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Opower expands platform to improve utility customer experience

Published: 19 February 2015 - Marianne Evans

Opower, providing cloud-based software for the utility industry, has unveiled the next generation of its customer engagement platform, Opower 6. The expanded platform, which includes a new Customer Care solution, will help utilities improve customer experience while driving bottom-line business results, reducing cost-to-serve, increasing customer satisfaction and offering new products and services.

“It is more important than ever for utilities to be customer-centric, but real customer engagement is a unique and complex challenge in the utility sector,” said Opower CEO Dan Yates. “We’re investing in our platform to help utilities rise to meet that challenge. By getting the right information to the right customers at the right times, our platform delivers mission-critical results for utilities.”

Globally, utilities spend $30bn a year on customer operations, with the largest expenditures in billing and call center operations, but despite this massive investment, research shows that customer interactions have room for improvement, with a recent study from IDC Energy Insights predicting that over the next 12 months one in every two Western European energy retailers will invest in a new customer care solution. The study also revealed that one in every four utility customer operations teams expects to invest in enhancing and/or upgrading their existing billing solution.

"In attempts to differentiate from competitors and improve their image, European utilities are investing in their customer care solutions and taking a step toward omni-channel management," said Roberta Bigliani, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa for IDC Energy Insights. "This is especially important when customer care is provided across a myriad of channels from call centers, to online, to mobile apps, to social media, when it is imperative that energy retailers have a holistic view of a client, irrespective of channel selection."

In particular, billing is a painpoint for both customers and utilities. Opower’s first customer care offering, Billing Suite, focuses on reducing high bill call volume and call center handle time, while increasing customer satisfaction. In early tests, clients using these products have reduced billing related calls by up to 19%.

Opower’s Billing Suite features timely notices and powerful analytics that allow utilities to improve satisfaction and lower cost to serve when customers receive a high bill. Specifically, the Billing Suite includes:

-     High Bill Alerts to let customers know if they are heading towards a high bill and how they can adjust their energy use before the end of the billing period. This tool also allows utilities to proactively resolve customer questions.

-     Bill Arrival Notifications, which give e-billing customers helpful context about the main drivers of their energy use. The notifications also give utilities an opportunity to market relevant programs and services.

-     Billing Advisor, that arms utility call center staff with personalised insights to help them have more informed and productive calls with customers, which can help increase customer satisfaction and lower average call times.

In addition to the new Customer Care solution, Opower 6 includes a broad set of upgrades to Opower’s platform that provide tools and analytics to all clients. With the release, Opower’s segmentation and targeting capabilities will become available to all clients, enhanced customer intelligence tools will give clients the ability to more easily track the progress of their Opower programs, and new customer level analytics such as program propensity scoring will help utilities better target customers for participation in non-Opower programs.  

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