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Contact Energy – Using CX as the Trojan Horse for digital transformation

At the beginning of 2020 New Zealand’s Contact Energy appointed Tighe Wall as Chief Digital Officer, to take charge of their digital transformation journey. CXFocus editor Mark Atterby, talks to Tighe about Contact Energy’s success in driving enterprise wide change and improving the end-to-end customer journey.

Established some twenty years, Contact Energy has built an extensive network of renewable energy assets based on renewable hydro and geothermal energy sources. 80 -85 % of the electricity it produces is renewable. Contact has nearly 400,000 energy, gas, and broadband customers across New Zealand.

Recently, the company decided to expand beyond its core energy products.  Tighe Wall comments, “The company has been on a journey out of core energy. We have an adjacent gas business and we also have broadband. So, rather than traditional energy businesses, we’re looking at telcos, for example, as potential competitors”.

When it comes to offering exceptional experience for customers, however, Contact is not just competing with direct competitors but with every brand a customer interacts with. “When I consider the experiences we’re giving our customers, our competition isn’t just energy providers. It’s any experience that that customer has had on any other channel prior to their interaction with Contact Energy”.

“If they’re using our app, for example, and they had just reserved a taxi, they will compare and make judgements about the different interactions. So, our ambition is to provide the best service possible from any channel of any company, not just an energy company”.

CX is the Trojan Horse for digital transformation

Tighe Wall, Chief Digital Officer. Tighe is speaking at the
CX Management Disrupt Conference 18 – 20 May.

Contact had made some initial steps on its CX and digital transformation journey, prior to Tighe’s appointment. They had done a bit of data work, had built a mobile app, established an online self-service journey and did some optimisation of their contact centres. With some of those basics in place Contact brought Tighe in to accelerate and scale the transformation.

Tighe comments, “The outcome of a digital transformation should always be about better customer and employee experiences. We were fortunate when we started that the employees at Contact are very passionate about the experience we give our customers. So we used the goal of giving our customers great experiences as a way to digitise everything that sits behind those experiences.”

“It’s why we refer to CX as the Trojan Horse for digital transformation. It’s about attaching digital transformation and everything that comes with it, to something people get very excited about and that they can understand and believe in.”

Analysing the end-to-end customer journey

At the heart of Contact’s CX / digital transformation strategy was having a clear understanding of the end-to-end customer journey and identifying which channels and touchpoints needed to be redesigned and digitised. “The whole digital transformation program is geared toward looking at the end-to-end customer journey, analysing where the pain points exist, and going down the list and removing all these pain points. This results in significant improvements in CX, but also has positive impacts on our bottom line through lower cost to serve, higher conversion rates, reduced churn, and increased employee satisfaction”.

The first part of mapping out the end-to-end customer journey involved collecting data and feedback from customers about their experiences. Contact then mapped out each segment of that journey and examined the interactions and the data associated with each segment of the customer journey to identify all the pain points for customers.

“We looked at the call records. We examined email interactions. We did a lot of analysis to hone in on the biggest issues customers were having and what was driving the most complaints and service volumes. We then grouped them into categories and prioritised them. Our number one area for customer enquiries and complaints was around billing. Either people didn’t understand their bill, or had questions about the amount, or they wanted a refund”.

“So, to address the issues around billing we created a work stream called ‘Billing Reimagined’. We then brought together people from all the relevant teams within the organisation, who were connected to the billing process, into the ‘Billing Reimagined’ squad. We then gave this squad the tools to develop the solutions to solve all of those customer pain points.”

Contact has moved onto addressing other areas of the end-to-end customer journey with the same approach. They have developed a variety of squads and work streams to address a variety of pain points. Customer Service Representatives (CSR) often have very clunky tools, causing points of friction in the customer as well as employee experience. To address it there a work stream called CSR Tools.

There’s another squad and workstream to tackle the organisation’s broadband business as well as a team that’s redesigning the experience around customer messaging and the use of email.

Every solution or resolution is designed with extensive customer input. “When we design something to solve a paint point or enhance the experience, we want to end up with what our customers actually want, not just what we think they want. So we run focus groups as well as qualitative surveys and a very extensive customer feedback program, where we analyse the interactions we have with customers.”

“On a weekly basis we track our progress to see if we’re actually improving experiences for customers and what has been the result of the work undertaken by our teams.”

The road ahead

The first major milestone in Contact’s digital transformation was to obtain buy in from across the entire organisation, ensuring all stakeholders understood what needed to happen and why. The second milestone was being able to obtain that holistic view of their customers and understanding, at a broader level, the kind of service customers were getting and what they actually expected from the organisation.

The third milestone, according to Tighe, was the creation of a future state journey and roadmap. He comments, “It was about getting creative, looking at all the available tools out there and then putting together a reasonable but also pretty aggressive view about the kind of service we wanted to give our customers”.  “And now, we’re going from strength to strength delivering different components from that original roadmap.  In the last year we’ve had a pretty high degree of success in terms of its impact on customers and seeing a significant shift to our digital service channels”.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.