The utilities sector is ripe for a shakeup. Advances in technology - and artificial intelligence specifically - have the potential to bring the benefits of automation to a wide-reaching, high-volume industry that is well known for its small margins.
According to Gartner, a majority of today’s investment into artificial intelligence from utilities companies is channeled into customer service. Conversational AI can be an enormous benefit, helping streamline customer inquiries while delivering solid business outcomes by reducing the expenditure necessary to maintain customer support staff and automating processes that used to require human interaction.
Chatbots were previously used as a simple solution to tackle high volumes of incoming customer traffic, but their limited functionality meant that they were more of a ‘band-aid’ than a boost to the overall customer experience. Today, virtual agents powered by the latest advancements in conversational AI allow for a far greater capacity to connect utility companies with their customers. Able to predict user intent with high levels of accuracy, converse with customers in a natural way and fully automate core processes by integrating with backend systems, there’s a strong case for utility companies to embrace the digitization that conversational AI can bring.
1) Reduce costs related to customer support
Implementing a ‘chat-first’ strategy with conversational AI is a surefire way to begin successfully resolving inquiries fast. By moving away from traditional channels such as phone and email, we have seen successes in:
The insurance industry with Storebrand successfully handling 70% of all customer interactions without the need for human support, and
The banking industry with Sparebank 1 SR-Bank reporting an increased support capacity of 149% without having to hire any additional staff.
2) Minimize redundancy
Utility companies are faced with a steady stream of inquiries, often exacerbated by sudden spikes in traffic related to outages and technical problems that swamp customer support. A virtual agent can be used to proactively resolve these kinds of irregularities automatically, with no need to involve human support. This allows for the minimization of redundancy across channels.
3) 24/7 availability
Supporting customers is always a challenge. They expect near-instant availability, especially when it comes to utilities, leading to frustration if they are not able to reach customer service in a timely fashion. A virtual agent negates this by allowing a business the flexibility to be available 24/7 and, most importantly, precisely when your customers need you most.
4) Omnichannel, including apps and social media
Consider the typical touchpoints a utilities business has with its customers: commonly, there’s an app, as well as a website and social media. Combined, these take resources to manage and maintain. With a virtual agent, you can deliver a unified experience across all channels that gives your customers a level of consistency.
5) Proactive capabilities
With conversational AI, customer service no longer needs to be reactionary. A proactive virtual agent can deflect inquiries from support staff related to, for example, login errors, offering guidance when triggered by a failed user login. Companies also use proactive capabilities to leverage sales, upselling and customer development.
6) Quick deployment
Boost.ai’s market-leading conversational AI technology comes with pre-built, industry-specific content that allows for a quick time to market. Thanks to a pre-made module designed for the utilities sector, your virtual agent can be up and running and successfully automating customer inquiries in a matter of weeks, not months. This rock-solid foundation is also crucial to helping maintain and improve the model through our user-friendly software interface.
Where the question once used to be if a utility company should consider the implementation of conversational AI into its customer service strategy, it is now clearer than ever that it’s only a matter of when. A virtual agent is a perfect fit thanks to its capacity to increase the overall customer experience with faster, more accurate access to information and transactional capabilities that allow authenticated users to tap into backend systems for a transformative customer experience.