This special interest group is where customer care professionals share tactics on how utilities are improving interactions with their customers. 


How Personalization is Improving Utility Customer Satisfaction and Reducing Contact Center Costs

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Travis Rhodes's picture
Sr. Product Marketing Manager EnergySavvy

Travis has spent the first 10 years of his utility career working for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. During that time he was able to work in many customer facing departments such as...

  • Member since 2018
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  • May 22, 2019

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-05 - Customer Care, click here for more

Utility customer care teams are under enormous pressure. They are expected to handle customer issues in shorter amounts of time while maintaining or increasing customer satisfaction.  And if this weren’t enough, they must deal with outdated IT systems, siloed data, an increasing number of channels to support, and insufficient customer self-service tools.

Despite these challenges, the call center remains a critical contact point for utility customer care teams to get right–especially for critical customer segments such as low-to-moderate income (LMI) customers. Assistance with billing inquiries, such as “Why is my bill so high?”, as well as payment and financial assistance questions, comprise up to half of all calls into the call center.  And customers of all segments have high expectations. In fact, 72% of contact center callers expect customer service representatives (CSR) to know they are a customer, along with their product and service history when they contact the provider.

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Since CSRs only have seconds to solve a customer’s issue, the lack of a complete customer profile and limited access to personalized recommendations makes this even more of a challenge––even for the most seasoned CSRs. And with typically high CSR turnover, training needs require time and resources that most customer care teams don’t have the luxury of having.

Recent technology has helped utilities address many of these challenges. In 2018, National Grid integrated a Customer Personalization Solution  within their contact center to greatly enhance the experience for 650,000 LMI customers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. When a customer calls in, CSRs can now view the auto-ranked recommendations for each customer and offer only those which the customer qualifies for and is the best fit. To date the results have been impressive, with a 200-400% increase in email open rates and an up to 120% increase in enrollment for key programs.

CSRs have raved about the software with one remarking, “I was skeptical to start, but I’ve now enrolled seven extra people in paperless billing this morning that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It helps me know what to talk about with the customer.” Based on the pilot success, National Grid is currently expanding its use of the Customer Personalization Solution to reach more than 2 million customers with a wide range of offers through multiple channels by the Spring of 2019.

Best Practices in Personalization for the Contact Center

Customer personalization like that of National Grid can feel unattainable for many utilities. And until recently, it was rightly so—only available through complex, long, and expensive implementations. Drawing from other utilities who have successfully gone down this road, here are four best practices in creating a personalized contact center experience without a multi-year, costly IT project. These include:

  1. Unifying all relevant customer data including service order history, bill payment history, current usage analysis, program history, account preferences, and even third-party demographic data, to create one system of record for insights and recommendations.

  2. Using advanced, predictive analytics to rank relevant recommendations to create smart, next-best actions for each customer—identifying the underlying issues for a customer before they even ask.

  3. Ensure that ranked recommendations are surfaced through all customer channels, not just the contact center, so messages are consistent and every customer interaction highlights the best-fit programs and offers for each customer.

  4. Enable feedback loops which take advantage of AI and advanced reporting capabilities. Timely and consistent feedback loops ensure issues are resolved before they become a burden to contact center and program managers alike.

The good news is that cloud-based personalization is more accessible than before, whether your systems are brand-new or 30 years old. Utilities don’t have to settle for painful, long implementations that are outdated the minute they are deployed or that require extensive customization. With modern software, utility-specific personalization can be up and running in ten weeks or less–so you can start seeing immediate reductions in call volume, call-handle time, and improve first-call resolution.  


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Thank Travis for the Post!
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