2020 raised the bar on customer experience across the board. Learn about the changes made, lessons learned, and technology adopted during this time.
This article originally appeared in the TMG Consulting's What’s Next 2021: The State of Digital Utility.
2020 raised the bar on customer experience across the board. Most people spent more time at home using more devices connected for more time, driving up both costs and awareness. In response to the changed landscape, utilities have pivoted to provide more personalized service, helping customers use energy more efficiently while providing access to more services virtually. From an internal operations perspective, many agents went remote, supported by cloud infrastructure and AI.
The changes made, lessons learned, and technology adopted during this time are here to stay—and for good reason. Innovative programs, sponsored by top executives, delivered real value to customers and utilities alike, including higher customer satisfaction, customer effort scores, retention, and revenue, plus lower cost per contact. Utilities hit the CX trifecta: increased efficiency, effectiveness, and empathy, satisfying the needs of Finance, Operations, and the customer.
Utilities, Customer Care, and AI
AI is the cornerstone in many new services used in customer engagement applications, call center service, and digital marketing. The most common starting point is in self-service, driven by the need to meet increased customer demand for interactions wherever and whenever they choose.
Customers can now interact 24/7 with chatbots and voice bots that select the best response from available sources using an NLP (natural language processing) interface that is elegant, direct, and surprisingly human—and therefore personal—in nature. If needed, these virtual assistants seamlessly connect to the best-fit live agent and provide context that helps the agent deliver great customer experience. This conversational AI works across digital and voice channels while also empowering agents with a real-time library of next-best-actions and recommendations specific to the interaction being processed.
Utilities are looking to AI to anticipate customer questions, analyze customer behavior, predict needs, and route interactions to the best-fit agent. Emotional analytics spot potential problems and identify the next-best-action for the customer. Personalization leads to predictive engagement (understanding what the customer wants next) and predictive routing (understanding where to send the customer next).
More generally, AI delivers dramatic improvement in automation, service delivery, prediction, prescription, alerting, recommendation, optimization, and assistance.
AI and machine learning help utilities optimize voice systems, improve self-service containment levels, and provide the experience that customers want and deserve. For example, analytics can provide insight into the root cause of repeat calls, IVR dropout, call volume, and escalation. Analysis of voice systems provides insight into success drivers and opportunities for improvement. AI-based predictive analytics can also alert customers to usage spikes and target customer segments for promotions or energy-savings tips. All of these allow for continuous improvement of the experience as perceived by each customer.
Utilities are finding paths to early and quick success by starting with a handful of use cases. For example, if you know that senior citizens prefer to talk directly with an agent, your routing should reflect that. Similarly, you may want to allow voice calls to divert to other channels but require that they always have a way to return to a live agent without waiting in queue. Know your customer, their interactions, preference for channels, and services. Look at your digital channels and make sure that you are creating the kind of experiences that customers want.
Consider integrating virtual assistants into your existing customer service flow. Use what you learn to shape how you evolve your AI-based customer care. Arm your virtual assistants and employees with fast access to content and customer history for better customer experience. Anticipate needs and proactively engage customers. Use what you learn to boost employee performance and evolve best practices as you deliver great customer experiences every time.
AI-driven hyper-personal customer care is delivering experiences that are better, more empathetic, and with lower effort than ever before. Turning the lens internally allows utilities to equip agents with the knowledge and real-time assistance to provide an even deeper level of personal and thus empathetic experience. It is certainly a very different world than pre-2020.