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How Chatbots & AI Are Changing the Face of Energy Providers

By Consult Energy
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Everywhere you look, it seems like artificial intelligence and automation is on the rise. From smart homes to driverless vehicles and now even making its way into the energy sector – machines are now able to perform just as well as, and in some cases even better than, their creators.

That may sound like a scary dystopian concept, but AI and automation is surprisingly widely accepted by society these days. Just think about it, when was the last time you ordered a McDonald’s from an actual person rather than the digital pay points? Or paid for your top up shop in Tesco’s using a regular till instead of self-checkout? We’re getting more and more used to handing over previously “human” tasks to machines, and it doesn’t stop at the day to day life admin either.

With the ability to process and interpret huge amounts of data, machines are now smart enough to be able to learn from and automate entire programmes from advanced analytics to outage prediction – the energy industry can benefit massively from machine learning and artificial intelligence.

With more and more energy companies opting to automate parts of their operations with AI and chatbots, online customer service in particular, we’re starting to see a shift in what the customer comes to expect from online touchpoints with their suppliers. You’d be forgiven for thinking it would be the big six leading the change but on the contrary, they tend to actually be quite slow on the uptake where innovation is concerned. It’s actually predominantly the challenger brands and independent energy companies like Octopus Energy and Utilita who are dominating the top 10 in customer satisfaction reports from uSwitch for best online experience.

Some newer companies like Pure Planet have gone completely app based, encouraging customers to self-serve for meter readings, usage tracking and payments. While this might seem a little too hands off to some, Pure Planet have landed themselves an impressive 8.6/10 score on Trustpilot so they clearly appeal to their target demographic.

AI and chatbots have taken the energy market by storm in recent years, with big names such as British Gas making the most of this emerging technology. The promise of 24/7 support for simple straightforward tasks like submitting meter readings is something that appeals to customers – in fact, many don’t actually want an actual conversation anymore where the day to day stuff is concerned.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses for the technological innovators in the energy industry, harnessing the power of AI does pose something of a risk when things go wrong. Those seamless, down to earth conversations between man and machine that many strive for become impossible if the technology isn’t advanced enough.

Have you ever come across a glitch on an entirely automated online journey? There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to access the information you need through a service that’s designed to make finding whatever you’re looking for easier and the end up being completely unable to speak to a human being.

What’s more, with online experience factoring so heavily on review sites like Trustpilot, the pressures on supplier are mounting ever higher to get it right. Given the risks, it’s no surprise that some suppliers choose to keep robots out of it entirely if they’re not convinced they can integrate with AI that’s advanced enough.

Of course, as with any big change to the status quo, there can often be a pendulum effect that moves things in completely the other direction. Some energy companies have opted to keep hold of their human touch by forgoing the chatbots in favour of person to person dialogue in a bid to appease the more technophobic customer. But can this way of thinking ever be sustainable in the energy sector, which has historically been driven by innovation?

Whether suppliers choose to incorporate a chatbot in customer service or not, having a web portal is a must to stand out for online experience. With self-serve options popping up all around us, people are becoming more and more accustomed to this level of autonomy – an online portal is all about ease of access to information and the ability to self-serve for the customer, and can be a major cost saver for suppliers when it comes to overheads.

Striking the right balance between a super futuristic entirely automated customer experience and retaining that all-important human touch is a difficult one to master, but it can be done. Octopus Energy has a healthy mix of self-serve online options while maintaining a very hands on and approachable customer service operation – their CEO even responds personally to complaints that can’t be dealt with through their digital channels.

The trick is not to use one in place of the other, but instead use one to complement the other. Perhaps one day we’ll be in the position where the tech is smart enough to manage the entire customer journey, but for now maybe don’t go replacing everyone in your business with a bot just yet!

If you’ve got a Business and Customer Operations role you’d like to fill, get in touch with me Joseph Hewitt on 0121 633 3030.

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Added 3 days ago

Communications Executive

Job Reference: 341816

  • Location

    London

  • Money

    25,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 4 days ago

Marketing Engagement Executive

Job Reference: 341569

  • Location

    London/ Nottingham

  • Money

    25,000-30,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 15 Jun 2022

Economic Regulation Manager (Price Control)

Job Reference: 340073

  • Location

    Hybrid - London

  • Money

    £50,000 - £60,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 09 Jun 2022

Environmental Delivery Support

Job Reference: 337152

  • Location

    West Midlands- Open to UK wide

  • Money

    £55-67K

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 08 Jun 2022

Legal Counsel

Job Reference: 336735

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Added 26 May 2022

Project Manager

Job Reference: 334605

  • Location

    Buckinghamshire

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Added 26 May 2022

Project Manager

Job Reference: 334605

  • Location

    South London

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    50,0000

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Added 23 May 2022

Data Migration Specialist

Job Reference: 333765

  • Location

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Added 23 May 2022

Business Case Advisor

Job Reference: 333575

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Added 20 May 2022

Head of Procurement and Vendor Management

Job Reference: 333416

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Added 18 May 2022

Senior Customer Engagement Delivery Manager

Job Reference: 330579

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Added 17 May 2022

Compliance Governance Officer

Job Reference: 330355

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