Large commercial and industrial customers have more complex energy needs and more demanding customer service questions. Reducing the volume of calls from C&I accounts to your contact center will save you money and increase customer satisfaction.
Below are six easy steps that energy providers can take to reduce call center volume, improve program uplift for energy efficiency projects, and create a better digital customer experience.
Reducing C&I call center volume
Call centers are expensive no matter what industry you’re in. Unfortunately for energy providers, stagnant demand has increased the pressure to reduce overhead and utilities are looking to trim costs wherever they can. Asking teams to divert volume away from call centers has become a common tactic, but in an age of increasing customer expectations how can you maintain a positive experience while also reducing the importance of your number one customer service channel?
A good place to start is with commercial and industrial accounts.
After all, commercial and Industrial accounts made up 54% of revenue for US based utilities so it's critical to keep them engaged and happy. Large accounts also have the capital to embrace long term projects, so developing a strong relationship could lead to additional revenue opportunities down the road. Finally, large accounts often have the most complex questions for customer support teams, so reducing or eliminating their need to call in will improve time-on-call rates more than similar reductions to residential or SMB segments.
Below are 6 easy to implement tips that will reduce the volume of calls your C&I customer place to support hotlines.
1. Account Manager Profiles
Your task may be reducing call center volume, but your goal should be bigger than that. Utilities need to position themselves as “trusted energy advisors” and partners in the success of the businesses they serve. Your key account managers are the front line in that battle but too often customers have no personal relationship with them. A lot of large accounts may not even know who their key account manager is.
Provide a profile of key account managers on your customer's digital energy tool. Include their name, a photo, background, and most importantly their contact information. Making it easy for the customer to reach out to their field rep directly will reduce their reliance on calls to your hotline and help grow valuable relationships.
2. Tag Energy Events
C&I customers have complex usage patterns, and a good chunk of their calls to utility hotlines are because of sudden changes in their bill. Utilities need to help customers understand these changes before they reach for the phone.
Allow customers to tag energy events on their digital portal. Data and analytics alone are not enough to keep business customers happy; you need to provide context around those numbers. If a customer adds a new piece of equipment or completes a lighting upgrade they should be able to note that change in their usage data, highlighting cost before and after.
3. Highlight Variables That Affect A Bill
Not all customers are energy pros, nor should they be. Energy providers need to explain the factors that impact the total amount customers pay each cycle. Proactively explaining the dollar amount that was changed due to hot weather, plug load, price per kWh, and days in a billing cycle will help customers resolve complaints before they call into a hotline.
4. Embed Chat Functionality
Some questions are unavoidable, especially when dealing with complex energy usage. However, instead of directing customers to a live phone conversation many industries now provide “live-chat” as a lower-cost option. Even Starbucks now offers a free chat-bot service for customers who have pressing questions about... coffee? Utilities in general have been slow to adopt chatbot technology.
Embed chat functionality into your digital energy portal. Enabling your customers to quickly ask questions will reduce their need for call center support. Even better, enable your staff to log in as the customer so they can see exactly what the customer is describing.
5. Tailor Their Experience
Business customers are different, treat them that way. Business users have varying degrees of energy knowledge, time to work on problems, and resources to get things done. Utilities need to understand the different personas of their C&I customers and tailor the digital user experience based on those differences.
Provide a hyper-personalized experience when your business customers log onto their digital portal. Display less information to your smaller, less sophisticated accounts, and provide more in-depth analysis to your larger customers. Utilities can also use personas to further tailor language and project suggestions.
6. Make Rate Analysis Easy
Do your customers know if they're on the right plan for their business? Can they easily compare the expected changes in their bill from 8-8 peak hours vs 9-9, for example? Do they call your customer service hotline to try to get these answers?
Make it easier to self-serve by empowering your business customers with a simple, flexible, and intuitive way to compare rate models online.
Reducing call center volume won’t happen overnight, but targeting your largest accounts with these tactics first will put you on the right path to steady cost reductions.