Giving energy a voice through Amazon Alexa
A major European energy supplier worked with Accenture to create the first voice-enabled smart home service for utility customers in its home country.
The client, a major European energy supplier, provides electricity and gas to retail customers in its home country as well as generating electricity through nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable sources.
As customers are changing their digital interactions with utilities—especially within the connected home arena—the client’s innovation division wanted to explore the possibility of a voice-enabled smart home service. This could allow customers to interact with the energy supplier without having to use a computer, phone or laptop.
The team operationalized an existing proof of concept based on Amazon’s home device, Echo, and the back-end, natural language-processing product that powers Alexa, the Amazon Echo voice service. The success of this connected home prototype suggested that the Echo/Alexa solution could voice enable many customer inquiries and interactions.
Accenture helped the energy supplier develop the Echo/Alexa service to coincide with Amazon’s rollout of its Echo device in Europe. The team’s main goal was to build a fully functioning “skill” that would enable customers to carry out hands-free interactions. Key aspects of the project included:
Extensive collaboration with Amazon as a launch partner and an independent security testing company.
Collaboration with stakeholders to ensure refinement, prioritization, and delivery using distributed agile across UK and India delivery center teams.
Supporting the client in prioritizing functionality (intents) in the backlog to achieve a minimum viable product in a two-month timeframe.
Leveraging knowledge of the client’s architecture to build an innovation system via Application programming interfaces, integrated with SAP.
Upskilling the teams in Amazon Web Services and hosting the solution on the Accenture Development Operations Platform.
The project is reinforcing the client’s reputation as an innovative energy company and connected-home leader, supporting its mission of becoming a first mover in the connected home space. At the same time, the engagement has positioned the client to better deflect calls and related costs through the increasing use of self-serve channels by customers, ultimately freeing up its employees to focus on more high-value customer activities.
With Accenture’s help, the client built a production-quality Echo/Alexa connected home solution in just six weeks. The solution passed the Amazon app store certification on the first attempt, including a security vulnerability assessment by an external vendor. The client is one of the first blue chip companies (and only utility) to be involved in the launch of Echo products in its home country.
Customers can now take advantage of several customer portal activities, in a hands-free, voice-enabled, interactive way, to:
Submit meter readings.
Request their account balance.
Request their next payment date.
Request their tariff end date.