Utility Company Simplifies the Agent Experience with Vistio

Challenge

A Vistio customer in the utilities industry provides electricity and natural gas to millions of customers across a multi-state region. Their customer contact center serves not only their own clients but after a number of recent acquisitions, it also serves the clients of a number of other utility groups.

For this organization, supporting utilities in several states was going to be complex. Utilities are highly-regulated and each state’s commission identifies a different set of rules and processes that utility companies must follow in order to successfully handle client calls in their contact center. Financial penalties for violating these industry regulations can often exceed $10K per day or there can be sizable annual penalties for not meeting service metrics.

In 2019, the company’s contact center was experiencing a high rate of call failures—calls which were improperly handled and led to repeat calls or additional costs. Due to the recent acquisitions, each contact center agent was tasked with learning not just how to handle each call type, but how to handle each call type in the way that each utility needed it handled. Each utility’s unique approach caused a significant amount of confusion among agents and led to an unacceptable rate of call failures as well as increased handle times, decreased first call resolution, and decreased customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores. Even processes that were standard across all clients—the call opening, authentication, and closing satisfaction questions, for example—were not completed accurately by most agents. And the challenge was especially difficult for newer agents who required significant training before they could start answering calls. Even with this increased amount of training, many new agents experienced considerable uncertainty handling those calls before they got comfortable in their roles.

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In addition to increased call failures, the call center saw unnecessary costs associated with improperly handled calls. Some agents mistakenly promised to replace equipment such as water heaters or they unnecessarily sent a technician out to investigate a client issue that could have been resolved over the phone. With each technician dispatch costing the company up to $300, the company was experiencing a ripple effect of poor call handling which resulted in poor customer service and increased operational costs, a lethal combination.

To combat this, they attempted to standardize many of the processes across all of their utilities. They developed a comprehensive knowledge base which listed out every process in detail. What they soon discovered was that state regulations prevented them from standardizing many processes and their knowledge base, while very detailed, was difficult and time-consuming to use so it didn’t reduce the number of call failures.

They needed a way to simplify their agents’ job and provide them with the information needed to better help clients across their portfolio. And they needed it quickly as they were about to acquire two additional utilities.

“It helps structure my call, sometimes I get lost in where I was at, and it reminds me where I was at and it also reminds of new statements that I need to say.”

—Brittain R.

Solution

The customer implemented Vistio to guide their agents through the complex nuances of each customer service scenario with a simple point-and-click interface so every call was executed exactly to the specifications laid out in their knowledgebase and in accordance with all of the requirements that the utility commissions stipulated. Over the course of the three-month implementation, the Vistio team set up a number of workflows to guide agents through their most challenging and most frequent call types.

The contact center management team felt that Vistio would be the perfect solution for them as it simplified what had been a very complex job for their agents, allowing them to dedicate more energy to supporting customers, while also adhering to specific regulations and the various policies and processes that each state required. They began the implementation with a small test group to gauge the effectiveness of the Vistio solution and to test their hypothesis.

“I enjoy using Vistio on every call. It helps manage our calls with guidance and easy workflow to work with depending on the type of call. Vistio makes it easier on my handle time, processes, and ensuring satisfaction with our customers.”

—Octavia H.

Results

Almost immediately post-implementation, the customer noticed a significant difference in performance between agents in the Vistio test group and those who were not. Most significantly, with Vistio’s guidance agents in the test group were getting higher quality scores and failing far fewer calls.

Along with workflows to guide agents, Vistio’s reporting features provided each agent with a report card of how they did the previous day, showing them such things as their handle time and how much time they were away from their desk. The reports also showed management which agents might need more coaching. Previously, management had been spending more than an hour a day manually compiling and distributing results to each agent. With Vistio, those reports were compiled automatically, allowing managers to spend more time analyzing and acting on results instead of compiling them.

CSAT Improvement: Continued improvement over four years, increasing scores by 3+ points and capturing 60% of remaining possible CSAT score.

The customer also found that Vistio was able to reduce new agent training to just 18 days from 25 so they were able to move agents into production much faster without sacrificing call quality. Now each customer gets the experience they deserve whether the agent they’re talking to is a new hire or a veteran CSR with years of experience. And since each call is now handled correctly, costs from unnecessary truck rolls have been eliminated.

Reaction from both agents and management was overwhelmingly positive. New agents loved the guidance that Vistio provided and considered it to be an invaluable lifeline during more difficult calls. Management was impressed with Vistio’s ability to provide analytics on call handling in real time and its ability to unearth issues with specific agents who needed guidance. Even tenured agents who were initially skeptical of Vistio’s ability to improve their calls love using the tool and couldn’t imagine life without it.

Quality Improvement: Quality increased 5 percentage points as the number of critical call fails dropped 54%.

Eventually, the client rolled out Vistio for over 175 agents for every call type, standardizing the call opening, authentication, and closing for every call. Now 100% of the call center agents are successfully using Vistio.

In the future, the client expects to have over 250 agents using Vistio for their high bill season. They are also planning on expanding the number of workflows they use, rolling out Vistio in additional locations, expanding Vistio into other languages, and Integrating Vistio with additional systems. A small group has also started working with the Vistio team to integrate Artificial Intelligence that will help more accurately diagnose high bills and reduce dispatching trucks unnecessarily.

Increased First Call Resolution: First call resolution increased 3.6 percentage points as 36% fewer calls required a second call.

And finally, Vistio has helped the client win more business. Because of the effectiveness of the Vistio solution, call quality and customer satisfaction improved to the point where the client was able to successfully support customers from their two new acquisitions.

“I love Vistio I feel lost when I don’t have it in front of me, it helps me take control of call and verify all the customers info.”

—Maria M.

Key statistics:

  • 64% reduction in critical failures
  • First Call Resolution increased 7.8 points from 85.5% to 93.3%
  • 21% increase in QA scores improved from 7.87 to 9.52
  • The company has a very specific set of standards for what constitutes a successful call and their goal is for 85% or more of the calls to be successful. Over the 14 months from the start of 2019 through February 2020, all experienced agents (on the job for at least 90 days) collectively achieved 85% success for the month only one time (85.58% in Apr. 2019). Since Mar. 2020, the same group has achieved 85% every month with scores over 87% in July and September and 88.66% in August.

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Let’s face it. Contact centers do a lot of unproductive things for their agents and customers. And nobody knows this better than people in the industry. On our blog we talk about the future of the contact center and how to fix what isn’t working.

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