Energy Company Sends IVR Upstream

Stream Energy almost grew too fast for its own good, and the good of its contact center. Started just two-and-a-half years ago in Dallas, the company’s customer base escalated to 110,000 subscribers halfway through its first year, and today has 300,000 customers. But the company, which prides itself on top-notch customer service, had one big piece missing from the puzzle: a high-quality contact center. The only way callers could access information or ask questions was through one of the company’s 120 live operators. Without an IVR, call routing, or CTI, Stream Energy’s subscribers faced long hold times, while the company ran the risk of disappointing its fast-growing customer base.

To cure its internal ailment, Stream Energy worked with Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories to develop a more sophisticated and convenient customer experience. Today, the IVR hosts directed-dialogue prompts and a selection of self-service options for checking account information, making payments, and finding brick-and-mortar payment locations. Greg Martin, manager of special projects at Stream Energy, says 25 percent of incoming calls from customers are resolved through self-service. He also notes that speech was the obvious choice.
"We recognize that there are expectations in the market that customers should be able to speak their desires to these self-service systems rather than punching in a 14-digit account number," Martin states. "Customers have different preferences about how they want to interact with their energy provider; we recognized those preferences and enabled the technology."
The new IVR is run on Genesys’ Customer Interaction Management Platform, which allows its customers to integrate other Genesys software into existing applications. Martin says the simple integration was a selling point for Stream Energy in  both cost and future opportunities for enhanced customer service. Stream Energy plans to integrate other channels of communication, such as email, Web chat, and SMS, into the existing customer communication infrastructure. Of course, buying all the components of the IVR from one company saves Stream Energy money, says Martin.
In developing the platform, which runs on speech recognition software from Nuance Communications, the company focused on catering the application to customers, not company structure. "A lot of call centers have the goal of deflecting calls from customers, and attempting to push or drive customers to the system" Martin adds. "Our goal really was to allow the self-service channel to those customers who desire to use it. We kept thinking, ‘How would a customer want this designed?’ rather than seeing it from a company perspective."

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