Utilities should view call centers as the last resort for customer service.
Nobody is happy to find that, they must sit on hold, rummage for account-authenticating information and then try to solve a problem with someone who often lacks the necessary authority and has every incentive to get them off the phone as soon as possible.
Something bad has already happened by the time someone finds the number for a utility’s call center. No matter how quick and skilled the response, the customer is calling because of an unpleasant surprise. The bill is higher than expected. The lights are off. The house is cold. Every minute on hold worsens the situation and the worse the outage or other issue, the more likely it is to prolong hold times.
Effective utility communication means customers don’t have the kinds of questions, and nasty surprises, that lead to heavy call volume. While unplanned outages sometimes occur. Communication about them is an important part of managing the response and improving customer satisfaction.
Outsourcing calls costs, “$25 to $65 per hour, per representative,” depending on the sophistication required for representatives, one analysis found.
Utilities want to move interactions away from call centers as much as possible. “For many power providers, [customer engagement is] largely a cost to… reduce….” This is in part because they are thinking of it in terms of call center volume.
This chart represents an analysis of call center costs (PDF) by customer contact consultants at Strategic Contact. It is, “A simple way to look at the cost allocations across a center…” for budgeting.
Because call center labor is the largest single cost factor, reducing call volume helps utilities cut expenses. For those times when a customer still needs to call, the reduced volume also makes it easier for utilities to provide an optimal telephone interaction.
While it seems unlikely that utilities will do away with call centers entirely, reducing volumes can make call centers less expensive and can make calls that still do take place more pleasant.
Utilities that focus, “moving customers from call centers to self-service online,” have a problem. By their own report this is, “an area where utilities score behind comparable industries like banking,” according to GTM Research.
In order for customers to embrace online self-service, it needs to be simple and reliable. Utilities create trouble for themselves if they scale back call centers and drive customers to a frustrating online experience.
Our utility-specific customer experience provides quick and simple self-service access to the information customers need when and where they need it. From the customer side, this means quick and easy interactions when they have time — not when the call center is open. From the utility side, it means cost savings and improved customer satisfaction.
With Brilliency’s Software-as-a-Service platform, utilities can easily track customer interactions and the effectiveness of their responses in real-time. Knowledge is power: with Brilliency, your utility will simply know more.