Donna Collins, Strategic Support Analyst at Georgia Power Company, recently spoke with Chartwell about emerging technology, focusing on how utilities can bridge silos to improve the customer experience. She highlighted the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) to drive self-service.
Chartwell: What emerging technology do you think will have the most impact on customer experience in the next few years?
Donna Collins: Artificial intelligence (AI) should start to gain more traction in the utility space, including the implementation of chatbots, conversational IVRs, virtual assistants for agents, intelligent call-routing and predictive analytics. Together, these technology solutions will help utilities provide a more personalized experience that customers have come to expect from the companies with which they do business.
CW: Which current project or initiative at Georgia Power has you most excited?
DC: Georgia Power is getting ready to launch its first chatbot pilot. This will be our first real foray into using AI to increase efficiency and reduce customer effort.
CW: What is the biggest pitfall for utilities when it comes to implementing new technological solutions for customer experience?
DC: One of the biggest pitfalls is siloed decision-making and planning. Technology organizations need to have close coordination with their internal clients. End-users should be included in the requirements and design process, and journey mapping should be conducted at the beginning of a project to fully understand and document existing pain points and opportunities. These steps will help ensure that the solution will meet the needs of the business, and it will help minimize costly fixes and delays on the back end. Another challenge is when there is not enough bandwidth to support competing priorities. This can be mitigated by having shared goals across the organization and a governance structure that allocates resources based on these shared objectives.
CW: You function as a liaison between the technology organization and internal business partners. What advice would you give other utilities facing challenges in this area?
DC: Invest in having dedicated project managers that represent the business’s priorities for all critical technology projects. Project managers should have a technical background, as well as business unit experience, so they can understand both sides and help bridge the gap between stakeholders. Similarly, technology organizations need to have strong business analysts with the same expertise. Lastly, it is important to put in place functional owners who have responsibility for a given process across all channels (i.e., service order owner, payment owner, etc.).
CW: One of your responsibilities at Georgia Power is to drive migration to self-service channels. What is one of your biggest lessons learned in expanding self-service in the utility sphere?
DC: One key lesson is the importance of channel parity. You need to give customers the same level of service and options in all channels. If customers can get a better deal over the phone, they will keep calling. Another key lesson is not to allow chat to become just another agent-assisted contact channel. Invest in chatbot technology for the most frequent chat inquires, and train chat agents to educate customers on how they can self-serve in the future.
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