Energy firm moves to online self-service

Scottish and Southern Energy hopes to cut admin by a fifth by letting cusstomers do it themselves online.

One of the UK's largest energy providers, Scottish and Southern Energy, is to develop its online customer service strategy with new web self-service portal technology.

The company is a long-term user of email contact and knowledge management systems from eGain.

But after nearly doubling its customer base from 4.5 million in 2004 to 8.5 million in 2007, the volume of the energy firm's customer queries has increased dramatically and it needed more from eGain.

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John Evans, Scottish and Southern Energy senior technical architect said email volumes particularly have grown from 2,500 a day four years ago to 42,000 today.

"We've experienced a steady but relentless growth in email volumes," he said. "Having deployed eGain's email management system in 2002, our customer service teams have been able to cope with this dramatic increase efficiently and effectively. However, we wanted to give our customers more options and further reduce the strain on our customer service team by introducing web self-service technology."

The utility firm will use its existing, centralised eGain Mail knowledge base to offer customers new ways to access information through features including frequently asked questions (FAQs), search, browse, guided help and virtual agents that will be available 24 hours a day.

"Our customer service agents currently have at least a 10-fold repetition with email enquiries," said Evans. "Encouraging more customer interaction through our website, the eGain self-service system can take away that repetition and free up our customer service staff to concentrate on more complex tasks. With the new system, we are aiming for 20 per cent email deflection."

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He added that the new portal would reduce support costs, shorten customer service queues and improve the overall customer experience.

Meanwhile, the self-monitoring feature will analyse and identify bottlenecks through user metrics and feedback, generating alerts and review tasks for the relevant content owners of the knowledge base.

And the software's context-sensitive escalation will provide Scottish and Southern with a continual record of each individual customer session, while escalating the interaction to an appropriate agent.

The firm will also upgrade its existing eGain Mail software as part of the web portal project, which is due to go live across its Perth headquarters and offices in Basingstoke, Reading and Portsmouth this July.

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