Artificial Intelligence for Business 2020

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A I F O R B U S I N E S S 2 Commercial feature Commercial feature he utilities sector has been sig- nificantly disrupted by numer- ous market forces over the last decade, but none have been more sig- nificant than suppor ting millions of cus- tomers and employees during a global pandemic. Businesses of all sizes are rapidly responding to a significant rise in digital customer engagements while scrambling to suppor t frontline staff now working remotely. Resilience is not a new theme for utilities, but new approaches must be adopted quickly for suppliers to sur vive. In 2011, the big six energ y firms had 98 per cent market share. Come this year and that had reduced to around 73 per cent and the number of energ y providers in the UK had proliferated to more than 70. The cost of not adopting sustainable new models couldn' t be higher, with 15 small energ y suppliers having collapsed since Januar y 2018. An influx of nimble upstar ts in the market has challenged the dominance of the big six. In 2011, switch rates were ver y low, with people typically only thinking of changing supplier when they moved house. Fast forward nine years, how- ever, and annual switch rates now stand at around 20 per cent. This continues to grow despite a new energ y price cap that came into force at the beginning of last year, with many households realising they can still get a better deal by shop- ping around and they often get a better customer experience too. The latter has created a new battle- ground for attracting new customers and retaining existing ones, par ticularly those influenced by league tables com- piled and published by influential inde- pendent organisations such as Which? and Uswitch, which rank suppliers based AI delivers resilience as we enter a new era As the utilities sector continues to face significant disruption, AI chatbots are providing the resilience energy suppliers need while improving their customer and staff experiences on aspects including ser vice quality, availability and number of complaints. "Energ y suppliers aren't just competing on price with an unprecedented number of companies, they're also competing on customer experience, and a fifth of their customer base is at risk ever y month," says Lloyd Buxton, utility lead at Bold360 by LogMeIn. "In other sectors, providers delivering a better ser vice can charge more for it. Energ y firms can' t do that because of the cap and profitability is already low, with a sector average of just 2 per cent. They need to do more with less, better, faster and cheaper." In response to these challenges, energ y suppliers are undergoing digital trans- formation programmes to drive cost effi- ciencies and improve customer expe- rience. Increasing channel shift is an impor tant metric for many businesses, especially those dealing with a surge in digital contacts, but it only delivers the desired benefits when it 's coupled with a high level of digital containment. Dealing with an issue via a chatbot interaction that costs the company a tenth of the cost of a phone call may sound like an obvious business decision. But if the chatbot doesn' t resolve the issue, then the customer will escalate using a higher-cost channel and is likely to become more frustrated. The accuracy levels of natural language and speech-to-text technologies, and the algorithms underpinning them, have advanced drastically in recent years, enabling companies to embrace chat- bots for customers and staff in ways they previously couldn' t. Increasingly, this includes deploying internal chatbots for routine human resources and IT queries. Remote workers can' t just pop in to see HR or IT and ask a quick question. "The technolog y has come on mas- sively," says Buxton. " We're talking high 90s in terms of the percentage of intent recognition for a question to one of our chatbots, no matter how it is written. For example, a customer could say their power is off in numerous different ways: 'I have no supply.' 'My gas or electricity is not working.' 'I've lost power.' "Internally, remote-working staff are using chatbots to ask HR and IT questions, and to guide them through processes. No matter how they phrase their question, the technology is able to understand what they're saying and respond accurately. "This is tremendously significant for companies because the technolog y's working, it's understanding people's questions and it 's fixing their problems, which is music to business leaders' ears because they can reduce their cost base while also improving the experiences. "Bold360 is hugely effective for energy vendors as it's a multi-channel digital engagement platform with a view across the entire customer journey. Customers of Bold360 are now even able to pre- empt customer intent and offer proactive care based on behavioural triggers and the first few typed words of a question. "Automating the right customer jour- neys to a high level of accuracy, such as resetting passwords or changing your address or direct debit, drastically reduces the strain on human agents. Then, when the journey does need to escalate to a human channel, be it via live chat, email, messaging or phone, the transition is entirely seamless because it is suppor ted by one technolog y. "Resolution rates grow across the entire customer journey by improving Utilita gets even smarter with chatbots Already a leader in smart energy, Utilita has leveraged live chatbots to build a more intelligent and efficient customer experience while driving significant cost-savings tilita is one of the UK's largest energy suppliers outside of the big six, serving 800,000 households. As the first energy company to install smart meters in UK homes, it has led the way in smart energy. Nine in ten of the house- holds supplied energy by the company have smart meters installed, compared to only around half across the rest of the nation. Since launching in 2003, Utilita has sought to improve the experience of those who prepay energy. By linking a smart meter to an in-home display, users can see in real time what they consume, reducing usage by an average of 20 per cent. They can set daily, weekly or monthly budgets to control spending and top up in the My Utilita app. As customer touchpoints are more fre- quent with prepay energy, call volumes are invariably higher than those associated with credit customers. Utilita specialises in customers facing financial difficulties or other challenges best solved with a reas- suring voice at the end of a phone. Most customer queries, however, are more routine questions with a simple answer. As a result, three years ago Utilita deployed a chatbot solution and since November 2019 it has been powered by Bold360 by LogMeIn. "Having implemented chatbots pre- viously, we