Utilities are known for their reliability. No one gives a second thought about hitting the light switch when they walk into a room. I was reminded of this last night when storms rolled through, and our power went out for a few hours—a very rare occurrence for us. The same desire for reliability holds true when customers reach out to any company.
Customers expect to be able to:
- Pay their bills electronically.
- Dispute charges with a person.
- Find out information on programs/plans, product info, and, in the case of a utility, report an outage and get the most up-to-date information.
Customers also expect this to happen 24x7 (for the most part), with automated systems that know who they are and why they’re reaching out.
Remember my power outage last night? Well to continue the story, I called and went through the following sequence of events:
- Accessed a menu tree
- Reported an outage (“press 1”)
- Was asked which state I was calling from
- Entered my phone number
- Gave my house number
- Responded with first 5 letters of my street name
- Confirmed all the details
- The response: “900 homes were affected. Crews are on their way to assess the damage. We expect power to be restored by 1 a.m.”
Of course, I called again and went through all steps of the same process again. The system didn’t even remember my phone number—seriously? Note: To the utility’s credit, they did update the restoration time.
A Better Approach
Recently, C1 worked with a power company to modernize their business hour inbound voice calls. They had a cloud system—an IVR—that would provide a menu of options and send callers to various groups or other automated systems (like payment) to handle their needs.
While we were in testing for one of their locations, the current cloud-based IVR system went down. It went down hard. In other words, nothing was coming in except for a trickle of calls. The question remains, what do you do when things go down?
Issue #1: The current system wasn’t designed to failover in the case of an attack.
Issue #2: Time to restoration wasn’t available due to the attack.
The financial consequences of this could have been devastating. Oh, and this happened during an outage due to weather (increased traffic).
- Centers were staffed to meet the needs of inbound traffic (increased costs)
- Payment systems were not accessible (loss of revenue)
- Customers who needed special programs or assistance could not reach the center
- Days went by with no ETA on restoration
Luckily, the customer was modernizing their inbound systems with us and made the quick decision to begin turning voice traffic to an IVA that’s fully redundant as a SaaS based service. The customer experienced less than a week of these negative issues.
As a result:
- Traffic reached the center (agents were handling calls)
- Payment systems were accessed (this was over 50% of the volume)
This did turn out to be a good news story, but I still think about what happens when systems go down and the vendor you’re working with isn’t able to accommodate your needs.
- Employees and vendors work hard to find the root cause analysis and restore service. Finger pointing may ensue at this stage.
- Some have business continuity plans—but only to handle issues for a short time, not days or weeks.
- They may not have options.
How can you mitigate your exposure so that you don’t end up in this situation? Decide on options that help. Create a contingency plan for each step of the communication:
- What is the fallback strategy if this is long term?
- What will the experience be?
- Set expectations with the users of the technology.
- Set customer expectations.
- Test the plan on a regular basis.
- Work with solution providers that care about each step of the communication process and offer solutions that meet the needs of your business.
In all industries, meeting customer demands for personalized and efficient service is crucial. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers significant benefits to achieve this, ensuring compliance, reliability, 24/7 automated support options and redundancy in the contact center and overall customer experience. These advantages include reduced wait times, improved accuracy, increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced compliance.
Join me for an on-demand webinar, where I explore how leveraging AI technologies can enhance your business securely and compliantly.