As part of a competition we ran, we asked people: "What one process would you change to simplify the lives of your customers?"
It was interesting to see how many challenges across a range of businesses have similarities, particularly related to:
- Making disparate data meaningful by tying insights together across channels.
- Streamlining often manual processes through automation and applied intelligence.
More interestingly however, is how many of these challenges could be simplified by artificial intelligence.
Here's our favourite examples:
"Reduce the number of telephone options and on hold time."
"Fast tariff checks and switching that is easy to understand in real terms and accessible for people with few digital skills."
A major use case for chatbots within utilities is around how they can be used to help ease the volume of inbound customer calls, and allow for an increasingly attentive call centre service experience for priority customers who rely on that mode of communication.
Businesses can use AI powered chatbots as digital extensions of their customer call centres, handling the high volume and low complexity issues and - if necessary - handing over to a person. So, whilst they might be geared towards the slightly digitally-savvy, they can also support those who aren't by alleviating the pressure on other communication channels.
"Visibility of where the customers' job is and without having to phone someone."
Let's take this challenge one step further, and say we want to show visibility of where the customer's job is, without having to do anything proactive at all.
Now, it's often assumed that chatbots serve a reactive function, and granted, a lot of the bots we see and use in our everyday lives generally don't 'come to life' until they're supplied with a question or a task. But this is a great example of how proactive bots can be used to simplify customer experience challenges and improve efficiencies.
They can work particularly well when used to notify customers of any issues in their area - lessening the influx of customer calls.
"Better understanding of usage data and why time of use matters"
As we all know, it's so important to provide intelligent usage insights to ensure the customer is equipped on how best to manage their utility usage. What we often see though, is separate chunks of data that fail to come together and provide any meaningful insight.
Moreover, to access that data, you typically have to log in to some sort of portal, or download an app; wouldn't it be easier if the process was automated and accessible from within a digital environment that you use regularly - such as Messenger platforms?
A study by Utility Week Live revealed that utilities companies provide the most frustrating online customer services in the UK.
One of the main irritants was the lack of up-front, basic information (45 per cent of people had experienced the problem in the last month), as well as the inability to answer simple questions quickly.
As a sector that has traditionally performed below average in customer satisfaction, it will be interesting to see which companies will view this technology as an opportunity to forge the way in customer experience. Those who do, will stand head and shoulders above their competition.