September 19, 2023 • 5 minute read

Q&A with Vistra Energy and Evergy

Jak Katterfield, Product Marketing Manager at Interactions, sat down to talk  with Lindsay Washburn, Senior Digital Product Manager at Evergy, and Ed Anderson, Senior Manager CXT Technology at Vistra Energy. Leaders in Conversational AI for the past decade, Lindsy and Ed  discussed their roles and how they see CX in the utilities space, their relationship with Interactions and best practices for improving CX and increasing self-service. 


Q: How would you describe your roles and responsibilities within your respective organizations?

Lindsay: I am the product owner for our automated phone system (IVA) within our Digital Strategy team. Our team oversees all self-service components of our business.

Ed: I manage the Operations Command Center and the Call Center Telephony and Chat delivery and experience for Vistra Energy. 

Q: How long have you been working with Interactions?

Lindsay: About 6 years at this point, wow!

Ed: I think we’re a little over 10 years now. Time flies!

Q: What made you adopt Conversational AI within your organizations?

Lindsay: A few things – aging IVR infrastructure, reliability issues, long and complicated transactions that increased customer frustration and agent escalation, flat containment and limited reporting. We also wanted to incorporate natural language for a better customer experience.

Ed: We wanted to stand out from the competition and provide our customers with next level service. When we tried to build a solution ourselves, its level of customer understanding was very limited and delivered an experience we felt could be better

Q: Why did you choose to partner with Interactions?

Lindsay: Interactions’ success based pricing model proved to us this would be a real partnership. Our success was their success. We also saw their human-in-the-loop technology approach as innovative, highlighting them as a company we could partner with long term. The partnership started in 2015, and we haven’t looked back.

Ed: As I said before, we wanted a solution that really stood out from the competition and Interactions human assisted IVA is exactly that. The applications’ level of understanding and ability to automate provides a customer experience that blows other solutions out of the water. We’re constantly iterating to improve the application and bring in additional transaction types, even today!

Q: What transaction types are you automating with Interactions Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA)? 

Lindsay: We automate three core transaction types – payments, outage notifications and paperless billing. But, most impressive has been the Start/Stop/Transfer Service – we’ve seen a 50% reduction in a start call transaction via IVA vs Customer Support Representative (CSR)!

Ed: Yeah, we have similar core transactions but our bread and butter is payments and credit transactions. We have a +95% success rate for payments via the IVA, processing $511M in payments annually. It’s truly remarkable.

Q: Where do you stand on containment being the “gold star” metric to track? 

Lindsay: “Containment” should not be the end goal, rather the result of an efficient and satisfying experience. It’s important to allow customers to complete their goals and tasks on their own, ideally without a need to speak to an agent. Our outlook has been providing reliable, self-service capabilities within the channel of choice.

Ed: I think that’s spot on correct. Containment for the sake of it, even if the numbers are high, is not a true measurement of customer success. If a customer is forced to engage with an automated service and unable to complete their task, that’s a bad experience. Good CX is allowing customers to get what they need, even if that ultimately means talking to an agent

Q: Do you have any advice for those deciding between DIY and a managed service? 

Lindsay: Most companies do not have the resources or capabilities to build a conversational IVR. Even if resources are available, the question becomes, “Can we sustain this platform and continue to advance it?” The answer is no. With the correct vendor, much can be accomplished. A large benefit of Interactions is the ability to customize the experience for the Evergy customer. 

Ed: Before working with Interactions, we actually tried to build our own IVR. It was a huge undertaking; we didn’t have the expertise to do the speech tuning to make it work to the expected level. What we built couldn’t process payments reliably at the level we do today. Finding the right partner to build an application together is the right move, and Interactions certainly fits that bill

Q: What are your thoughts on Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) and where you see CX going in the utilities space?

Lindsay: The industry definitely feels like it’s moving towards CCaaS, with some doing it faster than others. As companies make the switch, it’s important that individuals involved in the process have the relevant knowledge and experience to ensure a smooth transition. For us, it’s reassuring to know that Interactions has that.

Ed: When making the move to the cloud, it’s beneficial to be able to de-scope the IVA/IVR front door. If you have a stable IVA already in place, that can provide real risk mitigation for the entire project. You can lean on this reliable customer service tool to handle the volume while you work out issues with the telephony system, reducing the overall risk. 

Q: Any final thoughts? 

Lindsay: We’re excited to appear at EMACS alongside Interactions!

Ed: Yes, I’m looking forward to speaking more about this at EMACS and speaking with some like-minded folks.

Want to learn more? Let’s talk.