BGE awarded for live text chat developed by AGENT511 to alleviate pandemic call volumes
by Jay Malin, AGENT511 Managing Director
Our client BGE earned Chartwell’s Bronze Customer Service Award for a new workflow that seamlessly routed callers seeking billing assistance from its IVR to live SMS text chat. Developed in partnership with AGENT511 and Oracle, the solution allowed CSRs to proactively mitigate any congestion associated with customers calling to establish payment arrangements or inquire about bill assistance programs as the COVID-19 moratorium deadline for service terminations approached in late 2020.
As the financial blow of the pandemic steepened Nationwide, Maryland state utility regulators imposed a moratorium on service terminations for utility customers. As the moratorium deadline approached, BGE wanted to act proactively to mitigate any congestion associated with customers calling to establish payment arrangements or inquire about bill assistance programs. As a result, BGE designed a new workflow that seamlessly routed callers seeking billing assistance from its IVR to live SMS text chat via AGENT511 and Oracle. A group of live text chat customer representatives was trained to handle the expected inquiries. The solution allows these CSR’s the ability to share web resources and forms via SMS text message.
The project was kicked-off in September 2020 with an approximate Thanksgiving deadline. The project team helped to drive requirements that include its IVR, Preference Center, and live chat vendors. The vendors integrated their respective platforms to create a seamless user experience. The IVR was programmed to trigger a SMS text message based upon business rules. The rules were specific to customers wishing to remediate bills and current volume thresholds. The text was sent via dedicated BGE short code by Preference Center and upon receipt of a new text from the customer, a session was created and forwarded to BGE’s live chat solution. Dedicated CSR’s responded to the two-way text messaging conversations and attempted to help resolve customer inquiries. Over 2,000 chat requests have been received to date, of which more than half resulted in a conversation between a CSR and customer. The benefit of text is both the asynchronous nature and ability for a CSR to handle multiple text sessions simultaneously. The complete solution was fully tested and deployed at Thanksgiving and CSR’s were trained and fully production ready by the Winter Holiday.
No doubt that live chat exists in the commercial space, but few have implemented SMS text chat, and especially in the utility vertical. Most live chat uses web and utilities have been slow to adopt live chat. While chat bot has been the topic of recent conversation, the ability for a CSR to handle multiple conversations simultaneously via simple, transactional SMS text is not readily deployed at leading utilities. Further, the solution sought to address the needs of a specific business process – namely, the potential for increases in billing questions with programmatically applied business logic to the integration between IVR and SMS text message. The solution paves the way for further enhancements such as natural language processing, automated language translation, and multimedia. This empowers BGE to both sustain its award-winning customer satisfaction as well as lead its utility and public sector peers.
Since the end of year deployment, BGE has conducted approximately 250 text calls monthly. Text sessions average 13 messages. The length varies from a few minutes in length but may last longer due to the asynchronous nature of text chat. When the call center is most congested, many customers are delighted by the experience. CSR’s also enjoy using the innovative tools and appreciate the opportunity to interact with customers seeking assistance via a new communication channel. Because the solution is Internet-based, CSR’s are able to use the solution remotely which fits nicely with the current remote work model brought about by the pandemic. As such, BGE continues to leverage this tool across business processes even as we approach, hopefully the light at the end of the tunnel.
Allow us to share our severe weather dashboard and data apps to keep customers informed when restoration times are long. AGENT511 is a leading provider of multichannel communications and is partnered with BGE, PECO, ComEd, Evergy, and City of Chicago to deliver text and mobile messaging for ad hoc alerts and personalized outage, leak, and billing notifications.