Automation of Customer Services & Contractor Portals

Automation of Customer Services & Contractor Portals

Published On: April 20th 2019

Industries such as utilities and property cater to customer complaints and requests on a 24/7 basis. Due to the magnitude of their operations, they often have third-party vendors or contractors looking after customer services and resolving customer complaints. With the advent of industry 4.0, all industries are going through a digital transformation but there still seems to be a gap when it comes to customer services.

To put it simply, the structure and processes involved when it comes to customer services are too cumbersome for the modern day client. According to a recent study by Forester, 76% of customers prefer digital self-service above all other customer service channels. This customer preference is continuously growing and IBM believes, “By 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent.”

If you look at the utility industry, customers/property managers or landlords who face an electricity blackout first log a complaint to customer services via the call centre or online complaint centre. The customer services team then usually has to contact a contractor in the customer’s area and check for available maintenance personnel. After checking available resources, the maintenance team gets back to customer services and the call centre contacts the client with a possible time slot for fixing the problem and then finally the contractor deploys their resource to the problem on-site. Doesn’t the process just sound too tiring itself!

Even without a 3rd party vendors involved, according to research by IBM, “currently, in a 6 minutes customer service call, 75% of that time is devoted to agents doing manual research, with valued customer interaction at a dismal 25%.” This situation becomes even worse when contractors are involved and the call centre needs to go back and forth between the customer and contractors.

There is a simple one-word solution to resolve these problems. ‘Automation’.  When a customer complaint is logged, with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents you can automate logging of common complaints or connect to the concerned department faster than humans. Next step, if you have real-time updates of your contractors schedule via your contractor portal you can book an appointment instantly through integrated systems. The contractor will be notified immediately of the appointment booking and the concerned human resource in the area can be notified via an alert on their phone even if they are working on-site at that moment.

Furthermore, the automated system will allow the customer to directly choose a convenient time slot and after the booking can contact the contractor’s resource directly to give the relevant information.

In a nutshell, automating the entire cycle of; logging a complaint, booking a slot with the contractor, deploying the contractor’s resource and getting the resource directly in touch with the customer will help make the process leaner and significantly reduce unnecessary layers, making the entire process more efficient.

The simple winning formula for businesses operating in industries where customer queries, requests or complaints add up to 1000s per day and an external contractor is catering to those requests, should include:

Effective integration between call center/customer services and contractor portal:

Your system should be equipped enough to automatically log and schedule requests/complaints received by AI or human agents.

Benefits:

  • Live scheduling and automated feedback from the client and call centre will help in streamlining the process.
  • This would make the entire process quicker and more transparent for the customer who would now know estimated service timings without any lags caused due to different layers of communication.

AI assistance

For logging common customer complaints, redirecting to concerned departments and identity verification which takes up a considerable time of the customer which can be reduced using AI assistance.

Benefits:

  • A voice recognition system or AI requiring certain pins or number which can be verified in seconds will help eliminate the 2-3 step verification process still taking place in call centres. -Routine support matters, tracking products and refunds can also be done in seconds by using customers history.
  • Booking appointments automatically through tools such as Google assist.

Cloud Based Contact/Support Centers

The call centre operations and supplier/vendor portals should be moved to the cloud to reduce costs and load on internal servers.

Benefits:

  • Significantly reduces the costs that one incurred for setting up and maintaining call centre operations.
  • It reduces your overhead and allows allow agents to work remotely even in odd hours. 
  • Your internal server (call manager) won’t be overloaded and crash when queries are high.

Conclusion

Jemena Electricity Networks one of the largest utility supplier in Australia had a disjointed customer request system for processing new connection requests. Their process included customer filling out forms, emailing it to Jemena and a call centre follow up. Due to this, a large amount of information was missing and inaccurate on forms.

In 2018, they decided to use SAP Cloud for Customers which bypassed call centre operations and the customer could directly log their request and track its status online. This move reaped positive results as an immediate increase in levels of customer satisfaction could be seen as the entire process became more transparent and efficient for the customers. Regulatory compliance improved and human errors were minimized thus increasing the accuracy of connection requests being logged and forwarded. Manual efforts were minimized causing resources to be freed up which were better utilized elsewhere. Rheem Australia underwent a similar transformation last year, increasing customer satisfaction using SAP Cloud for Services.

It can be clearly inferred from this example that having a cloud-based system for customer support where the customer has control over the interaction and can transparently view the status of their request/complaint helps win the confidence of the customer. The future of customer services is closely linked to successful integration with contractor portal and the effective use of AI. Although people still feel that AI interactions lack empathy and have a long way to go but nonetheless they are evolving to an extent that google assist gives you the option to assist you in John Legend’s voice to give you a personalised feel.

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