, equivalent to US$6.4 billion at the end of 2011. MERALCO is an investor-owned electric utility serving roughly a quarter of the estimated 94 million population of the Republic of the Philippines. It was organized as the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company 107 years ago in 1903 to provide electric light and power and an electric street railway system to Manila and its suburbs. In 1969, Meralco became the very first billion-peso company in the Philippines. This was all the more remarkable because much of it had been achieved without recourse to government guarantees. In the 1970’s, the Philippine Government made it a state policy for the government to own all major generating facilities. Meralco sold its generating plants to the National Power Corporation, and electric distribution became its core business. Indeed, in the first half of the 1980’s, Meralco’s franchise area tripled in area from 2,678 square kilometers to 9,337 square kilometers. The peak demand of the company was 5633 MW to feed 5185200 customers. The company had 5960 employees with customer /employee ratio of 870/1. ERC acts as regulating agency with very strict policies and vibrant mechanism of regulation. It had 8 major delivery points(grid stations) and 80 sub stations(feeders) with 69 kv/138 kv system. The wonder full thing about meralco was that its business philosophy is three tears Customer-community-country, which linked all its operations to a bigger cause, there by leading to better image building .MERALCO had state of the art tech-intensive systems and is making best possible use of social media, information technology and mobile communications. SCADA was being used for power quality, Outage management system and automatic load frequency control. Other important efforts being implemented in meralco were:- Open access –Innovation/creativity, Focus on organizational culture and organizational transformation, customer centricity ,customer response time 4.6o min, call pick up time 13 sec, Home area net work, Home energy management systems, Meralco amphibious vehicle for repair and maintenance in storms and typhoons, Consumption of each consumer is displayed on inter net,A relationship manager for each industrial cluster and each big industry, energy conservation campaigns by the name BRIGHT IDEAS, Prizes to best journalists and most cooperative industrialists in annual dinner, Strong research h and development, customer analysis, sales fore casting, very pragmatic corporate social responsibility programs latest equipment and cameras for meter reading, easily accessable customer service centers with bill payment facilities too, incentives for customers in case of de loading in crises times, employee engagement and training, corporate quality assessment surveys, internal customer service management, keeping in touch sessions with employees and other stake holders, GUEST philosophy of customer service which says Greet, Use name, Eye contact, Smile, Thank you , energy education programs for customers. Two days interactive sessions were planned in meralco during which meralco served us with tea/coffee and delight full lunch in there artistically decorated lunch room. From Manila the group moved to an other sea bound , 2ND largest city of Philipine, CEBU by philipine air line on 12 june 2013 for the second leg of out study tour. CEBU is a wonder full city with same enthusiasm and charm like Manila but less traffic congestions and less population. The next morning was misty and hazy when we moved to visit Vassaya Electric company, CEBU. Visayan Electric Company, Inc. (VECO) is the second largest electric utility in the Philippines. It serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay, Naga and four municipalities of the greater part of Metro Cebu – Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla and San Fernando. Its franchise service covers an area of about 674 km2 with an estimated population of 1.73 million. VECO utilizes various state-of-the-art technologies in its operations to improve its efficiency and service. It uses a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system to monitor and control its electric distribution assets via remote control. It also has a GIS (Geographic Information System) to map and manage its facilities. It has two full service centers equipped with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone system integrated with a Customer Relation Management System (CRMS). The first full service center is located at SM City Cebu while the second one, intended to serve the needs of customers in the southern part of the franchise area, is in Talisay City. VECO is owned and managed by publicly-listed Aboitiz Power Corporation (PSE: AP) and Vivant Corporation. Approximately 800 individual shareholders comprise the VECO shareholders’ roster. Electricity demand of 430 MW. Electric power delivered to your home or business is typically generated in large centralized power plants of National Power Corporation-Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (NPC-PSALM) and independent power producers (IPPs). Power then travels over long distances via high-voltage transmission lines (138kV or 230kV) of National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which are interconnected in a grid or network configuration. From the transmission system, power travels by means of 69kV sub-transmission lines to 13 VECO distribution substations with a total capacity of 410MVA that are strategically located within its franchise area. From these substations, distribution lines operating at medium-voltage levels of 23kV, 13.8kV and 4.16kV, disperse the power throughout Cebu City and nearby municipalities. The power then travels from the distribution line through a service transformer located in close proximity to your home or business establishment. Electricity enters the customers’ premises at low-voltage levels (220 or 440V) through overhead conductors (wires) which connect to the kilowatt-hour (kWh) meter. From the meter, or point of service, power flows along conductors to the main panel which contains the main breaker. The main breaker’s duty is to provide protection for the entire facility. And finally, branch circuits deliver power for lights, appliances, and electric outlets within the residences while industrial and commercial facilities have additional branch circuits for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. Thus, the 285,825 VECO customers (June 2007) are assured of an efficient and stable voltage level for utilization. As of June 2007, VECO registered its highest demand of 312.55 Megawatts (MW). Although VECO was much smaller company as compared to Meralco but we were excited to see many operations organized in VECO at power with Meralco.The Senior managers and GMs were very hospitable and humble. We were received by Mr Ricky lacson and his very fine team and briefed about the company. The environment was very cordial and professional. Arrangements for tea/coffee were made in the room so that the participants could enjoy during the lectures. We were impressed to note the following important things happening in VECO:-
Brailed bills are prepared for blind customers for their easy reading and understanding,Interrupted load program is being managed, EMC-Elevated meter centers are being installed from saving them from tempering ,Mobile repair and maintenance teams work round the clock with communication systems, Changed over head system to insulated wires, Very strong customer information system,Working on planned power outage advisory, Public apology is saught from electricity thieves in news papers with their photograph, Stake holder’s mapping sessions with graph of existing and desired relationship standards.
