By Eric Cheung
CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP) is committed to offering its 2.3 million electricity customers the best value-added services in Hong Kong, and online service is one of them. Upon registration with this cost-efficient and environmentally friendly service channel, customers can keep track of their billing records more easily and enjoy a wide range of services at CLP’s website.
Although online service was first introduced in the late 1990s, the registration rate was far from satisfactory, despite the benefits it could bring to customers. This paper studies how CLP has come full circle to strengthening its basics in customer service and in parallel achieving a major breakthrough in online service by developing numerous user-friendly features on its website, www.clponline.com.hk.
THE ORIGIN OF THE JOURNEY – MANAGING CUSTOMER EXPECTATION
Rome was not built in one day. Customer satisfaction certainly cannot be maintained in the long run without a commitment to serving every one of the customers the way CLP pledges in the first place. Customer satisfaction cannot be achieved at all if CLP does not even know the expectation of customers.
Managing customer experience is an ongoing process that requires commitment, dedication and team work. In order to ensure that CLP can achieve the goal successfully, it has taken a critical STEP, which is an acronym for System, Technology, Environment and People.
- A service improvement mechanism is in place to guide the journey to sustainable service enhancement.
CLP’s SAP-based computer system serves as the backbone of the IT network. Together with the newly developed CRM system, both systems provide 24-hour support to the frontline staff in handling applications, requests, enquiries and other customerrelated operations.
Providing a comfortable, modern working environment to the staff is the basic step to providing quality service to customers. CLP’s Customer Interaction Centre can house 100 call agents and has a resting area fitted with TV, hi-fi, electrical massage chairs and a selection of reading materials for the call agents to relax during break times.
Offering a comfortable environment at the service outlets for customers is equally important. The 14 service outlets are designed to maintain close contact with customers and provide lots of value added services.
Frontline staff are the most precious asset to CLP. They are the primary contacts for customers. Other than the regular on-the-job training, CLP provides a variety of external training opportunities for the frontline staff.
STEP denotes the key success factors that enable CLP to branch out into the horizon of online service. It also provides the necessary front- and back-end support for the company to redefine the paradigm of online service experience.
THE ORIGIN OF THE JOURNEY – EASY BUT DIFFICULT
Regardless of the channels from which CLP collects customer opinions, “easy” is the value they treasure unanimously. In simple terms, this value can be translated into peace of mind and enhanced quality of life, particularly for residential customers. As far as the service channel is concerned, CLP’s web portal has grown to be the most preferred option among the young and educated segments.
Easy to find:
- CLP offers the most convenient channels for customers to access our services, including the interactive website www. clponline.com.hk, the user-friendly CLP INFO-LINE (2678 2678) and the 14 service outlets manned by courteous service representatives.
Easy to apply:
- No matter whether the application is tendered online, by phone or in person, the application procedure is simple and easy to follow. In the web portal, for example, it takes a customer only a couple of minutes to complete the entire application process
- eBilling and Autopay are the most convenient, environmentally friendly means of billing and payment. To encourage customers to sign up, fabulous incentives are offered as a token of appreciation.
Billing and payment
- For billing, customers can opt for various options including eBilling, SMS billing, fax billing, group billing (for multiple accounts) and Braille billing
- CLP offers a large selection of payment methods for customers to settle their bills, including Autopay, Internet payment, payment over the counters at MTR and Circle K convenience stores.
Termination of electricity supply
- Customers can complete old account terminations and open new accounts in one go. This provides added convenience when they move from one location to another
- For all applications for termination of electricity supply, advance arrangements can be made for a deposit refund, saving the customer having to contact CLP again after confirmation of the final energy meter reading.
Easy to use:
- At the time of supply application, free energy utilisation advisory services will be offered to customers on an as needed basis. This enables residential customers to enjoy enhanced quality of life with the electric home concept.
Easy to manage:
- With just a click of the mouse on CLP’s website, customers can monitor, change and inquire about the status of their accounts anytime, anywhere.
Billing and payment:
- CLP issues bills according to the pre-set meter reading schedule. As some of the customers have a special need to receive bills on a certain date, the selfselected billing date service is specially designed for customers who need the extra convenience in selecting a billing date that meets their requirements.
The ease of accessing services and the benefit of choosing from different service channels for customers pave the way for CLP to delicately create and manage the expectation of customers toward online service. Yet the journey towards online service is still anything but easy.
A VIRTUAL EXPLORATION OF A DECADE
Since the late 1990s, CLP has been offering services to customers through the Internet. Over the past 10 years, the company has made strides in making online services, including eBill, an increasingly enjoyable experience for customers. CLP regularly evaluates the performance of its website; enhances existing features and designs new online services that will encourage more customers to log on to CLP Online.
AN EBILLING ERA
In 2006, CLP decided to beef up its efforts in increasing people’s awareness of eBilling through a series of promotional campaigns. The programme was so successful that CLP not only saw an overwhelming response from the customers, but also the media gave prominent coverage to its green value of cutting down on paper consumption.
