Northern Ireland Electricity Powers Customer Service with Voice

The arrival of competition in the energy market drove Northern Ireland Electicity (NIE) Supply, a power utility serving 758,000 home and business customers in Northern Ireland, to implement a speech-enabled customer self-service application recently.

The utility selected Northern Ireland-based SpeechStorm to host the application, which is powered by the VoiceObjects Server - Network Edition, a phone application server.

"It’s a fully hosted solution," says Oliver Lennon, CEO of SpeechStorm. "We have all the technology running on our platform, and use VoiceObjects as our tooling and run-time environment."

Once a call comes into the interactive voice response system, SpeechStorm’s proprietary ID and Verification solution identifies callers using their account number. Once authenticated, callers can use the application to receive account details, such as current balance and last payment information. The system, which is expected to process roughly 1 million calls per year, only handles account inquiries now, but SpeechStorm identified a number of other services that would be suitable for automation, including accepting payments and direct debits. Those functions are likely to be added soon. "Accounting inquiries are only Phase 1 of the implementation," Lennon says.

Retaining customers is essential during difficult market conditions, and customer experience is business-critical for NIE, says Jim Clendinning, NIE service development manager.

"It is imperative that we offer high-quality and efficient customer service by phone," he continues. "For many of our customers, the phone is the main way to contact us. The solution from VoiceObjects and SpeechStorm means we can offer a service which minimizes call waiting times and enables our customer service agents to deal with more complex inquiries. We also expect to see an increase in the efficiency with which calls are handled.

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