Customer self-service via the web is being used more and more by organisations in Nordic countries. Customers are used to doing their banking errands, vacation bookings, etc using the web. For a utility company this is an important communication channel through which to manage and gain customer loyalty in an efficient way.
The article will focus on Trondheim Energy’s implementation of customer self-service from the perspectives of:
- Business drivers for investing in customer self-service solutions Added value for the company, return of investment and other positive effects
- Things to consider when implementing customer selfservice solutions
- Solution overview.
Trondheim Energy is a utility company in the middle of Norway that provides energy to the inhabitants in the Trondheim area. The company serves approximately 100,000 customers with electricity and heat. It is owned by Statkraft in Norway and is part of the Statkraft Alliance. In 1999 Trondheim Energy decided to create a subsidiary from the internal IT organisation, which became the company Enita.
Enita produces a complete range of services for Trondheim Energy and other utility companies: ASP and hosting services for all systems, meter readings, invoicing, debt collection, software development projects, first- and second-line support, as well as project management and consulting.
The idea of implementing self-service possibilities for their customers was presented by to Enita with the following challenges: reduce the call centre traffic by 80% while boosting customer satisfaction. Trondheim Energy was looking for better customer satisfaction at the same time as reducing the cost per customer for service interaction in the call centre.
When the project started every service provided by the call centre was more or less manual. The opening hours were 8am to 5pm. Time spent serving each customer was so high that not all the customers waiting in the phone queue received service by the end of the day.
The project Din Side (Your Pages in English), which is also the name of the service, has been ongoing for two years. A lot of work has been done automating the manual processes into web services
The framework of Your Pages is based on a product called Online, developed by TietoEnator. Basically, it is a web portal that connects to the back-end systems such as the customer information and billing systems. TietoEnator is an IT consultancy company that has provided this kind of solution to different sectors such as banks. The Online solution used by Trondheim Energy is also used by several other utility companies in the Nordic countries.
Your Pages went live on 7 April 2008. There was no marketing prior to the production start up. Education and training of call centre agents was done to be able to inform customers calling the service desk that they could start using Your Pages.
Your pages has been a strategic step, enabling Trondheim Energy to provide the services their customers require. It is too early to say how much that has been gained, but the focus is on improvements in the following areas:
- Customer satisfaction and loyalty – Trondheim is a university city so there are many young people moving to Trondheim for education. Young people expect web services. Your Pages can be one factor for staying with Trondheim Energy as energy supplier when moving out of Trondheim after graduation
- Customer data quality – enabling customers to manage their own data results in better quality. Much can be gained from having the correct data, especially the reduction of timeconsuming and costly internal work
- Improving the customer service process – going from manual processes to automated processes where the customer is doing part of the work
Since the implementation of the service in April 2008, 1,500 customers have registered. One of the most important things about the new service is that it is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and statistics show that 33% of all usage is after office hours.
Implementing customer self-service is all about managing customer relations. Normally you can divide the life cycle into three major parts, based on the services provided by the solution:
- Initiation of the customer relationship – getting the customer interested in the service, and signing the contract
- Maintenance of customer relationship – management of customer data, reporting, etc
- Deepening of customer relations – added services and renewal of services
The efficiency depends on how accessible and easy to use the services are for the end customer and the level of interaction with the back-end systems where the processes are executed.
For Trondheim Energy the implementation was divided into several steps. The first was in the area of maintenance of existing customers, providing them with the following services:
- Registration of meter readings
- Registration of communication channel for reading request
- Access to consumption history
- Payment management
- Update of customer information such as phone number, email and invoice address
The second part of Your Pages, which is being implemented this autumn, will include:
- Registration of moving
- Contract signing – partly included in the first part as a semiautomatic process
- Change of product.
The important thing when deciding on which services to include at each stage is of course the bundle of needs as defined by the organisation. But the interests of the customers must also be considered in providing the right services, content, and the publishing of new services.
Based on operational data from the production of Your Pages, the most commonly used services are: payment postponement, change of invoice address, and splitting of an invoice. All of these normally require much manual work.
A CHECKLIST FOR CUSTOMER SELFSERVICE
Your Pages is based on Microsoft.net technology. It is connected directly via security solutions to the back-end systems at Trondheim Energy. It is imbedded in Trondheim Energy’s public web portal.
The following is a checklist for the implementation of customer self-service, based on our experiences:
- The main objectives for the implementation, in Trondheim Energy, was to reduce work load in the call centre and improve customer satisfaction
- The scope of the implementation, which includes the processes that should be accessible via the web
- The marketing of the new services (so far the marketing has been done by the call centre, directly to the customer)
- The education of personnel to enable the web services as a tool for the call centre
- The impact on business and work processes, which will change if efficiency is increased
- The enterprise architecture – how should it fit into your present architecture?
The implementation of Your Pages has so far been a success for both Trondheim Energy and Trondheim Energy’s customers. The project has been executed through close cooperation between Trondheim Energy, Enita and TietoEnator