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Juiced Up Self-Help
European energy provider ScottishPower tones its customer service with a new Web site that allows customers to more effectively help themselves.
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ScottishPower supplies energy to more than 5.2 million homes and businesses in the United Kingdom, but the company was running out of steam when it came to answering its own customers' queries. As a leading developer and provider of renewable energy products in the U.K., ScottishPower understands the importance of conservation. Its call center, however, was no hydropowered watermill. A flood of calls, emails, and customer demands was causing the call center to lag behind on customer call response times. ScottishPower wondered: How to lower call volume without compromising service? The company looked for a solution similar to the one it had used for its own green energy project. Just as its windmills propelled themselves without the need of an outside electrical source, customers should be able to answer their own service questions without the need for a representative. ScottishPower turned to Graham Technology, a provider of contact center services and software. The two together embarked on ScottishPower's Online Energy Project in 2004. Previously, ScottishPower's Web site was "effectively a pilot and had therefore contained only a few key online account management functions," says Nicola Morrison, product manager for Internet development at the energy company. To best help enable online self-service, the companies first targeted the customer issues that were the most common and the easiest to solve. Anil Nayar, technical lead at Graham Technology, says that before the implementation, "When customers forgot their password, they emailed the company. There was a constant need to annoy the call center agent to get their password." Additional problems, including payments, viewing past and current bills, amending and generating bills, and meter readings, were causing hours of unnecessary call time when they could have been more quickly and easily dealt with by customers themselves. ScottishPower, in conjunction with Graham Technology, decided that the way to solve this self-service issue was to create a new Web site--with a similar look and feel of the old site--that would allow a customer to log on and manage her account without the need for agent intervention. After some research conducted by ScottishPower to find what its customers would want in a new Web site, the company went forward with the implementation. "We decided on a big bang approach," Nayar says. Instead of a gradual introduction of different pieces over time, the company went for a single, phased implementation during which the old site was decommissioned and the new ScottishPower.com flowed in its place. According to the companies, the research, development, and testing spanned nine months; the implementation took a mere three days.
The Online Energy Project went live in July of 2005, and within the year, ScottishPower was seeing a marked reduction in calls and emails to its centers (and with that a sharp decrease in money spent on customer service). Customers responded well to the new site, and ScottishPower realized a 25 percent reduction of calls into the contact center. The number of customer emails went down to 60 percent of its original volume. This allowed some call center staff to be relocated to other areas to better build ScottishPower's business. "This [new Web-site self-service] solution has helped customers realize that they need to put an effort in to keep on top of their bills," Nayar says. The new site gives customers the opportunity to have questions answered, meter readings submitted, and bills paid. They can also learn how to lower their monthly rates with tips like "Only boil the water you need and you could save enough money in a year to buy your tea bags." With both energy and money saved on all sides, everybody's happy and ScottishPower can continue to live up to its marketing slogon: Energy people trust. The payoff By upgrading its Web site with Graham Technology, ScottishPower:
  • saw a 25 percent reduction of calls into the contact center;
  • cut customer service emails by 40 percent; and
  • allowed some staff to be relocated, streamlining company effectiveness.
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