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Utility contact centres – reaping the benefits of social change and new digital channels

Utilities have been operating in a multi-channel customer contact environment for a number of years. Traditionally this has included call centres using customer service representatives (CSR) and interactive voice response (IVR), website and email. 

However we are living through a period of rapid social change. The ways we work and spend our leisure time are changing fast. This has far-reaching consequences on organisations providing customer services, especially when combined with the proliferation of new digital channels such as mobile, web chat, kiosks and social media.

Utilities can take advantage of these challenges by reaping the benefits that these new channels offer, from cost reduction to customer satisfaction and efficiency:

Cost reduction
With today’s proliferation of smartphones and the explosion of mobile technologies such as 4G services and GPS enabled phones, this channel offers a great potential to lower costs.  Mobile SMS costs approximate $0.02 per SMS, compared to CSRs which costs about $6 or more per transaction. Our analysis of Polaris® data shows that utilities can attain 5-10% cost savings if they can migrate 5% of their customer contacts to the mobile channel. 

Customer satisfaction
Currently, traditional channels continue to dominate the way customers interact with call centres. Websites and IVR account form more than 90% of customer contacts. However this is not the preferred method as recent Jupiter research indicated. It found that mobile and email channels had the highest customer satisfaction at 60 and 65% respectively. This is compared to IVR which only had 25% customer satisfaction levels.

Driving efficiency
Additionally, the mobile channel offers utilities a great opportunity to meet the rising need to increase efficiency. By adding the mobile to its customer contact mix, utilities can provide a new convenient self-service channel that suits customer lifestyles and offers them better control. PA analysis of IDC data shows that smartphones have reached over 40% penetration in the UK and US. Combined with 3G adoption at around at around 30% we can see how a number of services, could be transferred to the mobile device. For example routine billing, making payments and accepting meter readings. This removes the need for CSR interactions and reduces the time it takes to complete these processes. This could account for 20 to 30% of call centre interactions.

There is a compelling case for adopting new digital channels for self-service and mobile based automation of contact centres. Indeed a survey by the Aberdeen Group indicates that more than 80% of best-in-class contact centres are planning to offer at least SMS based services to increase customer satisfaction, reduce inbound call volume and achieve cost savings. However utilities must take a holistic approach to channel migration to ensure they do not cannibalize existing contact channels and avoid customer dissatisfaction. A seamless and consistent experience across all channels is a key ingredient for success.

To speak to a consultant or to find out how your organisation can develop an optimal mobile strategy, please contact us now.