Going for growth with Blackthorne Utilities

“I would certainly recommend triOpsis based on our knowledge and experience. I’d recommend them to anyone who needs a system like this.”
Gary Morrow, Director of Operations
Blackthorne Utilities

By its nature, the utilities sector is home to some of the UK’s biggest companies. With their nationwide infrastructure networks and huge teams working to install and maintain the energy supplies we all rely on, size is often important. Being big can count for a lot.

Not all companies in the sector are quite so large, however. Take Blackthorne Utilities, for example. From its Sheffield base, the utilities contractor does indeed cover the UK – providing administration and support services specifically to the sector – but as an organisation, it is more modestly sized than some of the industry giants it serves so well.

For triOpsis, working with utility companies and contractors of any size is all in a day’s work. As a highly flexible and scalable solution, the triOpsis workforce management system can be quickly deployed across all kinds of companies, and since 2017, it has been helping Blackthorne Utilities to transform the way it operates.

The challenge

The non-payment of bills is an issue that faces many companies in the sector, and it’s when the money fails to appear that Blackthorn Utilities is often called in to take the next steps. As Gary Morrow, the company’s Director of Operations, explains:

“What we offer is a service that picks up the process on client accounts that utility providers have failed to collect on. We take the account, process it through our database, then issue it to our field agents to go and carry out a site visit. This isn’t just a good touchpoint with the potential default customer, it’s also a legal requirement should the process progress all the way through to removing the meter.”

Once the process is under way, Blackthorne Utilities’ agents make a number of site visits, with reports and evidence required each time. With responsibilities for customer care and the ever-present potential for legal proceedings, accuracy and attention to detail are a must.

During Blackthorne Utilities’ early days – the company was founded in 2002 – the process was essentially paper-based, and that meant things were inefficient and could be prone to error.

“The instructions were posted out in a warrant pack and the field agents would report back in a tick-box format on a piece of paper, which was then sent over to the client who had to put that information onto their systems,” explains Morrow.

“Since then, we’ve grown the business a lot. We now have clients across both commercial and residential, both gas and power providers. But to grow further, we had to look at our operational platforms and systems, which is where we began our journey with triOpsis.”

Our solution

For Blackthorne Utilities, the triOpsis system’s mobile reporting facility has made a huge difference to routine work. For their field agents, daily activities have been made a great deal more efficient, and the company as a whole is benefiting from the improved visibility and rapid access to data. Using just the triOpsis mobile app, site visit reports can now be sent from the field – potentially anywhere in the UK – and that means they can be processed and sent on to the company’s clients much quicker than was previously the case.

“triOpsis has made our field agents’ lives so much easier,” says Morrow. “The app is pre-loaded with all the required questions, there’s some mandatory stuff in there, and they can do it all in five or ten minutes. Previously, they’d have to get home after the visit, sit in front of their PC and write up reports. It was more time consuming and there was a lot more effort in it.”

The company also appreciated the speed of roll-out, which springs from triOpsis’s agile approach to implementation.

“The triOpsis team put together a platform to help us achieve what we needed in terms of mobile working,” says Morrow, “and we hit the ground running. What worked really well for us was the ability to develop the system in chunks. We got a structured system up and running quickly, and could then add to that as things progressed.”

The triOpsis difference

Blackthorne Utilities and its field agents experience the triOpsis difference every working day, but the system is also helping the company to win more business and, ultimately, to grow. As Morrow explains:

“Where triOpsis particularly helps us is in getting reports from the field back quickly and then out to our clients so they can make decisions based on those results. That’s added the value that’s enabled us to grow the business.

“When I’m speaking to potential clients, it’s very welcome if our business has the facility to send reports direct from the field. It’s a really strong selling point. The clients I speak to, their eyes light up when they know they can get reports direct from the agent who’s out there on the ground.”

The depth of detail enabled by the triOpsis system also ensures that clients value the reports when they come in, with ‘audited validation’ helping to ensure compliance with regulatory bodies.

“Residential energy suppliers are under a lot of pressure in terms of making sure they’re compliant,” says Morrow. “But with triOpsis, we can use GPS to show where a report was sent from, plus we can see the time it was sent, and we can also tailor the images. So if we’ve got a client who wants an outcome image of a front door number, we can offer them exactly what they want in terms of validation.”

Facing the future

Blackthorne Utilities might not be the biggest name in the utilities sector, but like any ambitious company its eyes are on future growth, and using triOpsis is helping them plan – and achieve – their vision.

After all, triOpsis is far more than simply a technology platform. It is also a team of friendly and approachable experts who understand the sector and whose mission is not simply to win business, but to continue working with clients to help them succeed.

From keeping costs down – triOpsis operates on a per-user basis, which makes it easy to budget – to ensuring it’s straightforward to add users as a business grows, triOpsis builds partnerships and friendships that last. So whether a business employs thousands, hundreds or a couple of dozen, triOpsis strives to offer service levels that always hits the heights.

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