• June 24, 2011
  • By Koa Beck, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Utility Giant Re-Energized

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When outsourcer Aegis was given the opportunity to assist a leading energy retailer with outsourcing, the challenges included increasing market share, retaining customers, decreasing margins, maintaining load management, selling renewable energy, and increasing regulation in a deregulated environment.

The Fortune 1000 company, which chose to remain nameless, serves more than 2 million U.S. customers within a notably large state and offers energy efficiency solutions, renewable energy products, and customer service.

Partnering with Aegis in 2009, the utility had a standard 1-800 number for customers inquiring about a bill, service, or products. Customers would engage with an employee of Aegis rather than an employee of the company. The utility was performing well in terms of average hold time and call length, says Kevin Nolan, senior director of marketing at Aegis.

At that point, the company reached out to Aegis about possibly handling other initiatives, such as sales. The utility sought to expand its base by providing products, like an online thermostat, that allow customers to check their home temperature remotely. Aegis was deployed on a pilot project to sell said products to those who already were loyal customers.

“These were some of the higher-dollar customers and ones that had multiple billing locations. So that went very well,” Nolan notes. Cross-selling to these established customers proved to be a successful direct selling program.

Aegis also developed customized sales programs to identify customers with a higher tendency to buy based on credit risk, kilowatt usage, and loyalty. The three-step approach involved running credit scores, checking which customers had lived in their home for five years or more, and searching utility customers who cleared the first two hurdles to see which ones used more than 1,500 kilowatt-hours per month.

Implementing Aegis CRM Lite allowed agents to be more productive by constructing a knowledge base of frequently asked questions, scripts, and rebuttals.

“We found that it reduced talk time and call handle time,” Nolan says. “It was at their fingertips, and they could just reach in and pull something up on-screen without having to put the customer on hold and do some research.”

Moreover, Aegis found the developing bilingual support helped many calls go faster. Prior to such support, the company would host interpreter-assisted calls, which would lengthen call handle times. Nolan adds that with this particular client, the business was in areas with a huge Hispanic population, so the probability of incoming calls in Spanish was just as high as those in English.

Aegis also created customized business metrics based on Aegis’s experience in the vertical. Included were cost of acquisition and conversion, allowing the utility to learn the effectiveness of marketing programs and increase ROI.

“We found that our work with utilities had very, very close parallels with our very deep experience in financial services, our very deep experience in banking, and our experience in the telecom vertical as well,” Nolan recalls. “So the metrics were fairly similar that we could pull from our experience in those other areas and help our utility client.”

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