On 1 May 2019, following the withdrawal of LINZ AG für Energie, Telekommunikation, Verkehr und kommunale Dienste from ENAMO GmbH, the new Energie AG Oberösterreich Vertrieb GmbH (Vertrieb GmbH) took up operations within the new structure.
This gives customers the considerable advantage of having a single point of contact for all questions regarding pricing, services. In return, Energie AG can benefit from greater simplicity in terms of service provision, from private households to key account customers.
Maintaining a closer dialogue with our customers will be a cornerstone of our future activities. In particular, one step Energie AG is taking in this direction is staging our own customer forum, an idea we set in motion in 2019.
The aim of this initiative is to bring together 30 customers to interact with Energie AG twice a year, discussing current developments in the industry as well as ideas and new products in a forum with the company’s management team. This will help us to break new ground in the development of products and services.
A consistent focus on the wishes and needs of present and potential customers, as well as on their satisfaction, is the foundation for strategic action in all Group companies. Customers’ needs are changing, with increasing demand for digital contact methods, digital services and better service outcomes (e.g. shorter response times) in a context of rising price sensitivity.
Ongoing monitoring and professional development initiatives help to ensure high-quality customer relationship management, whether over the phone or in person. In addition, our pricing and product selection are under constant review. Energie AG pays particular attention to digital services, which are currently being developed and expanded in various forms.
Going digital: a powerful asset
Energie AG views digitalisation as a key priority in every area of the Group’s sales strategy, with the aim of making customers’ contact with the company faster, better and more efficient.
As far as digital transformation in sales and communication channels is concerned, the first step is to identify sensible touchpoints where going digital will result in true added value for the customer. One example would be the harmonisation of the current online customer portals, which is intended to foster a strong sense of personal responsibility. The goal here is to provide a contemporary, cutting-edge look and feel in widget format to support personalisation at the customer’s end, as well as giving visitors the opportunity to immediately order a variety of products and features online. The use of digital signatures is now being extended to additional customer processes, having only been used in certain subdivisions of Energie AG to date.
Our range of Alexa skills, already tried and tested with the energy-saving tips service, has also been expanded. Since the 2018/2019 fiscal year, customers paying smart meter tariffs can use Alexa to request information about electricity prices.
A power price configurator that factors in more than simply the individual’s place of residence, household size and consumption levels was developed to give customers the best support possible as they choose the right electricity pricing model for them. Seven simple questions help customers to select the ideal tariff. The recommendations made are based on a special logical model, with a decision tree that took months of work to develop and test out. Lessons learned from previous projects were factored into the development of the electricity price configurator. For instance, the EU-funded PEAKapp research project, implemented in partnership with the Energy Institute at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, generated some useful findings on consumption patterns. This project came second in the EU Sustainable Energy Award’s “Consumerse” category. For more information about this project, see the Research, development and innovation section in the Group Management Report.
Customer Phone Service
When customers contact us by telephone, it is highly important for their enquiry to be dealt with promptly. Trained, top-class customer service staff are essential to meeting these expectations. Internal customer satisfaction surveys reflect the high standard of quality.
In the event of failures, which cause a substantial increase in calls from affected customers within a very short period of time, calls need to be answered and processed with rapid turnaround. Even heavy and unpredictable call volumes can be managed with a flexible on-call service model, individual customer service employee flexibility and suitable telework infrastructure.
Introduction and Use of New Technologies
Energie AG is actively committed to introducing and using new technologies. The customer is also at the heart of our approach in this area. For instance, Netz OÖ is one of Europe’s leaders when it comes to comprehensive smart metering, which creates new opportunities for customers to save on energy by providing precise consumption information. More than 94% of all customer systems are equipped with intelligent electronic electricity meters in Netz OÖ's service area (previous year: 76%). At the end of the 2018/2019 fiscal year, there were 633,000 AMIS meters installed on Netz O֒s electricity grid. The system uses a variety of smart grid functions to achieve improvements in the quality of electricity supply. The entire system (AMIS) is proving successful in real-world applications, regularly delivering availability figures in excess of 99%.
The new smart meter technology presents the possibility of developing new business models. Intelligent electricity meters are the key household device that makes it possible to turn a home into a smart home. In the future, interaction between electricity meters and home automation systems will facilitate perfect use of energy, which users will be able to generate, purchase or store. This will help to bring cost savings, lower consumption and greater comfort to customers.
Our Czech water investments have been using smart digital water meters for several years at this point. To date, the consumption data has been exclusively used for billing purposes. Now the data is also available to end users. The Water Under Control (Voda pod kontrolou) service is suitable for most widely used water meters. Customers can view a continuously updated consumption breakdown, which is designed to suit their needs. They will be alerted if a certain quantity is exceeded (burst pipe warning) or if other measurements fall outside a normal range. Water Under Control was launched on the Czech market in the 2018/2019 fiscal year and has shown highly positive signs. The Group is also working on further developments for IoT, as well as other utilities such as gas, electricity and heat.
Customer satisfaction surveys
Contact with customers and partners is important for Energie AG to learn about their needs, concerns and ideas. This allows us to solve concrete problems, as well as to adapt and optimise our processes. Complaint management is a key mechanism in this area. Together with Customer Service, the Group analyses the communications on a quarterly basis, evaluating the subject areas and using these as a basis to establish options for action. These options include working together with social services to prevent debt-related issues and providing advisory services to help customers lower their energy bills.
Public opinion research institutes regularly conduct surveys of the general population, customers and specific target groups. Specifically, the Group was again able to collect valuable information in the 2018/2019 fiscal year. For instance, it worked together with pollsters for our 2019 surveys of real estate management and multi-site customers, which allowed us to identify the challenges and relevant issues for the future in these segments. The activities of Vertrieb GmbH can be realigned based on this information and suitable products can be developed.
Strong customer loyalty is predominant in the electricity sector: 95% of customers are basically satisfied or very satisfied with our sales arm (previous year: 97%). Continually measuring loyalty levels in set categories (e.g. product range, price communication, homepage, regional commitment) provides detail that allows us to find sensible places to start improving services and enables us to pursue improvements on an ongoing basis.
Netz OÖ’s customer satisfaction survey for natural gas grid operators was conducted for the sixth time in September 2018 using the standardised questionnaire, which is based on the template provided by the Austrian Association for Gas and Water (ÖVGW) working group. Once again, this yielded highly positive results. As in the previous year, the highest level of satisfaction was reported for gas supply availability. Using a 1 to 5 scale based on Austria’s academic grading system, Netz O֒s customers gave it excellent ratings for reliability (1.16), safety (1.21) and quality (1.29), indicating above-average performance for a grid operator. There were even improvements on the previous year’s results in many areas.
Customer satisfaction surveys are carried out at all the Waste Management segment’s sites. These include a school marking-style assessment system, in which the segment received a 1.4 (equivalent to an “A”) also during the period under review 2018/2019.
The Austrian Consumer Studies Society (ÖGVS) investigated a large number of companies across Austria in partnership with business magazine trend. The best companies are honoured with the ÖGVS Service Award. Energie AG was among the top firms in the energy sector because of its email customer service. In 2017, Energie AG’s customer service achieved first place in the overall rating for all industries, for which it was given the 2017 ÖGVS Service Award. In the 2019 market test for electricity suppliers by Austrian research institute market, Energie AG came in top position in Upper Austria, receiving the 2019 market Quality Award – Overall Winner for Upper Austria.