It was undoubtedly a great learning experience to have a study tour of power distribution companies of two cities( Manila/ CEBU) of Philipines. Besides a wonderful international exposure, I was exposed to a very professional and technology intensive work environment, customer centric philosophy and systems, which enabled me to understand modern customer service and PR practices. The management of both the companies was hospitable, courteous and willing to share the knowledge. The regulatory system was also very stringent and potent, there by maintaining a competitive and well regularized electricity generation and distribution system. I also had the opportunity to explore philipine, socially and culturally by visiting various prominent places, markets and localities. I had the rare opportunity to interact with Filipino professionals, managers, workers and general public to know about their customs and traditions too. Over all this was indeed a life time opportunity to visit philipine through utility exchange program. One Best Practice which can be implemented in our DISCO can be the Integrated Modern customer service centers and call centers can be established to facilitate consumer complaints management. PDC should also be integrated with the call centers. All these functions should be under customer service director.
Communications: (Customer Outreach, correspondence, communication strategy, social responsibility and IT Communication adopted at the host power companies)
MERALCO: Own monthly magazine POWER CLUB, Pamphlets/brouchers and moble phone sms information campaigns ,A well thought of communication strategy , based on the concept of integrating all the stake holders, Very extensive and pragmatic corporate social responsibility programs, focusing on power sector only, Effective use of social media and mobile phone sms communications; Vast net work of customer centers, particularly in every shopping mall.
VECO—CEBU: Pamphlets/brouchers and moble phone sms information campaigns, A well thought of communication strategy , based on the concept of integrating all the stake holders, Very extensive and pragmatic corporate social responsibility programs, focusing on power sector only, Effective use of social media and mobile phone sms communications
Employee Communications:
(Provide details on Motivation, Management Challenges, Recruiting, Crisis Management, Social Media, Coaching, Internal branding at the host power companies).
As far as Media and Public Relations were concerned ,Both the companies had media policy and communication strategy. They are making best possible use of social media and mobile phone communications. Constant media interaction was the key of both the companies. In both companies there was a policy of issuing media releases for only very important events. Undue exposure and extensive media interaction was being avoided. PR departments were well established with latest technology and state of the art equipment.
Talking about the Customer Services, The hall mark of both the companies was customer centricity. Both companies had all the customer related activities under one roof and all the applications, complaints and billing was under one director which facilitated the customer service process a lot, Effective use of social media and mobile communications was very extensive and many programs were being under taken by the companies for customer awareness, Bill payments procedure was very consumer friendly and within easy access of customers, Response time to mitigate consumer complaints was shortest possible and prompt, enabling to raise the level of customer satisfaction .Based on the study tour the suggested Improvements in DISCO’s Training Programs can be:-
Training programs should be organized regularly but with the duration of minimum 15 days to effectively cover the training contents and programs, Training evaluation must be done by adopting multipronged techniques, Post training report and implementation in respective DISCOs must be ensured ,Before sending the group to training, a pre training must be conducted to emphasis on improvement of spoken English, ethics, cultural norms and other dos and donts, Maximum training programs to be conducted in the countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, UAE and China, Only relevant and related officers to be selected for trainings, who on their return can be use full for the company, The CEOs to make the best possible use of the trained officers by assigning them various projects to improve the systems and working of DISCOs.
The Recommendations for Improvement in our DISCOS can be :-
Billing, customer service centers, call centers and new connection /re connection procedure should all be under customer service director PDC and call centers must work jointly to update consumers, Customer information system and outages management system must be implemented in DISCOs. More automated systems to be in place ,PR Departments must be under customer service director and should be fully equipped with modern gadgets and communication tools, Regional training centers must be upgraded and extensive training programs for officers and staff must be conducted there.

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