Building Empathy Into Utility Customer Service

Utility icons on wooden circles surrounding a house icon

Utility customer service teams face multiple challenges in delivering the right experience to meet customer needs. They have to handle a growing number of increasingly complex interactions, across channels from traditional letters to social media.

No wonder that the latest ContactBabel Utilities Guide finds that they are struggling in some key areas. Average speed to answer a call is 199 seconds, compared to the industry average of 120 seconds.

Call length peaked at 10 minutes in 2019 but is still currently over 7.5 minutes, again above the industry average.

The ContactBabel Utility Guide also highlights the growth of outbound activity within utility contact centres. The sector now employs the equivalent of 6,000 outbound agent positions. This makes up 16% of the total workforce, a percentage that has doubled since 2016.

Growth has been driven by debt collection and cross-selling of new products and services to existing customers. Additionally, the increasing number of callbacks can be attributed to very high wait times.

Overcoming these challenges requires utilities to build stronger, more empathetic relationships with their customers. Previous poor experiences often mean that customers don’t feel that their provider cares about them or is meeting their needs. This needs to change for two reasons:

1. Economic

Current high prices mean that many customers are struggling to pay their bills. Providing support is vital, not just to help people now, but to build long-term relationships for the future.

2. Sustainability

Customers want to reduce the amount of electricity, gas, and water that they use, not just to save money, but to become more sustainable.

They are actively looking at installing solar panels, and batteries, and switching to electric vehicles to reduce their carbon footprint.

This presents the opportunity for utilities to deliver advice and additional services to them – but only if the customer has a good relationship with their provider.

Building Empathy Into Utility Customer Service

Whether handling inbound or outbound calls, agents play a pivotal role in creating stronger customer relationships. They obviously need the skills and training to focus on building rapport and engagement with customers, but technology is also vital in five key areas:

1. Providing the Right Information

The utility market is complex, and queries cover a wide range of topics. Empowering agents with the right information when they are on calls is essential.

Provide access to knowledge management solutions so that they have the right responses at their fingertips and furnish them scripts to follow to ensure all relevant information is covered. Let them collaborate with subject experts in real-time through tools such as Microsoft Teams.

This frees them up to focus on empathy, instead of searching through multiple systems to find answers to customer queries.

2. Ensuring Compliance

Utilities must comply with regulations around how they treat their customers and the information they provide. This requires agents to communicate specific information on calls, such as around consumer rights, all while building a rapport with the customer.

Support this by providing agents with detailed scripts that outline what they must say and use real-time speech analytics to prompt them to cover mandatory areas. This ensures adherence to regulations at all times for utility customer service.

3. Delivering Personalisation

Customers want a personalised experience from their utility supplier. For example, they expect companies to understand their needs and use their preferences to deliver tailored support and offers.

For example, if they are EV owners, they want to receive advice and tariffs to ensure they get the best deal when charging their car.

Linking customer service solutions to other systems, such as CRM, arms agents with all the information they require to personalise the experience and therefore deepen the relationship.

4. Managing Quality

Utilities need to act responsibly at all times but especially in sensitive cases such as speaking to customers who are in arrears.

Quality management solutions that automatically record all interactions provide a log of conversations that were exchanged on a call. Utilities can then use this information in two ways. Firstly, it provides a legal safeguard in case of complaints.

Secondly, and more importantly, it also helps companies and agents learn, highlighting opportunities for training and process improvement.

5. Listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC)

Building empathy and improving performance requires utilities to listen to the VoC and act on the insights consumers provide.

As well as surveying their customer base, they should analyse interactions to identify themes and pain points that can be acted on going forward. Putting in place a culture of continuous improvement based on customer feedback will drive greater engagement and closer relationships.

The utility sector faces unique challenges when it comes to delivering customer service, against a backdrop of increasing regulation and a need to help consumers decarbonise and save money.

This requires a new, more empathetic approach that empowers agents with the skills and tools they need to build lasting relationships with customers.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Enghouse Interactive – View the Original Article

For more information about Enghouse Interactive - visit the Enghouse Interactive Website

About Enghouse Interactive

Enghouse Interactive Enghouse Interactive delivers technology and expertise to help bring your customers closer to your business through its wide range of customer contact solutions.

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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Author: Enghouse Interactive

Published On: 23rd May 2023
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