The success of the eBill promotion programme stems from three critical factors: effective communication, alliance with green groups and strong frontline staff support. Moreover, adding to the campaign impetus are incentive offers such as “green” souvenirs and a small electricity rebate.
To build community awareness, low-cost communication channels were used for the promotion of eBill, including bill inserts, web marketing and posters in the service outlets.
Additionally, feature stories on eBill were covered in the customer newsletter where registered users shared their good experiences after signing up.
In an attempt to educate the public about the “green” value, CLP joined hands with three local environmental protection organisations, namely Green Power, the Conservancy Association and Consumer Power. Co-organised functions such as promotion booths in shopping malls and educational talks in schools were arranged to advocate environmental conservation through cutting down on paper consumption. The other activities included a slogan competition that was run in all primary and secondary schools to raise the environmental awareness and its interconnection with eBill.
Further to the launch of the promotional campaigns, the community awareness and interest were kindled with prominent publicity. More importantly, both CLP Online traffic and eBill registrations increased rapidly.
On the customer contact front, CLP leveraged on the voice and face-to-face service channels, ie. call centre and service outlets, to promote eBill. The frontline staff offered the greatest support in handling more than 10,000 eBill enquiries a month. Thanks to their good work, about 60,000 customers were enticed to register with eBill through these channels. The frontline staff’s cross selling skill truly made a big difference in driving up the eBill registrations.
Since the eBilling journey took off in early 2006, the result has been extremely encouraging as a sustainable growth is seen month after month. Today, the number of eBill users has surged from a few thousand to 250 000. As compared with the traditional paper billing service, cost savings are realised in paper consumption and bill delivery.
TRANSFORMATION OF ONLINE SERVICE
CLP has made tremendous efforts in turning eBilling into a firstclass service successfully. Nevertheless, the company recognises the fact that, in order to sustain the eBilling momentum, peripheral online services should be in place so that customers can log on to CLP Online not only to checking bills but also for accessing a full range of services available to them 24/7. With this in mind, CLP decided to rethink the strategy of Online Service, whereby new elements were injected into its website.
One of the characteristics of CLP Online can be best described in one word – comprehensive. The website is specially designed to cater for two distinguished target groups, domestic and commercial customers, who comprise the entire customer base of CLP. The company offers a full range of electricity and infotainment services at CLP Online so that it is not only customer-oriented but is also fun for customers to stay online.
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE
Customers from all walks of life will always be able to find something educational and interesting on the website, even if they do not need any service from CLP. In general, CLP Online is made up of three types of services:
CORE ELECTRICITY SERVICE
At CLP Online, customers can enjoy round-the-clock online services anytime, anywhere. Here are some examples.
- Inquiry: Once registered with CLP Online, customers can have full access to their accounts. Up-to-date information such as billing and payment records, electricity consumption history and changes of account details is available for the convenience of customers.
- Move-in: This is one of the most utilised online services on the website simply because account opening at CLP Online is by far the most convenient and efficient compared with the other channels such as by phone or in person.
Due to the fact that Hong Kong addresses are very complex and that inputting a wrong address can result in wrong billing, CLP has put in place an online address search mechanism, whereby customers can easily identify the addresses of their apartments or offices that perfectly match the company’s computer record.
To ensure that customers input a correct ID number when applying for move-in, there is an online checking function making sure that the ID numbers input at CLP Online are correct in accordance with the record of the Hong Kong SAR Government.
To let customers enjoy the one-stop online service, they can select to join eBill and Autopay when opening a new account on the same web page.
- Billing: CLP offers a variety of billing services to customers. As mentioned earlier, eBill enables customers to receive and check bills at CLP Online. As CLP believes optionality is important, customers can choose to view their bills in graphic or text version at CLP Online
The other online applications for billing services include SMS and fax billing, online copy bill and Group Billing (for multiple accounts), all of which are designed to keep paper consumption to a minimal and provide maximal customer benefit.
- Payment: While customers can opt for a number of payment methods to settle their bills, electronic means is and will always be a win-win option for them and CLP. At CLP Online, customers can select to pay bills online via hyperlinks to the websites of HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and a number of local banks. Alternatively, customers can also go to the website of a local electronic payment service company for online bill payment.
- Move-out: Customers, whether already registered with CLP Online or not, can close accounts online. The procedure is quick and easy. What’s more, CLP includes the arrangement for deposit refund of electricity accounts in the move-out procedure, so that customers can fully enjoy the one-stop online experience.
- Virtual Information Centre: Hong Kong people are always on the run and cannot afford to spend a lot of time in search of information on the Internet. With this in mind, CLP has enhanced the layout of CLP Online, making it more userfriendly for online searching. At a click of a mouse, customers can quickly pull out a reservoir of information about CLP on their computer screens. Besides, CLP manages to keep all information concise and simple, so that customers can understand it easily.
