Call for change

Over an average year, customer service representatives at Puget Sound Energy (PSE) fielded four million customer calls. During storms across its 6,500 square-mile service area in Western Washington, heavy call volumes could be frustrating for customers if they were not able to obtain up-to-date information.

At the same time, with customer expectations changing across industries, PSE recognized that its digitally savvy customers were comfortable with self-service in the channels of their choice.

In 2016, PSE launched a “Get to Zero” initiative aimed at providing customers with digitally enabled self-service capabilities across channels, reducing employee workloads and ultimately improving the customer experience.

When tech meets human ingenuity

The PSE and Accenture team worked on several fronts to improve PSE’s call handling capabilities, and then turned to the redesign and replatforming of PSE’s website and customer portal. The team worked with Avanade—a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft—to deliver a new cloud-based solution using Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud and Sitecore.

In addition to the new website, the team collaborated on additional projects, including redeveloping PSE’s mobile app, enabling outbound customer messaging and implementing Sprinklr, a solution that automates social media listening and reporting.

Notably, the team implemented a predictive interactive voice response (IVR) solution for the phone channel that anticipates why a customer is calling. This system was also enhanced with Visual IVR, making PSE the first North American utility to allow customers to navigate to the function they want via phone touchscreens and perform complex self-service transactions.

Beyond its core customer service transformation activities, PSE’s transformation also focused on three additional areas:

Billing payment credit and collections

The team improved the billing experience for customers by increasing automated payment options and automating the deposit and refund processes.

Integrated workforce management

The team automated processes for asset management, work assignment and dispatch to optimize efficiency and enable the right work at the right time.

Data analytics

The team created a “Platform of Insights” that helps PSE make decisions based on accurate, consistent and integrated customer and meter data.

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A valuable difference

PSE’s Get to Zero initiative represents a complete customer service digital transformation. PSE has given customers new ways to interact with the utility efficiently and effectively—with self-service options now available across 17 functional areas. Customers have a consistent, personalized experience across channels—web, mobile, phone IVR, and live agents.

PSE has realized a 25 percent reduction in agent-handled calls, a 20-second reduction in average call handle time, and a significant increase in customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, the integrated workforce management projects have delivered automated work scheduling.

The impact of this program on consumers has been significant, with PSE moving from 8th to 4th place in the J.D. Power 2019 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Survey of the 13 large utilities in western North America.

Several features of the solution are having a major impact on PSE’s customer service performance:

Better data access for real-time decision making

PSE’s leadership is uncovering new insights about customers within minutes, making confident decisions and driving improvements.

Enhanced customer digital journey

Multi-channel analytics are showing customer trends across digital channels, helping PSE optimize its digital channels and reduce call volumes.

Improved customer satisfaction and fewer calls

Executive dashboards are providing valuable insights and helping PSE meet their call reduction, customer self-service and customer satisfaction goals.

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