saw a real difference in how Bold360 approached the initial scoping stages, starting not with what we wanted, but what was really driving our customers to contact us," says Chris Downs, head of delivery at Utilita. "This novel approach and Bold360's ability to implement the system quickly was attractive. "As an independent energy company, we move quickly and need to adapt to the needs of our customers during what can be some really hard times. The Bold360 platform is so incredibly easy to use, which has allowed us to reduce the time it takes to feed the chatbot with the neces- sary information, speeding up the delivery to our customers." Bold360 has delivered huge value for Utilita, while dealing with customer que- ries much faster. Its chatbot receives more than 220,000 questions each month, 71 per cent of which are answered without any human intervention. When the cost to fulfil a chatbot inquiry is mere pennies, compared to several pounds for a phone call, the savings are clear. A core team of three people are respon- sible for identifying trends in customer behaviour and reviewing available content. Through close monitoring of Bold360'S easy-to-use dashboard, any questions that aren't being answered sufficiently by the number, we decided to create a widget where they could enter some security details and it would give them their refer- ence number automatically. This observa- tion has enabled 10,000 customers, who have since asked the same question via the chatbot, to self-serve saving thousands in call handling. "More than 96,000 Utilita customers have used the chatbot on more than one occa- sion. It has clearly become the communi- cation mode of choice for many, especially those in the younger, digital-native demo- graphic. Other energy providers deacti- vated their live chat functions when vol- umes grew amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but this really defeats the point of what a chatbot is designed to do. During one of the biggest crises this country has faced, our well-managed and informed chatbot reduced call volumes by 84 per cent." Some energy providers deactivated their live chat functions when volumes grew amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but this really defeats the point of what a chatbot is designed to do USE AI TO CRE ATE BE T TER CUS TOMER E XPERIENCES U chatbot are flagged, enabling the team to spring into action and provide answers or solutions, which can be accessed via the chatbot within minutes. "Bold360's dashboard enables our team to easily identify questions that might require some additional web functional- ity," says Downs. "After seeing a trend for people asking for their customer reference T self-ser vice and also increasing capacity in live ser vice channels." The big gest benefit to organisations, however, is resilience. In times of dis- ruption, whether related to technol- og y, regulation, growing competition, changing customer expectations or more macroeconomic factors, busi- ness resilience will of ten determine the market winners, and energ y suppliers have faced all of these challenges con- currently in recent years. When a health pandemic is added into the mix, as with COVID-19, resilience becomes abso- lutely central to success and sur vival. As the UK began its response to the COVID-19 outbreak and staff increas- ingly worked from home, Bold360 saw huge spikes in digital customer activity. Over just a couple of weeks, live chat volumes doubled across its client base and suppor t centre queries increased by 500 per cent as people turned to digital channels when they couldn' t get through When a health pandemic is added into the mix, as with COVID-19, resilience becomes absolutely central to success and survival "Better resilience and engagement is also evident on the agent side. The technolog y is accessible via web brows- ers, which means all agents who need to work remotely can continue to respond to queries on Bold360 chat without dis- ruption. And by removing the repetitive questions that live agents previously had to deal with, companies can offer a better employee experience which is likely to lead to even better productivit y. "If you can give staff better technolog y to work with, they will be happier and fundamentally they're going to be more resilient and provide more help in those times of need." For more information please visit Bold360.com of companies are investing in or exploring AI 88 % of consumers rated their most recent interactions as 'excellent' 21 % to resolve consumers' most recent interaction with a brand on average 11 hrs of businesses believe chat with bots and agents will be one of the most common channels within three years 71 % of customer inquiries are resolved during the first interaction 49 % of businesses believe AI is changing the customer experience for the better 76 % CUS TOMER E XPERIENCE of businesses said that AI would allow them to retrain their agents, or shift them to new types of work 65 % Share of organisations that will have adopted cognitive/ AI systems by 2022 Companies using cognitive technologies see greater annual improvement in customer lifetime value Companies using cognitive technologies see greater year-over-year increase in annual revenue Customers try self- service before calling customer service 93% 63% 36% 81% on the phone. Meanwhile, chatbot vol- umes grew by around 30 per cent. Put simply, those with a tightly inte- grated live chat and chatbot solution were able to continue to ser ve their customers while others crumbled under the pressure. "Our clients have been able to offer a truly 24/7 ser vice during these test- ing times," says Bux ton. "They 're not just limited to the hours they can have people in a building, if they can even be in the same building together. "Ar tificial intelligence, or AI, gives them a live, quantifiable view of what their customers are asking af ter. Advanced algorithms cluster similar questions into single intents, making it easier to spot a problem and respond faster. It provides that needle-in-a- haystack view of where systems and processes need to change, and an ear- ly-warning system to deal with issues as they arise. Reframe your thinking about AI Make a business case Create a self-service framework Measure continuously to optimise the experience Social media Mobile app Organic Paid ad Conversion rate NPS CSAT Self-service rate Directly to agent Escalation rate Deflection rate Abandonment rate Self-service rate Bots and humans working together Do more with your resources Educate Show the potential Talk money Be transparent about using AI Offer many engagement channels Strategise routing Personalise the experience Manage content Source of traffic Interaction volume Business impact Effectiveness of help 01 02 01 03 04

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