Utility Company Xcel Energy Launches Google Action to Make Bill Paying Easier
Xcel Energy launched a new Google Action on Tuesday available on Google Assistant-enabled devices, including Home, Nest Hub and the Assistant app available on iOS and Android devices. Xcel customers can now pay their bills hands-free through any linked device by saying “Ok Google, pay my Xcel Energy bill.” They also have the option to check other account-related details like requesting an open balance or invoice due date.
Xcel’s mission is to create clean energy in an economical way. Headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, Xcel powers over 3 million homes with electricity and has nearly 2 million natural gas customers within seven Western and Midwestern states. In 2017 their revenue was 11.4 billion making them an industry leader in the renewable energy industry. The company first saw voice as a new opportunity to further share its clean energy initiative last fall when it launched a Google Action which provided users with energy saving tips. The goal was to help customers in their efforts to manage and remain more aware of consumption. And it turns out, it’s something consumers want from their utility companies. A study from E source found that 60% of smart speaker owners said they’re “probably” or “definitely” interested in a utility app that makes use of voice-activated skills. “This is an exciting time to develop and deploy innovative energy solutions for our customers while leveraging our investments in technology.” said Brett Carter, Xcel’s Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer.
Paying Bills by Voice – A Positive Customer Service Experience
The ease of paying bills without the click of a mouse, or touch of a phone, is not a new concept – credit cards were the first to do it on a large scale in the early days of Amazon Alexa. Capital One introduced an Echo bill-paying skill in 2016 and was Amazon’s first venture into voice payment. American Express jumped on board shortly thereafter in 2017. However, the functionality is relatively new to major utility companies and will certainly make a difference in the customer service experience. Business Insider predicts that US voice payment users will grow 23% between 2017 and 2022, resulting in 31% of Americans using smart speakers to pay their bills in 2022.
For PYMNTS.com’s 2018 Voice Challenge with Amazon, fintech company Alacriti introduced a series of Alexa skills to facilitate fast and efficient bill payments. The skills were driven by their Chatbot named Ella that creates seamless experiences using communication over smart assistants and messaging platforms. The natural language processing allows for comfortable conversations rather than the alternative demands. “We live in a world of connected experiences. Now more than ever, customers expect real-time, personalized, and context-aware interactions in their preferred digital environments,” claims Alacri.