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With the deregulation of markets in many areas across the U.S., competition is heating up for players in the utility sector. Electricity, gas and water providers are competing on the basis of costs, eco-friendly production and customer service. Building efficient production and delivery systems and finding green energy sources are the core competencies of utilities. But customer care may be best when it is placed in the hands of a specialty provider. Here are four reasons why it makes sense to turn this function over to an outsourcing partner:

1. Outsourcing helps manage the costs of customer care.

Utility providers are experts in building electrical, gas and water infrastructure and delivering supplies to customers. But customer care may not be a core competency, and it can be costly to set up an in-house contact center: You need to invest in facilities, telecommunication and network infrastructure, desks and cubicles, and computer stations. You need to establish HR recruiting and training teams, and a budget for salaries and benefits … and the list goes on.

It makes better sense to turn the customer care function over to a specialist provider who has already made the investment in facilities and infrastructure, and who can handle the hiring and training of staff. Your costs become transactional and controlled by contractual agreements, which can make annual and long-term budgeting and planning easier. Good cost management, including transparency of cost factors, is also helpful when the time comes to explain rate increase requests to regulators and customers.

2. As more competitors enter the utilities sector, customer care becomes a differentiating factor.

Deregulation of the industry has opened the doors for more competitors. Electricity providers, for example, will battle for a big share of the market by establishing themselves as leaders in low rates, reliability, eco-friendliness and customer service.

Delivering reliable, efficient power through various means is a utility’s core competency, but customer care is often better left in the hands of an experienced specialist provider. Utilities should find a contact center services provider that understands the industry and is prepared to handle account creation, billing inquiries, power outage reports and other issues 24 hours a day in a professional and friendly manner.

3. Utilities can gain access to the latest CRM and contact center technology.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are constantly evolving and improving, and contact center service providers will typically invest in the latest and greatest CRM systems. Today’s CRM tools allow agents to provide customer care through multiple channels, from voice to email to SMS text and webchat. Many CRM systems are equipped to gather valuable data from customer engagements and transactions, allowing you to learn how to better serve customers and improve the efficiency of your business processes. Outsourcing to a specialist provider allows you to gain access to all these benefits and avoid the risk of investing in—and being locked into—a poor-performing CRM system.

4. Capacity: Service providers are equipped for 24-hour contact center service.

Utilities that implement in-house customer contact centers may only have the resources and staff to offer 9 to 5 or less-than-24-hour service every day. There’s nothing worse for a customer with an outage or billing issue to reach a recorded message asking them to call back later.

Outsourced contact centers have the capability to deliver “first-shift” customer care 24 hours a day by distributing calls to agents across the globe. For example, a U.S. customer who experiences an outage at 3 a.m. can reach an English-speaking agent working a first shift at the outsourcer’s call center facility in the Philippines. It’s a much better scenario than having to speak with a sleepy night-shift agent at the utility’s in-house call center. Also, during peak call times, contact center service providers can easily shift the call volume to another facility—customers get their calls answered quickly and spend less time on hold.

Are you ready to choose a contact center partner who understands the needs of the utilities industry? Reach out to one of our contact center specialists today.

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