One simple step to saving call centre teams’ time in the utility sector

Topic: Utilities

In the face of the challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis, utility providers have to find new ways to make sure their contact centres are as efficient as possible. Here’s how an omnichannel chat strategy can help.

Before COVID-19, the average waiting time to speak to a customer service agent was 10 minutes in the utility sector; waiting times increased substantially when lockdown was imposed, and have now stabilised – but are still 16% ahead of 2019 averages. This means a wait of nearly 12 minutes for the average customer, enjoying the “your call is important to us” messages over and over again.

Short of substantially growing the workforce, utility providers need to figure out better ways for call centre teams to manage their time, and in turn, provide great service to customers. So what’s the best way to solve this problem?

Introducing omnichannel chat for call centres

Instead of your customers making a call and speaking with an agent, consider encouraging customers to initiate a text-based conversation instead. This immediately solves a big problem for both the utility provider and the customer. 

The call centre’s agents are no longer on the phone dealing with one customer at a time; they can have customer service interactions with five or six simultaneously by sending text-based messages from a simple to use portal. The customer is happier too as they can start a conversation, and then carry on with other things, instead of listening to the same song over and over while they wait on hold. Messages can then be sent back and forth (in the same way as any text-based conversation) until the customer’s issue is resolved.

So that’s the chat part – what is the benefit of being omnichannel?

The clever thing about an omnichannel chat solution is that the utility provider can use the communication channels that each individual customer prefers from a single environment. This means that channels like SMS, RCS, and WhatsApp are all available to help utility providers have more successful interactions with customers.

If you’ve not offered text-based services to your customers in the past, you can be  reassured from by the fact that in the EMEA region, use of WhatsApp as a customer service channel increased 97% from March 2020, and SMS increased by 66%; this at the same time as email and telephone channels reduced in usage (Zendesk).

What can utility providers use omnichannel chat for?

Two-way conversations with customers

As we’ve already mentioned, omnichannel chat allows call centre agents to manage multiple conversations at the same time, but did you know that customers in the utility sector actually prefer to speak with providers in this way? In fact, 85% of mobile device users prefer to text utility providers when compared to calls

So anything from an account query to processing payments can all be undertaken in the ways your customers prefer.

For simpler interactions, chatbots can also be deployed. This means that interactions like frequently asked questions and payment reminders can all be handled automatically, meaning that your agents’ time is protected for dealing with more complex enquiries.

Sending richer messages

By using next-generation channels like WhatsApp, RCS and SMS Landing Pages, utility providers are able to send more visually rich, branded, interactive messages.

Let’s say that a customer has enquired about the balance on their account; the utility provider could send a rich message (from a library of predefined templates) with buttons which link to their balance and other options like payment processing.

Sending richer messages are also proven to provide more conversions than a plain text SMS. In fact, some businesses have noticed a 115% increase in revenue and a 20% click-through rate compared to 5% for plain text SMS.

Start saving call centre resource

Esendex have worked with a wide range of utility providers to help maximise their call centre resources. If you’d like to find out how an omnichannel chat solution could help you, please contact our industry experts today on 0345 356 5758 or email us at [email protected].

Author Avatar