4 minutes

Life in AGL's contact centre

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AGL Energy
25 October 2019

‘G’day, welcome to AGL, this is Brett Redman speaking.’

When our customers call the AGL support team for help with their connections or billing, there’s a chance they might end up speaking with CEO Brett Redman, or another member of the Executive Team.

Each of the senior leaders at AGL has a similar essential requirement built into their responsibilities: that they spend a certain amount of time speaking directly with customers.

The reason is simple: our senior leaders need to hear the issues that customers might be facing and they need to hear the feedback directly – good and bad.

This direct insight helps to support improvements to our processes that make a world of difference to our customers.

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We’re here to help

Meet Anthony Sinclair, Head of Customer Services.

‘Let’s face it: most of the time someone calls, it’s with a problem.’

‘With this in mind, we try to make issues as easy as possible to solve before our customers even have to reach for the phone. In an age where there are so many new and exciting digital options available, it makes sense we use these tools so we can ultimately make things easier for our customers.’

 ‘Focusing on enabling our customers to self-serve via our digital channels and reducing the amount of calls being transferred from one place to another – has played a massive part in allowing us to bring volumes down,’ he said.

The aim at the beginning of FY19 was to cut call volumes by 5%. The rationale was, according to Anthony, that by offering customers easier, simpler, and faster ways to solve problems, they wouldn’t have to reach for the phone at all.

With efforts from people across Customer Markets Operations and Digital and Marketing teams, Anthony said, it has actually dropped by 10.5%.

Removing customer irritation points is a huge factor

For Anthony, removing customer irritation points is a huge factor.

And, he said, the team isn’t finished yet.

‘We’re continuing to focus on developing tools and options that will assist customers, this includes process automation, live chat features, messaging in My Account and our mobile app,’ he said.

Phone calls still have important role in helping customers

Some situations need a phone call, however – and for some customers, it’s reassuring to hear someone’s voice. That’s where people like Sean Walsh come in – a technical coach in AGL’s Melbourne-based Contact Centre.

Sean joined AGL four years ago after a career in hospitality – a background that helped him hone some vital skills in the Contact Centre, where he takes up to 30 calls a day. He also helps to train AGL’s CSRs, who might take up to 60 calls a day.

His calls are more complex calls – requests to speak with a manager, legal issues, or complaints made via the Ombudsman or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Sean says about 60% of people who call the Contact Centre are frustrated – at least initially.

‘Most of the time a customer just wants to understand something,’ he said.

‘There’s a lot of misunderstanding and frustration regarding the actual cost of a bill, which is the most common complaint.

‘Customers might call about meter readings, or they’re waiting for meters to be installed, or they might be waiting for their power to be turned on.

 ‘I let customers express their frustration. A lot of the time they’d just like to be heard – to know someone is listening to their problems. That also gives me time to investigate their problem and acknowledge their situation, so they feel heard and know I’m going to help them.

‘I’m process driven – I’m focused on fixing root causes, rather than Band-Aid solutions.

It's rare, but sometimes you get someone who’s genuinely happy who’s ringing to say thanks.

Sean said some conversations stood out...

'The hardest to deal with involve customers who have faced family violence. While we have many processes in place to assist people in this situation, hanging up the phone at the end of the call is never easy.'

'You might have helped the person as best you can, but when you end the call you don’t necessarily know that they’re okay. It’s really hard. On the other hand, you might talk to someone two months down the track and they’re okay and in a much better situation.'