Connecting with customers via messaging helped the company lift CSAT scores while reducing operational costs by 30%
ENGIE is a global reference in low-carbon energy with 170,000 employees and a turnover of €55.8 billion in 2020.
A pioneer in carbon-neutral energy, ENGIE is on a mission to shape a sustainable future built on clean, affordable, resilient energy and the infrastructure that supports it. From offshore wind farms and hydrogen breakthroughs to electric vehicle charging stations, the company is working to build a more sustainable future through cleaner, greener energy solutions.
Recognizing a need to be more proactive in the way it engaged with customers, ENGIE Belgium transformed its customer communications with Sparkcentral by Hootsuite.
By shifting to a messaging-first strategy—a pioneering approach for a utility company—the business has raised customer satisfaction scores and become 30% more efficient in its communications.
"We know our customer demographics are changing,” says Els De Groote, Process Engineer Interaction Management at ENGIE Belgium. “A proactive communications approach can keep us ahead of our competition.”
This transformation is recognition that the energy market is changing. Competition is growing—particularly from new start-ups. A growing number of younger consumers prefer text and digital interactions to phone calls. And there’s more to communicate; ENGIE works with industry regulators, partners, and domestic and business customers, handling communications across topics from industry news to billing queries and service outages.
ENGIE needed to field customer queries via digital channels, and settled on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp as the channels it would support. To share news and updates, it would use Twitter.
"Our customers don’t like to wait on hold for answers,” says De Groote. “They love messaging because it can be done on their own terms and time. If they can contact us via social, that’s preferable to waiting on the phone. For this customer, it is text-and-relax.”
Sparkcentral by Hootsuite provides ENGIE with a customer care platform to enable digital conversations and connections. Linked to the existing call center and email channels, it helps the company create a seamless journey for its customers.
ENGIE now promotes its Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp channels as its preferred way of communicating with customers. The company created distinct channels for domestic customers and professional partners. The teams using these channels are trained in tone and brand style, with new service level agreements for response rates.
“As with customers, some of the customer care team communicate better through text than phone calls,” explains De Groote. “It’s all about finding the right people for the right channel.”
ENGIE’s social media and messaging channels have proven to be 30% more cost effective than its call center and email operations, helping the company realize savings that it can invest in new forms of customer support.
While the call center continues to handle most customer queries, the team plans to do more to promote its messaging channels and deflect more contacts to them. “We’ll be surveying customers on the way they use different channels and their expectations,” De Groote explains. “We know we can still do a lot more to promote our WhatsApp channel.”
What will not happen, she continues, is forcing customers to go direct by reducing the effectiveness of alternative options. “We remain an omnichannel operation. Our goal is to make all channels more efficient.”
ENGIE Belgium’s messaging-first strategy is resulting in happier customers. A recent CSAT survey showed a positive rating of 86% for social media and messaging channels—higher than any other support channel. While there is less pressure to deliver an immediate response via messaging, the team remains committed to delivering prompt replies.“
The reality is that there are occasions when we can be more helpful, friendly and human via direct messaging,” De Groote says. “With photos and video, direct messaging can be a rich experience.”
The team also plans to integrate a chatbot with its direct messaging channels. This will accelerate response times for many standard queries and free customer service teams to assist people with more complex requests.
The growth in text-based communications makes it simpler for the team to collect data-driven insights that inform the company’s strategies and services. Rather than rely on notes from call center teams, ENGIE can collate WhatsApp and Facebook communications and use artificial intelligence to spot common themes and trends.
"As you can imagine, ENGIE is a large organization with many things happening,” says De Groote. “Sparkcentral makes it easier to keep our finger on the pulse, whether this is a service outage or a request for information about new solar panel regulations. We can then inform the right department.”
From a communications perspective, this insight now informs everything from changes to the website to standard support responses and even campaign priorities.
In an increasingly competitive energy industry—an industry where there is growing scrutiny on sustainability combined with a price-sensitive customer base—ENGIE continues to present an uncommonly progressive outlook that has set it apart from the competition.
“Our power is our history and expertise,” says De Groote. “We have been dealing with customers for a long time. As an energy provider, we’re top class—as is our approach to customer communications.”
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