CASE STUDY NEDERLANDSE ENERGIE MAATSCHAPPIJ (NLE) Energy for growth. How online self-service is allowing NLE to dominate the competition

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1 CASE STUDY NEDERLANDSE ENERGIE MAATSCHAPPIJ (NLE) Energy for growth How online self-service is allowing NLE to dominate the competition

2 Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij (NLE) NLE was founded in 2005, challenging traditional suppliers as the Dutch energy market deregulated. It is now the Netherlands largest independent provider with 750,000 customer connections. With an obsessive focus on customer service, competition busting prices and a commitment to green energy, NLE has seen consistent year-onyear growth of more than 20% and has one of the highest Net Promoter Scores in the industry. Country Netherlands Challenge To deliver exceptional customer service while maintaining the lean operating model that makes NLE s price competitiveness achievable. Results Handling around 44% of all customer contact Contact per customer reduced from 1.9 to 0.6 per annum Complete negation of certain call types including bill queries Cost to serve down 20% within two months of implementation Allowing NLE to manage impressive growth since 2011 without additional customer service headcount 90% answer accuracy Improved motivation among NLE agents, who are free to focus on complex customer issues while routine enquiries are dealt with by Denise Contributing to NLE s steadily rising Net Promoter and customer satisfaction scores among the highest in the industry A 50% reduction in customer churn Solution Denise, an online Virtual Assistant that uses natural language processing, semantic search protocols and an intelligent knowledgebase to provide accurate, relevant answers to over 330,000 questions asked during 189,000 customer interactions every year.

3 CASE STUDY NLE 3 NLE is unlike most energy businesses. Founded as the Dutch energy market deregulated, it quickly established itself as a powerful challenger brand.

4 4 CX Company Today it has 750,000 customer connections, is the market s largest independent player and continues to enjoy double digit growth year-on-year. Richard Benesti, NLE s Coordinator of Quality and Knowledge Management, puts NLE s success down to the new kind of relationship it has developed with energy consumers; one based on honesty, openness and fair prices. self-service. The truth is most people have better things to do with their time than speak with their energy company, says Richard. They prefer to serve themselves, providing companies give them tools to do so that are easy and efficient to use. So we determined to transform our website into a powerful self-service channel that now receives around 2 million visits per year. Honesty and keen prices are complemented by an obsessive approach to customer service, as Richard explains. Energy is a commodity, of course, and competing for customers on the basis of price alone is a race to the bottom. So, we have made customer experience the key differentiator in our business the thing that above all else sets us apart from the competition. NLE s reputation for service excellence is helping to win business and to hold on to it too; since 2011 NLE has reduced customer churn by 50% as NPS scores have soared. Keeping up In 2011 NLE s customer connections were rising towards half a million and the importance of keeping up with customers demand for service was beginning drive expansion in NLE s customer service team. At the same time, the company was watching with interest consumers growing enthusiasm for online One of Richard s colleagues had some experience with Virtual Agents and recommended this as an option. We looked across the market and almost gave up the search, says Richard. Most Virtual Agents we looked at were little more than an interface to a very standard set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) with little intelligence or adaptability. Then we came across CX Company. NLE was impressed by CX Company s technology, which was more advanced than anything they d seen, and welcomed their collaborative, businesslike approach. NLE had identified the top ten questions that came into its contact centre and realised that they actually quite simple and shouldn t need a live agent to resolve. Self Service Company agreed and began to build a business case for the introduction of a Virtual Assistant, Denise. The business case was impressive, says Richard, almost too much so, causing some of our board members to be sceptical. However, CX Company s confidence was justified. Within two NLE has been able to grow its customer base rapidly since 2011 without adding to its customer service headcount.

5 CASE STUDY NLE 5 months, calls to the contact centre had reduced by 15%, reducing NLE s cost to serve by around 20,000 a month. questions posed to Denise, this despite the fact that NLE s customer base has virtually doubled in size since Denise was introduced. Early and sustained success Customers took to Denise rapidly, says Richard. She now handles around 330,000 customer questions every year, roughly 44% of all customer contact, with 90% accuracy. And she gets a very positive response from our customers. Interestingly, however, for the past two or three years, calls to the contact centre have remained largely stable, as have the number of That s because CX Company, and Denise, have helped us, not just to deflect telephone calls to the self-service channel, but to eradicate many of the causes of customer contact. One of the things that most impressed Richard and his team about CX Company at the outset was their understanding of the energy industry and the intelligence they brought to the customer management discussion. They shared our view that the role of

6 6 CX Company Online is the number one communication channel choice for NLE customers. Richard Benesti, Coordinator of Quality and Knowledge Management, Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij customer service is not just to answer customers questions, but to solve the problems that give rise to those questions in the first place. The intelligent analysis that CX Company applies to customers use of Denise has allowed NLE to make several changes in company processes or communications that have reduced the need for contact. By looking at both online activity and contact centre interactions in tandem, NLE and Self Service Company have been able to eradicate whole call types. For example, says Richard, we used to get 4,000 calls a month from consumers asking when they would receive their annual bill. We now make that information clearly available on the website and receive none of those calls. That s because Denise not only answers questions but volunteers information. Appearing on several website pages, Denise proactively displays responses to three FAQ s, which vary depending on where the customer is on the site and what they are trying to do. Denise now answers billing queries before they arise, along with questions about switching, another common call type that has now been eradicated, Says Richard. All of this means that NLE has been able to grow its customer base rapidly since 2011 without adding to its customer service headcount. Being able to grow business without growing costs maintains our competitive market position and the low prices we are able to offer to customers, Richard affirms. A win with customers Many organisations that have tried to deflect contact centre calls to self-service channels without regard to the customer experience have seen customer satisfaction plummet. Not so at NLE, where careful design of the online self-service solution has met with widespread customer approval. There s no question in my mind that Denise has contributed significantly to the

7 CASE STUDY NLE 7 Sustained growth customers January January January January 2014 dramatic rise in NPS scores that we have enjoyed in recent years, says Richard. NLE s NPS score increased 28 points from 2011 to 2013 to minus14. We re not content with that, of course, says Richard. We re on target to be the first electricity company in Europe with a positive NPS score. NLE s customer satisfaction score (independently measured and benchmarked against competitors) also increased from 4.5 to 7.3 (out of a total possible score of 10) in the three years from NLE is now among the Netherlands top four providers for customer satisfaction. Looking to the future Richard believes Denise has much more to offer NLE and its customers. There s no question that CX Company had the best technology of any of the self-service providers we considered and that they have added value to our self-service journey at every stage. The next challenge we will face together is to integrate Denise to our CRM system, so that she will be able to answer specific questions about customers own accounts when they visit the My NLE private customer area of our site. She will recognise customers when they access the website and be able to access information safely and securely to frame her answers. NLE sees this as a natural evolution of it Virtual Assistant s capability. CX Company has allowed us to see that self-service, as well as being efficient and fast for the consumer, can also be personal and highly intelligent. We re looking forward to this challenge, confident that CX Company s collaboration and project management skills will ensure we reach our goal quickly!

8 Find out how CX Company can maximise the benefits of online self-service for your business.

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