Utilita, one of Britain’s leading suppliers of Smart Pay As You Go Energy, has recruited a digital 'workforce' to relieve their human counterparts of laborious, time-consuming tasks and make the business more efficient.
The company is deploying AI (Artificial Intelligence)-enabled digital workers alongside its operational teams to optimise customer experience, speed up processes and free up staff for high value, rewarding activities.
Within the first 12 months, Utilita has automated 24 processes across the business using Thoughtonomy’s award-winning SaaS-based Intelligent Automation platform. They include switching customers from credit agreements to pre-pay schemes, ordering new pre-payment top-up cards for customers and handling the transfer.
Previously the Contact Centre team carried out the processes manually, checking various data systems, validating information and sending a series of emails to the customer as well as the card processing company detailing the payment request.
Cloud-based digital workers now execute all the required steps 24 hours a day, seven days a week, reducing the average time it takes to bring customers on board and ensuring they can access critical services at all times.
Welcoming in new customers efficiently is vital in supporting growth in the highly competitive energy marketplace. In February 2019, Utilita 'onboarded' 31,000 from failed Scottish provider, Our Power, followed, in September 2019, by another 35,000 from Manchester-based Eversmart. In both instances digital workers were used to support the verification of details and the set-up of new accounts across a range of CRM and billing systems, which was critical in completing the acquisition effectively.
Another benefit of the new strategy is the focus on automating a range of Field Services processes. Digital workers are now scheduling appointments for field engineers to perform installs and meter checks. As a result, the team has eliminated wasted site visits (where commercial customers were not yet connected to Utilita’s energy supply), leading to significantly higher rates of engineer utilisation.
Taking automation to the next level, Utilita is now training AI-enabled digital workers to read, categorise and forward more than 2,000 customer queries each week to the correct customer service team. Groundbreaking use of natural language processing (NLP) will ensure that queries as varied as change of tenancy details through to rescheduling engineer visits can be actioned sooner. It means customer service teams can dedicate their time to resolving queries rather than being tied up in logging communications for regulatory reporting purposes and attaching documents to workflows.
The long-term Intelligent Automation programme forms a critical part of Utilita’s overall IT Transformation strategy that moves technology from a support service to becoming the central focus of the company’s efforts to create sustainable differentiation within the marketplace.
Ian Burgess, Director of IT at Utilita, said: “We’re already seeing the positive impact that digital workers can deliver to both our customers and our own team, but we’re really only starting to scratch the surface when it comes to the potential benefits of Intelligent Automation.
"Over the next few years, we will look to incorporate Artificial Intelligence, such as Natural Language Understanding and Sentiment Analysis technologies, so that our digital workers are able to fulfil more sophisticated tasks.
"We are putting Intelligent Automation at the very centre of our wider IT transformation programme, making it integral to the design of key initiatives such as enabling and promoting customer self-service through mobile apps and online platforms. This was one of the most critical factors in our decision to work with Thoughtonomy. Their cloud-based platform provides us with the flexibility and functionality we need as we embark on this exciting journey.”
The automation team is now setting its sights on more complex internal processes in order to help drive benefits to staff directly. For example, routine employment reference requests no longer take up time for the HR team. The next step will be introducing a new automated 'onboarding' process in which virtual workers will set up email addresses, payment details and access to systems for new employees, allowing the HR team to focus on the human aspects of welcoming new colleagues into the business.
Terry Walby, CEO of Thoughtonomy, said: “Technology innovation is absolutely essential to differentiation and growth in a fiercely competitive energy market.
"Utilita has recognised the potential for Intelligent Automation to deliver on digital transformation goals, both now and in the future. They are already reaping the benefits in terms of business efficiency but, as they scale up their automation programme and incorporate AI, they are now perfectly placed to drive business performance and agility.
"This is when Intelligent Automation really starts to become a game-changer, opening up new revenue streams and enabling organisations to pursue new opportunities which simply would not be feasible or affordable with a traditional resourcing model.”
Thoughtonomy enables organisations to enhance the productivity of their workforce through the intelligent automation and digitization of knowledge work. It uses AI and robotic process automation software to emulate how people work, allowing healthcare providers to add flexible resources to their team without disruption and delivering rapid ROI.
Utilita is one of Britain’s leading suppliers of Smart Pay As You Go Energy. The company was established in 2003 with a vision of helping those households who were being badly served and overcharged by the Big Six – primarily the prepay market. Using its smart meter technology, Utilita puts customers in control of their energy usage and spend and estimates it has saved Britain’s hard-pressed households more than £500m since 2010
The company serves approximately 800,000 customers, managing around 1.3million meters. It employs 1,400 people.