May 04, 2018
For first-class customer service, combine hearts and minds
By: Eva Buren

Service-oriented automation has demonstrated its ability to accelerate tedious processes and reduce cost in utilities’ customer service back offices. Now as the pace of technology keeps advancing, companies across industries are piloting robotics, virtual assistants and cognitive computing in their front offices. The reasons are not only to drive down costs but, more importantly, to deliver an effortless customer experience, thereby strengthening relationships with consumers.

Addressing the demands of digital-savvy consumers will require energy providers to shift to technology-driven solutions designed by caring people, centered around three main questions.

Where is your organization on the automation spectrum?
There is a broad range of service-oriented automation: from serving transactional and internal-facing queries at one end, to handling increasingly complex customer-facing issues at the other. Considering points on the spectrum, think about where your organization is currently positioned and where it needs to go.

How receptive are your consumers to automated interactions?
Accenture’s New Energy Consumer research identified several areas with high potential for digital-agent use. The following were rated high by between roughly three-quarters to two-thirds of consumer respondents:

  • Learning about new products and services
  • Changing personal information
  • Receiving or paying the bill
  • Activating or deactivating service
  • Reporting or getting information about an outage
  • Signing up for new products and services

Sensing such opportunities to automate processes, energy providers can learn from leaders in online retailing, entertainment and technology on designing effective, personalized ways to attract and retain consumers.

How can energy providers make their customer service smarter?

Let's start with the consumer perspective and examine organizational imperatives as well:

  • To discover what people truly value, take a human-centered approach in developing solutions for customers and employees. Open the creative floodgates by using Design Thinking - a creative method, rooted in research, to enable people with diverse perspectives to collaborate on delivering innovative ideas - to gain a deeper understanding of customers' and employees' needs and wants.

  • Examine the future skills and functions for customer service that delivers on expectations. New teams and organizations will need to constantly refine automated solutions, making sure the "customer service brain" keeps on learning: Customer service powered by artificial intelligence yet in the hands of people.

Ask yourself: Where are you on the spectrum and where would you like to be?

During CS Week 2018 in Tampa, FL April 30 – May 4, we asked conference attendees to use Design Thinking to help determine the following: If you have unlimited time, money and resources, how could you go about combining heart and mind to reimagine customer service. Check out their responses below.

Design Thinking

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