The energy and utility industries operate 24/7 and have residential and commercial customer bases heavily reliant on dependable, uninterrupted service and constant support. Unfortunately, meeting these needs is costly and not feasible for most organizations. As such, utility companies face two choices: disappoint their customers to save on operational costs or satisfy customers at the risk of going over budget and burning out staff. But, while neither of these options is ideal, that doesn't mean it's a hopeless situation.
With conversational AI, energy and utility companies can provide customers with the 24/7 support and service they demand without overwhelming their workforce. Interested to learn how? Keep reading.
The energy and utility sector relies heavily on distributed and capital-heavy infrastructures that must be continuously monitored and maintained by skilled professionals (like engineers and service technicians). Due to the customer base, customer support and service are heavily tied to operational performance. Customers like to know when various changes are being made or work on their service. The energy and utility industry is a great partner for conversational AI bots due to their ability to communicate with customers using natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). These two components power the bots to handle customer service inquiries and operational management tasks that may arise within the energy and utility sectors.
There is no limit to conversational AI's capabilities within the energy and utility industries. Integrating conversational AI within the industry can drastically transform customer service processes, improving operational performance. Whether there is a simple question regarding a bill, a customer needs to report an outage of service, a customer is moving, or many more tasks, these intelligent virtual assistants can be utilized by energy and utility companies to improve overall efficiency and business operations. Additionally, these businesses can improve the customer experience while reducing service delivery costs.
Conversational AI technology has much broader applications, characteristics, and capabilities than ever. They go far beyond the traditional Q&A section on many websites. Conversational AI can operate as a digital agent or secretary and mimic human interaction and tasks ranging from responding to simple questions to handling more complex customer journey components.
Human agents can program their conversational AI platform to teach them how to carry out customer onboarding, teach customers how to use energy more efficiently, and run a retention program in an attempt to win back uninterested prospects or lost prospects customers. The use cases for conversational AI bots within the energy and utility sector are broader than one might think. They can simultaneously assist companies, employees, and customers and enable a modern transformation for this often "old-school" industry.
Below, we dive into some use cases for conversational AI within energy and utilities:
1. Enhancing Customer Service
Energy and utility conversational AI agents can help customers keep track of their energy usage, provide valuable tips to increase efficiency, and, with product marketing partnerships, provide individualized recommendations for energy-efficient appliance upgrades while offering a detailed overview of the long-term savings that would result from the switch.
Conversational AI is making waves across industries. The U&E industries require customer service and support capabilities critical to long-term success. In 2019, Gartner published "CIO and CEO Agenda: A Utilities Perspective," which ranked "customer experience" as the top business priority for the year.
These conversational AI bots must grow with their customer base and save them time and money whenever possible. Communicating these essential components are also vital to long-term business success. Utility providers can draw inspiration from other sectors that have long been using conversational AI for business operations.
2. Predictive Maintenence
Companies utilizing conversational AI that sits on top of automated systems can constantly monitor the essential infrastructure that keeps the business running. How?
- Technicians are notified of minor issues before they become complicated, expensive ones.
- The analysis of vast amounts of data from IoT-enabled infrastructures can predict the chances of a specific asset that needs to be replaced, repaired, or renewed in a particular time frame.
There are so many benefits that can come from this partnership. Many energy and utility companies have saved millions of dollars through these early detection and notification systems conversational AI provides. This allows companies to repair minor issues before they become more prominent, expensive ones. As conversational AI and other technologies advance, predictive maintenance and analytics will also expand their capabilities.
3. Digital Marketing Capabilities
Due to the ability to store and assess vast amounts of customer and company data, a conversational AI assistant can reward and maintain customers while strategically growing the broad customer base.
Sentiment analysis models can create multiple analyses and insights that can allow utility companies better serve their customers in specific or targeted marketing initiatives. These can be targeted towards specific geographic locations or a type of individual customer.
4. Customer Acquisition
Conversational AI can strengthen customer relationships and fight to win back and retain more complex or hard-to-reach customers. Traditionally, customer acquisition costs increased yearly, and winning previously lost clients was even more. However, it is a critical component of its marketing initiatives and business processes; conversational AI assistants can deliver persuasive communications to customers to convince them to stay or come back.
The billing department of an energy or utility company is one of the busiest throughout the company. Each interaction requires accessing a customer's account and responding to specific inquiries regarding their statements. However, conversational AI can respond to customer requests faster than ever, provide details regarding due dates and usage patterns, and determine the most recent transactions or other account-related information. These virtual AI assistants deployed throughout the company are incredibly secure, safe, and easy for all involved parties. They can support team members and customers on a complex journey through billing and account management.
6. Help Customers Who Move Locations (Residence or Business)
Customers of all kinds often move locations and, unfortunately, switch utility providers to a company that currently provides services to the new address. Providing a seamless utilities transition from one place to the next is essential to customer retention. To put this idea into perspective, people in the United States move an average of 12 times in their lifetime.
A successful customer retention program is already in the works when conversational AI can facilitate a seamless transition that:
Accurate bills can be automatically generated and reflect the final utility consumption at the previous location. This ensures that the starting point is correctly registered at the new location's meter. This precautionary measure minimizes revenue losses, and inaccurate billing is not a worry for either party.
- Confirms dates and addresses
- Provides relevant information and documentation
- Arranges automatic reminders
- Initiates prompt meter readings
- Updates records and billing
- Simplifies other aspects of the relocation process
Once, the energy and utility sectors were skeptical of integrating conversational AI into business operations. However, it has become incredibly clear over the past few years that the partnership can accelerate business growth, ease traditionally tedious processes, and enhance customer satisfaction. With the integration of conversational AI, agents have easier, faster access to necessary information, technicians can be easily notified of their priorities, and accounts are more secure than ever.