For over a century, NiSource has been powering homes and businesses across six states in the United States, serving over 4 million energy customers. As one of the largest fully regulated utilities in the country, the company has always placed the safety, reliability, and sustainability of their operations at the forefront of their mission.
But for NiSource, being a leading utility is not just about providing energy – it’s about caring for the customers. With a commitment to customer satisfaction and a drive to set industry benchmarks, NiSource is constantly seeking ways to implement new customer-centric initiatives. They also identified the need to build an energy-conscious consumer approach supported by a holistic digital strategy. This led NiSource to strategically focus on elevating customer experience through innovation to empower the customers and build community partnerships.
The Connected Customer Experience Transformation
NiSource’s leadership approached the project as a business transformation effort, not merely a technology transformation project. They recognized that today’s customers want digital-first simplicity and the need for continuous improvement and innovation. The leadership team set the direction for the customer care centers, customer insights, marketing, billing and payments and new business teams across the company through the multi-year transformation project – NiSource Next: Connected Customer Experience. The vision for the Customer Transformation project included the following key objectives:
To achieve these objectives, NiSource adopted SEW’s digital customer experience platform - SAP Self Service Accelerator (SSA). The energy provider first introduced the CX platform as a personalized web platform for each of the six states. Amplifying their customer engagement success, they launched mobile applications – ‘NIPSCO’ in Indiana and ‘Columbia Gas’ in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky and Virginia.
Setting the Bar with Customer Appreciation & Recognitions
NiSource is providing their utility peers with an effective blueprint on how to leverage self-service and AI technology. The energy company continues to win industry accolades for their exceptional customer experience.
Out of a fiercely competitive pool of over 220 submissions at the SAP Innovation Awards 2023, NiSource emerged as a true CX frontrunner, setting a new standard not just in the utility sector, but across industries. Winning the award for Industry Leader, their remarkable achievement is a result of their unwavering commitment to putting customers at the forefront of their operating model.
NiSource has also been recognized by leading industry forums. The customer satisfaction survey results (CSAT) for NIPSCO have shown improvements based on consumer studies conducted by J.D. Power & Associates. NiSource earned the 2022 Achievement in Customer Experience Award from ESource, a research and data science company serving the utility industry, based on their advances in digital customer service. They have been recognized on Newsweek’s list of America’s Most Responsible Companies 2023. The selection was based on their key performance indicators (KPIs) focused on company performance in the environmental, social, and corporate governance areas, and an independent survey that asked U.S. citizens about their perception of company activities related to corporate social responsibility. Committed to pursuing energy solutions that meet the customers' needs, NiSource continues to pursue sustainable pathways and create customer collaborations to move their mission forward.
Modernizing Customer Experience with Digital & Mobile Innovation
With the launch of the CX platform, customers have access to their utility accounts on-the-go and can start, stop and move service online, use their simple and highly rated mobile apps and track usage.
The digital platform enables NiSource to focus on continuous improvement toward digital self-service by enabling and enhancing the ability of customers to conduct end-to-end business with NiSource online from start to finish. They have also established superior channel experience alignment, providing customers with a consistent, omnichannel experience across their channels of choice, allowing for a seamless experience if and when customers transition from one channel to another.
The platform ensures customers have more digital options. Previously, customers had to call customer support to avail of utility services. They can now request these services on the website or via mobile apps. The new platform also offers multiple payment methods, including online payment, wallets, credit/debit cards, Venmo, offline payments etc. They can access their usage information in just a single click on the mobile app, and with face/touch ID there is no need to log in or remember their password.
Scaling Smart Communication with Humanized AI and Smart Chatbot
In answer to the call for greater customer convenience, NiSource launched chatbots and live chats as part of their digital CX platform. The chatbot, powered by AI, allows customers to get immediate, accurate answers to critical questions.
The customer service chatbot is built on proven proprietary AI/ML algorithms designed and trained exclusively for the utility industry. The AI-powered chatbots are enabling human-like conversations for customer engagement, as well as the ability to enable customers to go straight from chatting into transacting, with 4 transactions available within the chatbots.
The AI customer service chatbot is enhancing customer relationships and streamlining utility operations. For NiSource, the chatbot is proving to be a key differentiator in the industry, acting as a north star for other utilities in terms of CX innovation. Key capabilities of the AI-powered chatbot include:
Equipped with self-service and chatbot capabilities, NiSource is streamlining customer support operations, reducing average handle time and increasing call center productivity. By leveraging campaign management and customer behavior analytics, they are also making strides in improving early collection processes.
Enhancing Customer Experience & Delivering Business Impact
In the words of a customer on App Store – “Easy and convenient. Simple to use. Everything is at your fingertips.”
The CX platform has enabled NiSource to embrace digitization and set new industry standards for consumer engagement with digital-savvy customers. They have answered the call for a seamless digital customer experience and successfully reorganized their operational model to become more customer-centric and make it easier to do business with them.
Here are the top 10 benefits reaped by the energy company from the innovative digital platform:
The Connected Customer Experience transformation project has established a sustainable roadmap for continuous improvement. Each year, the NiSource team assesses opportunities to invest in customer experience – whether process- or platform-focused. With new initiatives lined up to elevate their customer experience, they are continuing to improve digital self-service, enhance customer engagement and drive resident empowerment with advanced technologies and digital innovations.
How SEW Can Help?
At SEW, we operate with a connected customer-workforce experience model – SCM, SMW & SIQ, Powered By AI/ML/IoT. Our #1 digital CX solution, Smart Customer Mobile, is available for providers worldwide and harnesses the power of digital to better address customer needs and build future-ready businesses. It is a single integrated digital platform, accessible through an online portal and native mobile apps, providing 24/7 digital connectivity for personalized and proactive communication, intelligent and powerful customer insights with predictive analytics, and 360-degree visibility of customer interactions throughout the customer journey. Know more about the platform here.
SEW's WeSmart is an Intelligent Chatbot programmed to provide automated and humanized responses for customer queries across digital channels. With the Customer Service Chatbot, energy and water providers can establish deeper and stronger customer relationships and drive digital self-service. Built to empower utility customers with frictionless communication, WeSmart helps streamline operations and set up automated workflows to cover a multitude of industry use cases.