CLP realises that, similar to other utilities around the world, the majority of customers are still accustomed to dealing with CLP via traditional channels such as by phone. To make these customers willing to switch to the online channel, it will take more than just offering them the basic services. In order to change the status quo, CLP has built more value-adding features into CLP Online, as follows:
- CLP eAmbassador: This is a real-life frontline officer who answers customer queries online in the form of prerecorded video. Customers can enter any word at CLP Online, which will look up the most relevant response in the pool of the videos and a CLP eAmbassador present it on the computer screen.
- Online Service Demonstration: To help customers fully enjoy the services at CLP Online, a step-by-step, audio and visual demo is set up on the website to walk customers through the navigation, the core features and services such as CLP eAmbassador and application procedures.
- Showcase of modern home appliances: When Going Green has become a talking point in many places around the world including Hong Kong, many people would invariably try to cut down on electricity consumption while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. At CLP Online, the company helps customers achieve Go Green by keeping them aware of the high energyefficiency home appliances available at its newly opened specialty store, the ECO Home.
- Infotainment: In tandem with the showcase of home appliances and to jazz up the contents of the website, CLP has produced a series of infomercial videos promoting numerous home appliances. CLP also takes advantage of word of mouth by incorporating the videos of customer experience in using the home appliances into CLP Online.
- Energy efficiency with fun: While some people may view this as a boring and pep-talk subject, customers will agree with CLP that it is not the case at CLP Online. Other than hard facts and figures, CLP has an interactive energy calculator that helps customers figure out the energy consumption of their homes. CLP offers a PowerWise test that challenges customers’ knowledge of energy efficiency. It also provides a hyperlink to the Government’s website EnergyLand, where customers will find a host of infotainment on wise use of electricity.
- Online Promotion: When it comes to promotion, it is always a welcoming gesture to present customers with attractive incentives. At CLP Online, both cash rewards and fabulous souvenirs are on offer that customers can take home with them any time they purchase a specific type of home appliance or sign up for a recommended service. Having the best of both worlds cannot get easier than at CLP Online.
- CLP green living carbon calculator: In its latest effort to promulgate the above message to the customers, CLP has newly established an online carbon calculator for customers to find out how much carbon they generate in their everyday lives. Apart from the interactive experience, CLP wants to arouse customers’ awareness on climate change and, most importantly, how they can minimise the impact to Hong Kong.
BUSINESS ENHANCEMENT SERVICE
Traditionally, online service was more or less for the privilege of residential customers only simply because none of the online features was intended for commercial customers, except for run-of-the-mill applications. But this is history now. As mentioned earlier, CLP regularly enhances its online services and has recently unveiled at CLP Online a series of initiatives, whose target users are commercial customers.
- Improve business: As an indispensable energy partner, CLP provides non-residential customers with expert advice on how CLP can help them consume electricity more efficiently and be more environmentally friendly. Customers from various businesses and professions in Hong Kong can get hold of a lot of useful information about a variety of subjects relating to product application and power quality at CLP Online.
- Applications & services: Industrial electric equipment such as a water heater pump and heavy-duty induction work is introduced to commercial customers at CLP Online. Detailed information about energy analysis and benefits is available at the click of a mouse.
- New business start-up: While Hong Kong is still highly regulated, this in no way hinders CLP’s commitment to delivering world-class products and services of good value to its customers. CLP takes every opportunity to communicate to customers who plan to start a new business in Hong Kong the benefits of choosing CLP as their energy partner.
THE SECRET OF ONLINE ENJOYMENT
“Easy” continues to be the keyword when it comes to online service. Here is how.
Easy to find
To let customers know where to find the Internet, CLP publishes the address of CLP Online www.clponline.com.hk in all of the communication materials. It provides a hyperlink to CLP Online on other websites. It also makes the address easy to remember and easy to relate to CLP for customers.
Easy to use
Hong Kong people are always busy, and electricity service is not something for which they, particularly the residential customers, can afford too much time. It is also true that, although more than 70% of the population in Hong Kong have access to the Internet, the nature of the power business means it is unlikely to see the majority of Hong Kong people becoming frequent visitors at CLP Online.
If CLP Online is to succeed, it must be easy to use for customers. CLP, through several major revamps, has streamlined the navigation of its website; simplified the steps for most of the online services; condensed the word contents of the sections as far as possible; and provided an online guide and search function for some of the relatively complex applications.
Easy to manage
Once registered with CLP Online, CLP assures customers that they can manage their accounts more easily than via any other channel. Customers can keep track of two years’ electricity consumption on the Website. They can trace past electricity bills of up to one year. Customers also can check the latest balance and update account information at CLP Online.
Easy to enjoy
To attract customers to return to the website, there must be something that makes them enjoy using CLP Online. In this regard, CLP has enhanced the graphic designs and animation features on the Website. It strives to make the online features as interactive as possible. CLP maintains a diversified selection of infotainment and infomercial for customers to enjoy.
CLP Online has made good progress in encouraging more and more customers to switch to the online channel. It has won a prestigious international award. Looking ahead, CLP will continue to enhance CLP Online, so that more customers can enjoy its online services.
CLP is delighted to see the number of customers switching to eBill increasing. To date, 250 000 customers receive electricity bills by email.