A hand holds a customer profile icon symbolizing data.

As a utility manager, you know the pivotal role you fulfill in customers' lives. Whether dealing with electricity, water, wastewater or fiber services, you're in the business of providing essentials to customers that rely on you. This means when your customers deal with your organization, they want every interaction to be quick, easy and drama-free.

When you're actively trying to make life easier for your customers, technology is the key. Selecting the right solution for the job means deploying technology specifically designed to help utility customers get the information they need and get on with their lives.

In short, you need an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Despite the "voice" in the technology's name, modern solutions exist across several channels, including email and text. By getting in touch with your customers through their method of choice, you can give them an especially smooth experience.

But what about the "interactive" part of IVR? This is another way IVR provides value: by automating common points of contact between utilities and residents. Adding to the convenience is modern IVR's ability to determine an account holder's identity through caller ID features, saving a step and getting them results quicker, whether they're trying to pay a bill, report an outage or anything in between.

Customer account management made easy

One of the most compelling features of modern IVR technology is the extra options people have when they call in. Callers can carry out other actions related to billing and their accounts. This feature is a true win-win: Customers gain a simple way to complete common activities, and your office staff doesn't have to spend time handling these issues manually, giving them back time in their day.

Some of the account actions your customers can take through a call to the IVR include:

Real-time account inquiries: Customers who are in doubt about the status of their accounts, such as any outstanding balance, want information quickly. A modern IVR tool can deliver instant, accurate reports.

Payments by check, credit or debit card: When there is a balance due on an account, a customer doesn't have to leave the IVR system to make that payment. Modern IVR systems allow payment processing via credit card, debit or check.

Extension requests: Asking for an extension on a utility bill is a more complex type of transaction, so it does need human intervention. However, the IVR can still help. The system can automatically pull up the caller's account information, so the representative taking the call can make an extension decision quickly.

Service order inquiries: When there's work in progress affecting a customer's utility service, the IVR can deliver real-time updates on the operation's status. Automating this process saves time and effort for office staff, who don't have to manually find the relevant data.

Not only are these services available in a simple, automated fashion through the IVR, but the system can also sort accounts by priority to determine which customers should deal with a live representative immediately. IVR can simplify your office's operations by introducing an extra level of time-saving automation and data-driven intelligence.

IVR: a multi-purpose customer service tool

A modern IVR solution is a sound investment because it can serve numerous roles. In addition to its account management role, IVR provides value with features such as:

Planned outage notifications: One of the best ways to prevent high-volume calls from customers is to alert them of planned service interruptions. Providing a heads-up and notifying account-holders about when service will return prevents them from calling in to report the disruption or ask for updates.

Critical load management: When a customer's use of your utility service has nearly reached its limit, the IVR can send out a call. Keeping people aware of these issues in advance is part of a helpful customer experience.

Employee notifications: While most features of an IVR are aimed at customer use, you can also use the system for easy, automated communication with staff members. During an emergency, the IVR can summon backup staff to the office — if they can't make it, they can log that information through the IVR.

Integration with OMS: The connection between your IVR and outage management system (OMS) delivers powerful capabilities to your team and high-quality support to your customers. An OMS allows your team to pinpoint the sources of service interruptions. Integration allows you to update an outage map based on clients calling the IVR. When a known issue is detected in the OMS, the IVR can automatically contact customers in the affected area.

Implementing a modern IVR can be a big step forward for your customer relationships. To make sure you take maximum value from this system, you need a provider that will support you through installation and beyond. You need DataVoice.

Read customer success stories to see how other utilities have refreshed their technology, or contact DataVoice directly to start on your IVR journey.

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