Customer expectations and enhancements in technology are changing the way we interact with our customers. Although we continue to see an increase in online transactions - customers conducted more than 22 million online transactions in 2017, or a 9 percent increase over 2016 - we are finding that some of our customers are active consumers, looking for cleaner, smarter energy solutions that require more personalized and complex customer care.
From first contact, to each transaction, to delivery of service, we are studying each touchpoint we have with our customers to help them effortlessly navigate across these journeys.
We are in the second of a three-year project to install a new Customer Operations Center technology platform that will enable us to work across multiple channels to serve customers. For example, a customer service agent can respond to email, phone calls, text messages and social media, and manage online chat sessions. A pilot system was installed in the Fort Wayne Operations Center in late 2017. Installations for the remaining five centers are scheduled throughout 2018.
As the expectations and demands of our customers continue to change, so too will the metrics we use to measure our performance and success. In the past, we prided ourselves on quick customer service. However, as we work to improve the overall customer experience, we are considering our customers’ unique needs, understanding that quick service isn’t always the best service. We are taking a fresh look at our metrics and expect to implement new ones that better align with our focus on excellence.
In 2017, our Customer Operations Centers handled nearly 19 million calls, a slight decrease from the number of calls received in 2016. Mild weather and an increase in electronic channels, such as online bill payment, web-enabled payment agreements and our new customer mobile app, resulted in lower call volumes. As AEP continues to offer more enhanced energy and service options, we expect those numbers to continue to decrease as customers use more self-serve options. When the new Customer Operations Center technology comes online in 2018, we will be better equipped to respond to customers’ individual needs, more efficiently and cost-effectively.