The events of the last few years have left Australians feeling increasingly worried about the access and reliability of electricity and gas.
Reliability issues plagued Australia in 2022, when the country narrowly avoided blackouts after several coal-fired plants experienced shortages and outages, while the war in Ukraine spiked gas prices. This has led to an urgent warning from the Australian Energy Market Operator, stating that Australia’s east coast could face blackouts from 2026, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, where more than half of Australia’s population resides.
Australians left in the dark with rising power bills
With some states facing an increase of up to 30 per cent on bills in the coming months, the spiralling of electricity and gas prices are leaving more Australians in the dark, concerned they can no longer afford to cook, heat their homes and run their business.
The effects of an increasingly unpredictable climate are also evident, with wild weather events such as extreme storms, floods and bushfires leaving Australians stranded without power for hours and days at a time. Experts are predicting that the likelihood of these climate-related power outages will grow, posing significant risks to Australia’s critical infrastructure. As an island nation, Australia’s long rail and grid networks are threatened by rising sea levels or are in disaster risk areas.
Australians are finding themselves paying more for a service that can be unreliable and in these challenging moments, customers are looking to their energy providers for support and expect to have their issues resolved as quickly as possible. It is in these challenging moments that having a specialised customer experience team becomes critical.
Empathy becomes central to customer care
TSA Group Operations Manager Dylan D’Avoine says his team, which works with a national energy provider, has helped customers through the worst of times.
“It is essential to have a team that understands the urgency around enquiries in the utilities sector. We have supported customers through the flooding events in New South Wales, and it can be incredibly distressing to be without power. While our priority is to resolve issues as efficiently as possible, our approach is anchored in care and empathy.”
TSA Group Operations Manager Kelly Whippy manages the outsourced customer care team for an energy connection service.
“We now have many more customers enquiring about price comparisons to get the best deal we can offer. Customers are also seeking clarity about price increases and wanting to understand why their bills are getting higher. Having a deep understanding of the utilities market is key to helping customers navigate these challenges.”
Importance of resolving enquiries on first contact
Outsourced contact centres track the efficiency of resolving customer issues by measuring the rate of first call resolutions. First call resolution is particularly salient when dealing with customer enquiries about gas or electricity supply.
Mr D’Avoine says the urgency and significance of an event such as a power outage is unparalleled.
“As customer care specialists, we balance competing enquiries with varying levels of urgency, but resolving issues for utilities customers is an absolute priority. You are sometimes dealing with dangerous situations, where people have life support or medical equipment that must be connected to power. Resolving or escalating these issues for a resolution the first time a customer calls is vital.”
Tracking first call resolution is not the only added benefit of outsourcing customer care. Utility companies can also access technology that is designed by customer experience specialists.
Ms Whippy says this is especially useful when new customers sign up for an energy connection.
“Utilising technology such as chatbots can reduce the need to speak to someone on the phone and helps speed up the sign-up process. This fast and easy process might only take 10 minutes and it also means people can sign up or submit enquiries at any time of the day.”
But this technology can’t replace the years of training, experience and specialty provided by customer care consultants. And while first call resolution is a key metric, Mr D’Avoine says there is a fine balance between delivering efficient customer care and providing sufficient information.
“Our focus is providing high quality customer care and ensuring the customer is comfortable and satisfied with the responses they receive. This means our agents can sometimes spend half an hour on the phone with a customer, but that isn’t a concern if it means the customer walks away with sufficient information and feeling like they were being heard.”
Upskilling team members for challenging situations
Ms Whippy says TSA Group takes learning and development seriously, ensuring team members have as much information as possible to deliver a smooth customer experience.
“We have a comprehensive knowledge management system which helps our agents through scenario training and FAQs so they can accurately and efficiently handle customer enquiries,” she says.
Providing that assurance to customers is backed by an empathy-first approach.
“We know it’s a tough time out there and if we can make someone’s experience a little bit better by being caring and empathetic, we will certainly do that,” Mr D’Avoine says. “We are connecting homes and connecting families, and we are not trying to rush off the phone or take shortcuts in that critical process.”
Providing quality customer experience is important at the best of times, but even more so in the worst of times. Having a customer care team that is knowledgeable, experienced and focused on providing a swift resolution provides certainty to customers during these uncertain times.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX consultancy and contact centre services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.