Utility Expense Management Part 5 – The Power of Dispute Resolution

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The Power of Execution in Utility Expense Management Dispute Resolution

Enterprise expense management teams for larger enterprises have the potential to recover hundreds of thousands and, in many cases, millions of dollars per year. These recoverable savings opportunities either result from identifying utility services overcharges via rate audits (e.g., incorrect rates), incorrect services billing via purpose audits (e.g., should not be billed), or service optimization decisions that achieve desired service outcomes at cheaper costs. 

This is a material amount of money that is on the line – even for a large corporation. It’s great that savings opportunities were identified, but not enough. Correctly identified utility billing error claims and utility services optimization implementations must be effectively worked between all appropriate parties inside (e.g., dispute team) and outside the company (e.g., vendor claims personnel) to realize these savings promptly. (To be clear, by “realize savings,” it means that all parties agree to what is owed and that these credits are issued to your organization and, therefore, “realized.”) 

This is where the importance of a utility dispute management team comes in, and this support has the same goals as traditional TEM dispute management teams. They are responsible for working with all pertinent vendors and their teams to retrieve all owed credits in a timely manner; each situation is different, but receiving credits within six months is preferred, and a strong utility expense management team will help make this happen. 

In a prior article on utility expense management, we covered the importance of audit and optimization services within a utility expense management program. We focused on them because they are the primary drivers of savings for larger enterprises actively managing a holistic utility expense management program.  

The Power of Execution in Utility Expense Management Dispute Resolution

Regardless of whether a savings opportunity is based on audit work or optimization work as outlined above, the accurate indicator of a strong dispute management program is in its ability to expeditiously move claim issues forward from the identification stage to the realization stage, which translates to the receipt of credits from all applicable vendor(s).  Again, six months or less is preferred. You don’t want vendors dragging their feet to delay credit issuing; some try these tactics. 

Like most things in life, getting vendors to agree with all processed claims and issue timely credits is much easier said than done, but it is possible. A competent utility dispute management team that excels at clear, positive, and proactive communication increases the chances of this happening.   

They can help drive savings results, i.e., vendors acknowledging and conceding claims and then working to have vendors issue credits for these claims in a timely manner (e.g., weeks or a few months, ideally). 

Let’s look at several aspects of this process and how they share their rightful places within a successful utility expense management dispute resolution service. 

4 Ways That Dispute Resolution Empowers Utility Expense Management Savings

1. Powerful technology designed to support dispute management expedites results

We mention this often, and we do so because it’s very important, especially nowadays.

Any reputable expense management program needs good processes and talented, experienced personnel. Still, both would only be marginally effective without a powerful modern technology platform designed explicitly for supporting dispute management and other expense management needs.  

When conducting your next discovery process for a utility expense management provider, ensuring their technology platform is current and robust will be key. Any expense management provider that leaves you unimpressed in their technology is one which you are best to move on from. 

Current technology platforms should be highly robust regarding their ability to house and effectively manage large amounts of data. The technology should also be configurable and molded to your organization’s needs. In this case, dispute management workflows and claim reporting, for example. 

You may have specific desired process workflows, and it’s imperative that the technology be adaptable to your organizational needs. This would mean setting workflows, preset alerts, building powerful reporting, and employing automation in highly customized ways relative to your organization’s priorities and preferences. 

Modern expense management technology platforms will be cloud-based (SaaS) and can manage a wide variety of complex services, expenses, and assets centrally, including utilities. The platform/database should include artificial intelligence capabilities and be highly biased toward automation.  

A robust technology platform is foundational to any modern-day utility expense management program. It helps serve digital transformation objectives, such as embracing technology to improve and evolve organizational effectiveness constantly. 

It should also allay business continuity concerns (e.g., safely stored and easily retrievable data) and provide a positive user experience for those leveraging the technology (e.g., easy-to-use and robust dashboarding and reporting capabilities). 

A solid technology platform will support dispute management data organization, reporting needs, and other expense management requirements around related services.

2. A strong process informed by best practices drives dispute management results

A reputable utility expense management provider will have strong processes to manage all disputes being processed effectively.

Whether a savings opportunity is based on audit analyses or optimization analyses, all savings opportunities need to be appropriately prioritized based on financial impact, age of the claim(s), win percentage likelihood, among other potential factors such as complexity of the claim(s) or the ability to work with specific vendors effectively.

A well-conceived dispute management process will drive forward the movement of savings opportunities in the most sensible way possible given the myriad of outside factors involved that are hard to control (e.g., different vendors, different ways of doing business, unique personalities, market factors), and therefore the importance of a highly developed process.

An experienced project manager will oversee – along with the support of his or her colleagues – the overlay of vital processes over a robust technology platform to help effectively manage the processing of all savings opportunities in the most prudent fashion possible.

It’s not enough to have great technology and talented personnel. It must all be brought together with strong processes informed by best practices.

3. Experienced personnel with excellent communications skills facilitate claims resolutions

In the technology world, it’s commonplace to hear the refrain that it’s “people, technology, and process that are applied to address problems.”

This is true. You really need all three pillars to execute at a high level, and this is undoubtedly the case with respect to the skills needed for dispute resolution. This is as much art as science; there is much art to juggling different vendors and their different business systems and methodologies, different personalities, etc.  

A strong dispute management team will be led by an experienced project manager and supported by a talented staff that works with solid and trusted processes and leverages a robust technology platform. 

And the dispute management team truly benefits from great communication skills because there is so much communication going on with external vendors. Because it’s essential, you will want to consider where most of this support will come from in your utility expense management discovery process. 

Ideally, you will want them to be domestically based to minimize communications challenges and not far off across the globe in some distant time zone, which could stifle communications critical to this support area. 

4. Highly detailed documentation supports claims and increases the win rate for claims

This last area is worth noting because great documentation gets claims, especially dispute claims, over the finish line.

A strong dispute management team will leverage its excellent technology platform and strong processes to produce highly detailed and easily digestible documentation. This will support all claims and facilitate good communications with outside vendor personnel to expedite the processing of claims, which is very important in realizing savings as soon as possible. 

Closing Thoughts on Utility Expense Management | Dispute Management

Identifying savings opportunities is half the battle. The other hard battle is in recovering identified savings opportunities. As noted, to do so well means having strong people, technology, and processes. Being deficient in these areas will create problems, so thinking about this trifecta is helpful. 

We also wanted to call attention to the importance of documentation with respect to this service area because it truly does make a difference for the organizations that properly invest in its development.  

It serves the primary purpose of helping to make claims understandable and, therefore, winnable. Naturally, it also documents all claims with respect to record keeping. 

If you’d like to consider Tellennium in your utility expense management platform and vendor comparisons, contact us to schedule a brief demo of our solution.

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