Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the state’s largest electric company, serves nearly 700,000 businesses and residences in Oklahoma and western Arkansas, as well as a number of wholesale customers throughout the region. With eight power plants capable of producing 5,800 megawatts, Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) delivers electricity across an interconnected transmission and distribution system spanning 30,000 square miles.
Based in Oklahoma City, OG&E has a single call center serving the needs of its customers. 100 customer service representatives handle the 12,000 calls the utility company receives each day on topics such as new service requests, setting up payment schedules for past-due accounts and taking service outage reports, among other things.
No useful interaction without account data
Typically, callers to OG&E will dial the customer service number from their monthly bill and, when connected to a customer service agent, delve right into the details of their call – oftentimes to check payment status or request a different payment schedule. The agents were spending significant time listening to the customer without having any account data available, and therefore unable to make any requested changes until the customer provided their account number. When the customer data was finally retrieved, it was sometimes necessary to have the customers repeat their request.
Like many companies, OG&E also faced the challenge of cost-effectively handling a relatively high volume of calls. The company had a number of local and toll-free numbers directed to its call center, including two that went directly to an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) unit. The IVR was set up so that customers could schedule late-payment terms without the assistance of an agent, but usage rates were low, with many customers choosing to transfer to live assistance.
OG&E enlisted the help of a third-party vendor when service outages caused call volumes to spike. Leveraging this vendor enables OG&E to balance the number of its agents to regular service levels, but adds an operational cost that the company wanted to keep at a minimum. Yet another vendor was used to make outgoing calls for accounts that reached 10 days past-due, and OG&E wanted to move this activity in-house with an automated system to completely eliminate this cost.
Precise check spelling
To better handle the overall volume of calls and more efficiently serve its customers, OG&E embarked upon a process redesign of its telecommunications and call center solutions. The company organized a team of individuals responsible for business functions such as serving new customer requests, setting up payment schedules for past-due accounts and handling service outage reports, among other things. The newly formed cross-functional team compiled the company’s various call center needs into a single requirements definition.
“When we looked at the broad scope of the project, it became clear that we needed to improve our self-service offering, integrate our telephony and data systems, and implement outbound dialing capabilities,” said Kenny Quenzer, technology manager for the electric services business unit. The process redesign team set up a list of goals to achieve an eighteen-month return on investment:
- Increasing the amount of calls completed in self-service,
- Of the calls transferred to a live agent, deliver them along with customer account data,
- Reducing call handling times,
- Moving of service outage calls handled by a third-party vendor in-house,
- Assuming late payment notification calls in order to eliminate contracted services.
Integration with SAP…
OG&E consulted with industry analyst firms META Group and Gartner, and then proceeded to evaluate new self-service, computer telephony integration (CTI) and outbound dialing solutions. The company then selected Genesys, choosing Genesys Voice Platform to replace the self-service functionality of its existing IVR. Genesys Framework was chosen to provide CTI and Genesys Outbound Contact for its predictive dialing capabilities.
“One of the primary reasons OG&E chose Genesys was its open software platform. We weren’t required to buy specific hardware or use a proprietary programming language to write the applications,” said Quenzer. “It was very appealing to be able to use our existing hardware, buy any other kind of hardware we want, and have our own developers write the software to do what we need.”
In addition, Quenzer noted, OG&E had successfully used SAP R/3 Enterprise for a number of years, and Genesys’ ability to easily integrate with the SAP solution was an attractive feature. OG&E enlisted Genesys Professional Services and the SAP Voice Center team to implement and integrate the Genesys and SAP software. The new, speech recognition-based voice user interface and its integration with SAP R/3 was designed and built by the SAP Voice Center. SAP provides the dialog flow, prompt wording, and integration with the SAP backend. Customers then interact with the speech-based application. This ultimately is the driving force behind the extremely high automated completion rates.
OG&E was able to leverage the Genesys software to access customer data from the SAP solution as soon as the customer provides identifying information. In Quenzer´s opinion one of the reasons OG&E was successful with the project was to have the expertise of both Genesys and SAP.
…allows easy access to all kind of data
Now, when the customer states their account number, the Voice Platform application can immediately attach data to the interaction. The customer has easy access to their account balance and payment status, as well as being able to schedule payment terms that will then be recorded into SAP R/3.
For callers who need agent assistance, the integration of Genesys and SAP R/3 gives OG&E agents the customer data on their desk-top at the same time as they receive the call. This automatic supply of data eliminates the need for the customer to repeat identifying information, and also allows the customer service agent to provide personalized service.
OG&E customer care representative Christy Newbury remarked, “Having the customer data at our fingertips definitely makes calls easier to handle. We can address the customer by name and know both their account history and the nature of their call.”
Genesys Outbound Contact was implemented and scheduled to automatically dial customers whose accounts have become more than 10 days past due. The software has eliminated the need for contracting a third-party to make calls, and OG&E plans to use the system to automate service announcements in the future.
Significant reduction in handling times and costs
Today, all of the 12, 000 daily calls to OG&E go directly to the Genesys Voice Platform, using the new user interface which interacts directly with the SAP backend. More than 50 percent of calls for Installment Plans (where customers make credit arrangements) are now completed as a self-service transaction, significantly reducing the number of calls requiring agent assistance. The combined solution has enabled OG&E to reduce call handling times by 20 seconds on calls with screen pops.
Also, by adding an outage calls module, Genesys Voice Platform allowed OG&E to assume a significant number of outage calls handled by their third-party vendor. As opposed to previously when outage calls were directed to the vendor, today all outage calls are directed to OG&E and calls are sent to the vendor only during significant storms or other times when additional support is needed. OG&E has been able to accommodate 90 percent of the calls and has saved $20,000 in vendor costs per month – $240,000 annually.
On nearly 50 percent of inquiries, the solution is enabling customer data to be delivered to the agents at the time of the call, and the company is seeing increasing numbers as the system is fine-tuned and customers increasingly use the self-service application, where customers can use natural language to enter their account number rather than keying in account data. “The speech recognition technology of Genesys Voice Platform is making self-service more appealing to our customers,” noted Quenzer. “We’ve not only seen the cost benefit, but also have been able to improve the service experience for customers and agents alike,” Quenzer summarized.