How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Utility Customer Care
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- Jun 4, 2020 9:03 pm GMT
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As AI becomes more of a necessity than a novelty in business, more companies are making it part of their customer service plans. There’s a good reason for that. AI, which is the process by which machines mimic human behavior, is already being used in innumerable ways to support individual and business endeavors.
The foundation of AI is data and, based on the huge amount of it that utilities collect about customers, they’re well-positioned to deploy AI to improve customer care. Paying closer attention to customer needs and improving services based on those needs initiates a virtuous cycle of customer engagement and working in partnership with customers toward a carbon-neutral future and reduced costs for all parties concerned.
Here are a few ways in which AI can help utilities begin and maintain that cycle.
With data about customer usage, AI-based programs can identify patterns to help customers use energy more efficiently and save money on their bills. Additionally, utilities can determine specific services that might be useful for each customer.
For example, rather than sending out a blanket offer to upgrade a swimming pool pump, a utility can be aware of which households have pools and only send the offer to them. This kind of personalization strengthens relationships with both types of households – one because they’re not getting superfluous offers and the other because it feels like the utility understands their needs.
In both cases, customers’ reference point is the type of service they get from other companies they do business with, including those that are highly personalized such as Netflix and Amazon. Modern customers have come to expect the same level of customized service and may defect when those expectations aren’t met.
Another customer care area that utilities can improve through AI is communication. Again, customers’ baseline for appropriate actions is based on their interactions with other companies whose dedication to customer care may be years ahead of those within the utility industry. Such actions include 24/7 access, immediate responses, and a variety of communication channels (such as phone, chat, and social media) to choose from.
When utilities not only respond to customer needs but also predict them, customers take notice. AI makes it possible for utilities to enable customers to do things like asking their smart speakers how to reduce their energy bills and get an appropriate response. Even better, utilities can reach out proactively through a customer’s preferred method – such as text – when a higher-than-normal bill is detected or to recommend services or packages that could save them money.
Such processes are the equivalent of placing an “energy expert” in every customer’s home or business and this isn’t too big of a stretch. Electric Energy Online notes that, according to a survey conducted by the Smart Energy Consumer Collective (SECC), “78 percent of consumers in the U.S. trust their utility and are more likely to participate in a program or purchase a product if their utility endorses it.”
By upgrading customer care methods using AI, utilities can improve customer relationships with more targeted messaging and offers, better communication, and cost savings.
What has your utility’s experience been with AI in customer care? What are your plans for the future? Please share in the comments.