Energy and utilities companies are increasingly moving to the cloud to gain a number of business advantages, including enhanced data security and access. Migrating data to the cloud is not only a more secure way to store data, but also makes it easier to access the data. With the cloud, data is managed in tightly secured offsite locations (versus on-premise) with “back-ups of back-ups,” so to speak, and far greater business continuity capabilities than typically found onsite. Further, the data can be accessed both by the business and its customers from any location and from any device—at any time.
Empowering customers and freeing up agents
These cloud data advantages play a key role in helping energy and utilities companies revolutionize their customer experience. Better data security, storage and access opens the door to better customer service. Companies, for example, can offer omni-channel delivery options, such as self-service where customers can log into a portal to view and access all of their data via a dashboard.
This enables customers, in turn, to take a wide range of actions on their own, such as make a payment, request a quote, evaluate promotional offers, view different plans and pricing, ask questions, submit a case/ticket, etc. Everything is at their fingertips. They have no need to call a customer agent. Long wait times are avoided, along with the need to repeatedly share the same data every time they contact the call center.
In addition, with self-service, customer agents can spend less time on handling customer calls and more time on prioritizing and resolving customer cases/tickets, as well as sales and other more strategic activities.
Even when a customer agent is necessary, however, a cloud-based solution provides that agent with full and quick access to unified customer data from multiple sources. This, in turn, enables the agent to respond more effectively to the customer’s needs. Full data access is triggered simply by the customer’s phone number. As a result, instead of having to request data when a customer calls, the agent can simply review complete, pre-captured data onscreen. With this level of data access, both the agent and customer benefit from an instantaneous, data-driven connection that leads to faster, higher quality service.
What to look for in a cloud data solution
Look for both an industry-specific cloud solution, as well as a cloud customer experience solution. The industry-specific solution should provide end-to-end service management that covers the entire customer journey. Further, it should easily integrate with existing databases and systems through open APIs and middleware platforms to provide unified customer data and, in turn, a 360-degree customer view (e.g., all previous customer transactions, account history, contract data, etc.) that both the business and customers can access.
The cloud customer experience solution should provide a robust and customizable portal that gives both customers and agents full data access. For example, let’s say a customer wants to sign up for natural gas service. Through the portal, built on a cloud experience platform, the customer could access all related information, including articles, FAQs, plans, pricing, etc. via a single interface and without the need for a customer agent.
At the same time, the customer’s online interactions should automatically generate a customer profile that the business can then use to improve that customer’s experience through, for example, unique cross-selling and promotional offers. In addition, combined customer profiles should provide rich analytics that enable the business to identify customer trends and wants by customer segment, geography, service area, etc.
What to look for in a cloud partner
The right cloud partner should have extensive cloud implementation experience, especially in terms of the specific cloud solution(s) you’ve decided to implement. Also, look for a partner with expertise and experience within your industry. Industry knowledge is key to understanding the customer journey and providing the best solutions to enhance that journey. The better you know the industry, the better you know the customer.
CGI, for example, has worked in the energy and utilities industry for decades providing advanced solutions to help clients transform, optimize and grow. We also offer advanced implementation experience for cloud solutions geared toward this sector, such as Salesforce’s Energy and Utilities Cloud solution and Cloud Experience solution, both of which deliver the capabilities described in this blog. Additionally, our own intellectual property-based solutions are designed to accelerate and improve outcomes throughout the energy value chain.
To learn more about this topic and our cloud work in the energy and utilities sector, feel free to reach out to me. Also, we’ll be at this year’s Dreamforce conference to talk more about this topic and others, so be sure to connect with us if you plan to attend.