Open lines of communication between utilities and their members are essential, contributing to customer satisfaction and effective operations in general. The best ways to create this high level of engagement, however, involve technology upgrades. Many utilities have fallen behind on keeping their IT profile up to date, and they may be missing out on opportunities to stay in touch with their members.

One of the most compelling reasons to press ahead with these communication upgrades as soon as possible is the fact that their positive impact is felt within the office as well as among the customer base. Not only is it easier for members to connect with utilities when they have questions or concerns, providing high-quality service also demands less time and manual work from employees, letting them spend time on other duties and add extra value.

What Types of Features Lead to Better Utility/Customer Communication?

It’s one thing to decide to improve office technology at a utility and another to put that plan into action. Companies need to consider the best solutions for their particular needs – or more specifically, their customers’ needs. This means capabilities such as faster responses to queries, proactive notifications of events such as outages and restorations and messaging that goes beyond voice calling to reach people on their communication channels of choice.

The right interactive voice response (IVR) system can deliver the aforementioned capabilities and more, enable a better connection with customers with less need for direct input by employees. While these systems’ primary function is to give automated answers to simple questions and redirect more complex queries to call center workers, they can provide value in additional ways. Utility leaders should look for features such as:

  • Integration with customer account data: When a company’s customer information system (CIS) and IVR are part of the same integrated IT environment, customers’ account data is visible as soon as they call. This makes everything from billing lookups to outage reports and inquiries quicker and easier, helping fewer customer care personnel handle more calls in less time.
  • Automated call-out capability: An IVR that is able to automatically reach out to utility customers when a planned outage is imminent can significantly lessen the workload for employees, who will receive fewer questions about the interruption of service and don’t even have to spend time creating the alert manually.
  • Billing and extension features: When customers call in to make a payment extension request, the IVR can look up their account details and make a decision. Furthermore, if members need to enter credit, debit or check information, they can do so by phone.
  • Seamless support for text and email: Customers may not want to receive their alerts by phone, at least exclusively. A modern IVR solution should therefore be ready to push out notifications to relevant groups of customers, whether that means sending emails, delivering SMS messages or making automatic calls.

An IVR integrated with the CIS and all other essential applications in the modern, data-driven utility environment can give customers the enhanced communication they’re looking for. Check out DataVoice success stories to see how utilities have enhanced their capabilities through new IT deployments.

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