Powering Ahead: Taking PowerAssist to the Next Level

PowerAssist was launched in response to a December 2013 ice storm, which caused over a million outages across the northeast. Utilities experienced a significant spike in customer calls over a very short period, in some cases completely overwhelming their operations and customer service departments. Customers expressed frustration in their inability to connect with a live agent during this emergency situation.

PowerAssist’s 24×7 outage management contact centre is designed to scale for peak call volumes and widespread outages. Live agents with advanced skillsets troubleshoot issues, identify the root causes of outages, and log incidents using utility systems. Providing more than just enhanced customer service, the cost-effective solution addresses a common issue across control rooms: enabling operators to focus on restoring power by offloading calls to live agents.

Business Challenge

Util-Assist has been tracking customer call data since PowerAssist’s inception. Over the years, Util-Assist has learned that 85% of phone calls are to inquire about known outages. In parallel, one of Util-Assist’s key PowerAssist clients, Alectra Utilities, identified that the vast majority (73%) of its customers prefer technology-based channels of communication such as SMS, e-mail, and webchats rather than traditional call centre communication options. Together, these insights suggest that many simple inquiries are best addressed through self-service channels.

Customer expectations for choice, personalized service, and “everything on demand” are changing the way utilities need to operate. Utilities are discovering that they need to offer multiple contact channels to meet customer demands for convenience and speed.   

Util-Assist’s Solution 

PowerAssist was built on the premise that some utility customers always prefer live human interaction, especially during emergencies. Although that is still true, in situations where the same outage information is being delivered to multiple customers, customers can be better served through other modes of communication, accelerating access to live agents for customers with more complex issues. To deliver customer choice, Util-Assist introduced technology to enable customers to immediately get the answers they want through multi-channel self-serve options. Util-Assist’s solution satisfies 85% of inbound traffic through billboard messages, SMS messages, webchats, and e-mail. Live agents focus their attention on the customers who need or prefer human interaction, balancing live agent support and self service.

Other PowerAssist enhancements underway include empowering customers to select their preferred mode of communication for unplanned outages, which pivots outage management services from reactive to proactive. Util-Assist is also developing a single, seamless graphical user interface (GUI) to all utility systems that will expedite access to outage information for both agents and end customers.

Putting customers at the centre of technology solution decisions, the enhanced PowerAssist solution enables utilities to serve customers in the way they want to be served so that they can get answers faster than ever. This is more important now than at any time before—customers’ expectations of utilities have changed dramatically, and every touchpoint creates a customer experience (CX) that shapes the customer’s opinion of the brand. With CX becoming a growing focus for utilities, Util-Assist’s enhanced PowerAssist solution helps its utility clients position themselves as CX leaders.