National grid uses AI to engage low-income customers


National Grid is expanding its implementation of an AI-driven Utility Customer Experience (UCX) platform.

The end-to-end customer experience system is dramatically increasing National Grid’s ability to align its low-income programmes with customer needs, with initial pilots showing up to 120% higher enrollment in key programmes.

In 2018, National Grid piloted EnergySavvy’s advanced UCX platform with 650,000 income-qualified electric and/or gas customers.

Based on these positive results, the utility is expanding the customer experience solution to reach more than 2 million customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in April 2019, with additional expansions to other National Grid customers to follow.

The new offering will incorporate energy efficiency, e-pay and e-bill options as well as low-income programmes, additional advanced analytics and functionalities.

“We had three goals with our low-income personalisation pilot: enhance customer service, reduce operational expenses, and successfully demonstrate the technology and business processes for delivering a personalizsd customer experience through multiple communication channels,” said Kelly Carney, vice president of customer process enablement, National Grid.

“Because of the compelling results, we are expanding this solution to enable National Grid to deliver highly personalised customer insights and programme offers to our customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”

With EnergySavvy’s UCX platform, National Grid’s customer service representatives have immediate access to personalised recommendations for each customer (‘Next Best Actions’), enabling the CSRs to quickly identify the best fit offers or programmes in which a customer is not currently enrolled.

National Grid has many ways to serve their low-income customers—from fuel assistance to energy efficiency programmes.

“One of the challenges is quickly matching each customer with their best action given the wide range of programs,” continued Carney. “Personalisation helps CSRs do this quickly and effectively, increasing enrollments and enhancing the customer experience.”

For the National Grid pilot, the EnergySavvy UCX platform used sophisticated data analytics to uncover new customer insights, and then provide personalised recommendations through both the call center and email communication channels.

During the pilot, National Grid increased low-income programme enrollments on average 53% in the treatment group, with some programmes seeing an increase as high as 120%.

Other treatment group impacts included an 11% reduction in contact center calls, a 16% increase in arrears collections and a 15% improvement in ‘trust’ scores among surveyed customers who went through the improved contact center experience.

With 40 million low-to-moderate households in the United States, these customers make up 10 to 30% of a typical utility’s customer base, making this a critical customer segment to reach.

“Providing a personalised customer experience is a required capability for National Grid as we move forward,” said Terence Sobolewski, chief customer officer, National Grid.

“Not only do our customers expect it, but it is also a key enabler to achieving our other corporate objectives, from operational expense management to the introduction and growth of innovative new services and programmes. To succeed, personalisation must be comprehensive, and that is the solution EnergySavvy is providing us.”

“To make the most of their customer interactions, comprehensive personalisation is now a must-have capability for utilities,” said Aaron Goldfeder, CEO, EnergySavvy.