Case Study

AGL Transforms Its Digital Customer Experience with Lithium

AGL is one of Australia’s leading integrated energy companies. It is taking action to responsibly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while providing secure and affordable energy to its customers. Drawing on over 175 years of experience, AGL serves its customers throughout eastern Australia with meeting their energy requirements, including gas, electricity, solar PV and related products and services. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, solar, landfill gas and biomass.

  • Goal

    Enhance our customer and stakeholder’s energy experience and journey by supporting digital channels that they choose to communicate, collaborate and transact through.

  • Solution

    Launch a Lithium-powered community to create a digital destination where customers can easily get customer support, educational content and peer-to-peer information. Additionally, leverage Lithium Social Media Management to respond to customers on social in real-time.

How important is your digital customer experience (CX) to your organization?

AGL has a huge focus on digital. The business is currently undertaking a $300M AUD Customer Experience Transformation. We’re looking at how we shape the experience for our customers at every point of interaction with AGL. Our goal is to transform the way customers interact with us--especially in digital channels--into a positive experience. At the end of the day, if our customers can contact us when and where they want to and have a good experience, it will only be positive for the business.

How important is community to your organization?

We know customers increasingly want to interact with us digitally. One of the ways we’ve responded to this has been to infuse the Community as a key channel throughout the many points of contact our customers have with us. We know that by doing this, our customers will have a better experience and AGL will receive tangible business outcomes and value.

“Our initial goal was to provide a way to divert calls from our call center, but our community quickly became a source of truth in the industry with our knowledge base articles, in addition to providing a seamless pathway for our customers to get support.”

— Liam Woods, Digital Community Channel Manager, AGL Energy

Tell us about AGL’s Community.

We launched in 2015 with the goal that the community will be a dedicated online forum where customers can share and discuss experiences as well as learn about all things energy. In a nutshell, we created the online community to make finding information and solutions easier.

How do you promote the community?

We promote our community in all the usual ways—we have a community link on our homepage, and an integrated content and social media strategy to also support the channel. We also promote the community through paid search marketing. We also built intelligent, contextual FAQ integration on our website leveraging Lithium’s REST API so that customers can find answers to commonly asked questions at the right time. Our community has been live for 2 years now so we get a fair bit of traffic organically from search; but the FAQ integration and our domain provides up to 40 percent of traffic.

What’s the most impressive part of your community?

Our deep search functionality. We make it so easy for users to find the content and information that they need. We created a customised widget using the REST API to surface our top posts. For example, customers can search “how do I…” and the community will generate a predictive search based on the most popular knowledge base articles. This, combined with heuristics and thoughtful UX design, ensures our customers are always only one click away from the information they need. It’s a pretty cool feature.

What’s been your biggest challenge and how did you solve it?

Our number one challenge has been seeing growth and obtaining internal stakeholder buy-in for our online community. Currently the energy industry has a low level of engagement with customers, and as an industry where this sort of technology is not widely used, it has been more challenging to achieve growth than if we were a consumer goods company.

My advice for someone evangelising community within their organisation is to have a clear message and be persistent. Do an internal roadshow and don’t stop educating. In your presentation materials make sure you have examples and be willing to dive deep into how your customers currently engage (and want to engage). Take them through the current customer journey and show them how community can massively improve that journey. Most importantly, find a way to clearly define return on investment (ROI) and tie a dollar figure to the value your community is providing.

Do you have a Superuser program?

We don’t have a formal Superuser program currently, but we do plan to launch one very soon. Customer sentiment towards energy providers traditionally hasn’t been strong in Australia - but we’re changing that one customer at a time. In fact, we have a great ‘turnaround’ story with one community member, who was an ex-customer when he first joined the community. He is very passionate and knowledgeable about renewable energy, but was dissatisfied with AGL—he’d left us for another provider in searching for a competitive energy plan. I’m pleased to say that as a result of continuous nurturing and engagement from our moderation team over a period of about 12 months, that relationship flourished; because of that, he’s now a huge brand advocate and one of our top users on community. Additionally, he’s since signed up as a customer and has bought a vast suite of products from us—aligning himself to one of our highest value customer segments. He logs in every day, actively contributes to peer articles, and is always at the top of our leader boards. He has also helped shape the design of our new community and our researchers have engaged with him to get his perspective when working on new ideas for the forums.

What has been the impact of your community?

It’s been great to see the community take off since our launch in 2015. We’re giving our customers easy access to content and support in a way that helps them build trust with our brand and feel empowered. We’re delivering positive ROI - through some intelligent tracking and algorithmic calculations, we know that the Community is delivering significant value by way of attributed sales, in addition to the support deflection case we have through user surveys. In the 2016-17 financial year, we have delivered over $1 million AUD value to the business—and this is just the beginning. We know this will grow in future years as we put more investment in to the channel.

What’s next for the AGL Community?

We’re excited to launch a formal Superuser program as well as integrate community into some of our other business systems. We have a new single sign on system launching progressively in 2017 so our customers will have the same account, agnostic of the system they’re logged in to. We’re also going to add premium gamification elements and a slew of other features. Our goal has been simply to make it easier and quicker for our customers to find the information they need—but we’re going to build on our success and expand to build brand advocacy and more peer-to-peer discussion among our user base.

Tell us about the challenges you initially faced that prompted you to seek a solution for social support?

A few years ago, we were conducting our social media support natively on Twitter and Facebook. As the social team—and the brand’s social audience—grew, we began to use Hootsuite as a means to have a coordinated approach and ability to triage. This sufficed at the time, but once we set up Lithium Social Media Management, we were very impressed and saw the value immediately. For us, the fact that the Lithium platform was scalable and enterprise level was very important to us.

“Lithium Social Media Management has helped us manage our social care at scale. Very soon, we plan to add the publishing feature so our social care and marketing is managed on one easy platform.”

— Liam Woods, Digital Community Channel Manager, AGL Energy

What’s your favourite part of Lithium Social Media Management and why?

We really appreciate the social care workflow in Lithium Social Media Management. Our team operates a blended model, with team members in India, the Philippines and in Australia—so it’s a breath of fresh air that the platform makes it easy to collaborate and manage our established processes. With Lithium Social Media Management, we’re able to respond in real-time without sacrificing our quality of service. With other tools, the quality often dropped which was problematic for us. The analytical capability of Lithium SMM is also best in breed and enables us to use tangible metrics to support our reporting.

What’s next for your social media strategy?

We’re eager to use Lithium’s social publishing feature and execute more of our social campaigns via the platform. The content planning and campaign management functionalities is what’s most appealing to us, as it’s going to enable us to manage and publish content via a cross-functional team whilst simultaneously managing approval and workflows. We’re looking to implement this before the end of this financial year, and are really looking forward to it.

What are you most proud of when it comes to social media management?

In under three years, we’ve gone from a business where we had a handful of low engagement community members coupled with high negative sentiment, to a much larger, engaged and converged social community where CSAT constantly rates 85-90 percent and positive sentiment is high. We see over 3,500 social interactions per month (and climbing), and our customers know they can contact us in these channels and get a quick and easy solution from a friendly team member.