Utilities are lighting up intuitive customer engagements

Predictive engines are used every day to recommend products and services to consumers and increasingly to suggest a next action as part of the service experience. The move to anticipating customer needs, and ultimately reducing the steps involved in resolving an issue, is an investment priority for many industry leaders – including one innovative utility. Read on to learn more about the experience they provide their two million customers and for three imperatives for successfully using customer data to improve service experience: think carefully about segments, understand triggers, and create intuitive interactions.
Providing personalized and anticipatory experiences – especially during power outages – means increased customer satisfaction.

Helping enterprises shift from reactive service to providing and anticipating customer service is an essential part of our mission at Nuance. We believe that intelligence, coupled with an intuitive, human-like interaction with technology, will create a world in which nearly all service is automated, and consumers will prefer it. Naturally, we were delighted to see Kate Leggett highlight movement toward that future-state in the recent Forrester report, “Trends 2016, The Future of Customer Service”.

Many of us have experienced the output of prediction engines when we shop online – such as receiving product recommendations based on our previous purchasing behavior. In the realm of customer service, Nuance has helped enterprises leverage similar customer data, such as historic language preferences or the time of day when the customer typically responds, to create more relevant, personalized experiences. In 2016, Forrester is forecasting that organizations will begin to evolve their use of data analytics and decisioning to shape the customer journey – essentially crafting efficient, effortless experiences based on an understanding of the customer’s unique situation and the information and resources available to solve the issue.

We too, are seeing the desire to offer anticipatory service extend across industries and beyond more than just a few pioneering leaders. In part one of this series, I highlighted a retail company who is leveraging product delivery information to anticipate and streamline inbound inquiries relating to product warranties. Utilities are also beginning to proactively shape service experiences related to power outages; attempting to manage the anxiety and related call volume that results when the lights go out. Based on their knowledge of impacted households, Conversational IVRs are able to proactively ask customers if they are calling about the outage in their area and quickly provide up-to-date information about the cause, size and anticipated restoration timing. Many utilities also proactively notify customers of restoration timing throughout the service disruption, anticipating the desire for information and deflecting inbound calls to get it.


Getting the lights back on with personalized service

More routine interactions such as those related to bill payment and collections can also be anticipated and streamlined. One innovative utility, serving more than two million Americans in the Midwest and South, leverages information on past due accounts to greet customers and ask if they’re calling to make a payment or, if appropriate, to reinstate disconnected service. From that point on, the experience guides the caller through the payment process and connects customers with the right resources to get the lights back on. Billing information is particularly valuable, as it also allows the utility to predict calls from customers whose bills are higher than normal. The experience is similarly focused: the caller is greeted, proactively asked if they have a question about their bill and provided with a detailed, personalized message explaining the increase.

As more enterprises move to providing anticipatory service, we’ve assembled three imperatives for success.

  1. Think carefully about segments. Within your customer base there will be cohorts who, depending on known behavior, are more likely to require service. These may include customers who have recently made a purchase, missed a payment, or reached a specific stage in their relationship with you. Understanding the task they need to accomplish and the information required will allow you to tailor effective self-service experiences – proactively providing updates with the IVR greeting, prompting follow-up actions, and intelligently routing calls to knowledgeable agents.
  2. Understand the triggers. Similarly, identifying the common events that cause customers to need service will help you craft experiences that more efficiently meet their needs. It also informs the data you’ll need – recent communications, account status, ordering behavior and more – to anticipate the purpose of the contact.
  3. Create intuitive interactions. If you succeed in anticipating needs and minimizing the steps required to reach resolution, but make the process cumbersome, you won’t realize the benefits of your investment. Empower customers to speak or type naturally, engaging with systems that grasp the intent behind the words and engage in a dialog to refine requests or guide individuals through complex transactions.

For consumers who increasingly expect to serve themselves and have the interaction be fast and easy, the trend toward providing prescribed experiences will lead to greater satisfaction and loyalty. More efficient service also translates into reduced operating costs and improved agent utilization for the enterprise. This win-win result is no doubt driving the momentum behind this current contact center trend.

Check back soon to read the final installment of this three-part post, when we’ll examine another of Kate Leggett’s forecasts for 2016.

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Will Cousins

About Will Cousins

Will Cousins, senior director of product management and strategy at Nuance Outbound, has more than 17 years of experience leading product management, engineering and marketing functions at Fortune 100 and early stage companies in the mobile and wireless, enterprise software, and utilities industries. He oversees product strategy and continued expansion of the Nuance Outbound platform for smartphone, voice, email and text-based customer interactions.