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Utilities: why knowledge underpins customer retention and market position

The utilities sector is diversifying. Here in the UK, the “Big Six” energy providers have lost market share to smaller, more flexible challengers. Environmental concerns have generated a plurality of tariffs reflecting how consumers want their energy to be produced. Online tools make switching utility provider easier than ever before.

One result of this diversity is that customers exercise greater power of choice. By necessity, part of the service provided by the company becomes facilitating that choice: explaining the customer’s options, clearly and accurately, even at the risk they might opt to leave.

Customer experience can be a key differentiator in this fragmented marketplace. Companies are rated on customer satisfaction every year. One notable fact about these surveys is that smaller providers, with agile customer service strategies and less legacy infrastructure to overcome, compete easily with the big players and often lead the rankings. Large utility companies must provide an experience of similar quality if they are to retain their position and not suffer further erosion of their market share.

Knowledge as the infrastructure of customer experience

Delivering knowledge effectively is key to customer experience. By serving up-to-date, accurate knowledge, you provide the information necessary for customers to make choices about their utility supply in a diverse market. By serving the knowledge customers want, quickly and effortlessly at the point of need, you enhance customer satisfaction; and that, notwithstanding the choices available, increases the likelihood of the customer staying with you.

utility warehouse

An effective knowledge solution is part of your service infrastructure. In an analogy familiar to utility providers, knowledge should run throughout your business just as wiring and plumbing run throughout a building. A cloud-hosted, centralized knowledgebase such as Transversal’s Prescience™ supports all customer and agent touchpoints from a single installation. Knowledge can be tapped wherever it is needed. The same repository of curated information can support customer-facing websites, field agents, agent desktops, CRM, live chat, and internal employee contacts.

Generating quality experience

utility warehouse

Utility Warehouse has a simple goal for its customer service: giving a quality experience or, as one representative put it, “to treat each customer like [the agent] would treat their mum”. Knowledge is crucial to meeting this goal. The company has a diverse portfolio including energy, phone and Internet services. In addition to keeping its own 600 contact centre agents up to speed, it must supply information to over 40,000 sales partners.

Utility Warehouse implemented the Prescience™ knowledge solution to replace its legacy KM system, which was hard to maintain and couldn’t keep pace with the growth of the company. From a central repository, the solution serves knowledge to three key touchpoints: customer self-service, agents’ intranet, and a dedicated portal for external sales partners.

utility warehouse

A key benefit of deploying Prescience™ was improving the quality of customer interactions. This happened through several means:

  • First, customer self-service now answers 4000 enquiries every day, deflecting many simple questions that would otherwise reach the contact centre. Enquiries submitted to the contact centre are now more likely to require an agent’s personal attention.
  • Second, although average handle time (AHT) in the contact centre overall decreased by 60 seconds, the time agents spend talking to the customer has increased. This is because agents, with quicker and easier access to knowledge, spend less time putting customers on hold and less time wrapping up calls. Thus agents are able to spend a shorter, but proportionately more productive, time on each call.

The company welcomed and encouraged this quality talk time, which not surprisingly was reflected in increased customer satisfaction scores. Utility Warehouse’s internal measures of call quality rose by 30 points after deploying Prescience™. Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased by 10 points. A representative described the results as a “quantum leap” in customer service.

Power in shared services

A major energy provider, whose customer service operation was run in partnership with a BPO, adopted Prescience™ as part of an enterprise-wide digital transformation that touched customer service, internal systems and business analytics. The company’s two contact centres handled over three million enquiries every year. By delivering more efficient knowledge to its agents, it aimed to reduce operational risk, reduce handling times and, ultimately, gain the option of redeploying staff.

The goal of increasing efficiency was amply realized:

  • AHT decreased by 29%.
  • First contact resolution increased by 22% year on year.
  • These gains enabled the company to reorganize its contact centres, with a saving of over seven million pounds.

Quality of interactions also increased. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores rose by 18% and NPS by 24 points.

Connecting all users to knowledge

Utilities are huge enterprises, with potentially millions of customers and large-scale contact centre operations whether in-house or outsourced. While delivering knowledge on such a scale might seem daunting, a cloud-based knowledge solution like Prescience™ makes it simple. Prescience™ enables you to curate knowledge in one place and publish it anywhere, regardless of the number of touchpoints you maintain, the number of customers or the number of agents.

Prescience™ also works alongside other business systems, making it an ideal solution for large, established companies that have legacy infrastructure. Rather than having to rip out other systems to transform your knowledge, you can plumb the platform-agnostic Prescience knowledgebase directly into those systems. This allows your agents to benefit from more efficient knowledge delivery while continuing to work in familiar interfaces.

Transforming the efficiency and accuracy of knowledge yields multiple benefits for a utility company’s business goals. It reduces operational risk and aids compliance. It improves contact centre performance, enabling agents to undertake service of better quality with less investment of time and resources. It raises customer satisfaction and encourages your customers not only to avoid switching, but to become advocates for your brand

Contact Transversal’s experienced consultants for more information or to request a demo.

View the Utilities infographic on how Transversal has supported its BPO partner’s contact centre transformation.

utilities infographic