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Four ‘Must Have’ Utility Contact Center Enhancements

March 8, 2014

Western Energy InstituteWe are headed west in a few days for the Spring Energy Symposium put on by the Western Energy Institute. For five years we have participated in this event because it focuses squarely on the unique requirements of the Utilities industry. A key element of this is customer service and the contact center.

From our experience with our Utilities customers, there is significant value in updating contact center infrastructure and capabilities. Here are four key changes that can help ensure that customer expectations are met in the most cost efficient manner. Along with each, we’ve included insight in italics from one of our customers—Southwest Gas.

#1: Consolidation

Consolidation and virtualization offer compelling benefits for the contact center. Consolidation is focused most heavily on cost efficiencies resulting from fewer infrastructure components and lower maintenance requirements. The utility’s total cost of ownership (TCO) can be significantly reduced. Virtualization is directed toward the customer—tying agents spread across multiple locations into what appears to be a single unified contact center.

Having five independent centers did not allow us to optimize our total agent pool or respond as effectively to localized call peaks. We realized that we could improve customer service and be more cost efficient by deploying key new technologies and processes. These centers now share the responsibility of serving all customers across all geographies.

#2: Callbacks

When call volume is high and queues are long, callbacks give callers a way to get off the call without getting out of line.

Callbacks are extremely popular with our customer base and they enable us to better manage our peak activity. At times of heavy load, we offer customers the choice of staying on the line or having us call them back when their place in the queue is reached. 43% of callers take that option when offered.

#3: Remote Agents

Remote agents can make a dramatic difference by taking on staggered work segments that are impractical or even impossible in the office environment. Applied specifically to address peaks in volume they can reduce shoulder staffing by 4-6%. They can reduce overtime and seasonal staffing by expanding and contracting their work hours as needed. Studies also show that remote agents are happier in their jobs, reducing shrinkage by 3-5%.

We chose to add remote agents to our mix for flexibility, schedule smoothing and cost savings. Adding contracted remote agents who are not employees allowed us to better cover the business hours across time zones, meal and break times, plus the 20,000+ vacation hours and 13,000 potential sick leave hours associated with in-house agents.

#4: Workforce Management

Scheduling, forecasting and adherence are three key goals of workforce management. Once a contact center reaches a certain size—more than a few dozen agents—manual scheduling is ineffective.

Before the consolidation we had been managing schedules within each location. The same number of agents took breaks at the same time every day. We now know that schedules must vary by day to optimize effectiveness.

To learn more, read “Four ‘Must Have’ Utility Contact Center Enhancements to Improve Customer Service and Save Money” and if you are attending the Symposium, be sure to drop by and say hi!