Technology and the Customer Experience
In 2015, we began a three-year project to install new Customer Solutions Center technology that will enable us to work across multiple platforms to serve customers. For example, a single customer service agent could respond to email, phone calls, text messages and social media, and manage online chat sessions. The new system will be ready in 2018. In preparation, we are developing workforce training plans to give our employees new problem-resolution skills, empowering them to give every customer a positive experience. This is part of our culture change at AEP.
AEP is developing a customer mobile app that will allow customers to conduct business with AEP on their mobile devices, whether paying a bill, starting or stopping service or reporting an outage.
AEP is partnering with technology platform providers, such as Tendril and Innovari, to pilot promising technologies designed to engage customers and optimize the electric grid. These platforms enable customers to realize bill savings by partnering with the utility to help manage their energy use in a non-disruptive way. For example, when demand on the grid is high on a hot summer day, our grid operators would be able to turn the thermostat up a few degrees or dim lighting banks to lower energy demand from participating customers. This helps to even out the peak load by managing demand on the distribution system, versus at the generating plant, and helps the customers lower their bills. In addition to incentives, customers can manage their energy use online, 24/7.
These interactive energy management platforms allow us to more effectively manage customer load as a resource to help optimize the use of the grid. Commercial energy customers would opt in and be compensated for allowing AEP to manage their energy use during periods of high demand. This approach to energy management uses distributed energy resources on the distribution grid as a virtual power plant. Our intent is to conduct a pilot in each of our companies’ jurisdictions.
In addition, to make it easier for customers to do business with us, AEP is developing a customer mobile app that will be available by the end of 2017. This app will allow customers to conduct business with AEP on their mobile devices, whether paying a bill, starting or stopping service or reporting an outage. Customer billing statements are also being redesigned to make it easier for customers to understand what they are being charged for, as well as see their energy consumption patterns.