Keep the Human at the Center of your Digital Strategy

Renato Suplicy – Neoenergia

About this episode

In this episode, we chat with Renato Suplicy, from Neoenergia.
As the Head of Digital Strategies and Services for Neoenergia customers in Brazil, Renato is in charge of improving the customer experience on digital channels.

We will cover:

– How Neoenergia keeps the human at the center of its digital strategy
– How AI helps them support their digitalization
– Their feedback on working with Inbenta

Listen to the full episode or read the transcription below. 💪

This video is hosted by YouTube. By watching this video, you are accepting the terms and conditions of YouTube.

Interview Transcript

Jordi Torras:
Hello everybody. And welcome to this new chapter of the future of customer service. So happy today to introduce you to Renato Suplicy. Renato is the Head of Digital Strategies and Services for customers based in Sao Paulo at Neoenergia. Renato, how are you?

Renato Suplicy:
Okay, Jordi. How are you?

Jordi Torras:
I’m good. Good, good. Thank you so much for attending this podcast and helping me out with all that. Listen. Could you, for the audience, introduce yourself? You are an expert on that topic.

Renato Suplicy:
Yeah. Well, as you mentioned, I’m the Head of Digital Strategy and Service for customers at Neoenergia. Neoenergia is one of the largest energy companies in Brazil. It’s part of the Iberdrola Group. Iberdrola Group, as you know, is one of the largest companies in the world in the energy sector. And we are presented in all the verticals of the sector. So generation, transmission, distribution, commercialization, et cetera. And my responsibility at Neoenergia is to focus on customer service, relate to digital strategies. So how we can improve the experience for customers in digital channels, giving a better experience, and also better results for the company, more efficiency, and at the same time, more satisfaction for our customers. So basically it’s this.

Jordi Torras:
Got it. So essentially I’m living in California, right? So here, the US market works differently than in Brazil and differently than in Europe, right? So here, when it comes to energy, we have PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electricity. And yeah, I have gas, I have electricity, but when it comes to dealing with this kind of organization it is 100% digital. So you are responsible for that digital engagement. That’s amazing. And what kind of responsibilities do you have in this organization?

Renato Suplicy:
First, as I mentioned, is giving a better experience for the customer on digital channels, because it’s easier to request a service, get information on digital channels. The customer doesn’t need to go to a walk-in office or call in our call center to request something that they have in the palm of their hand. So it’s really easy, but it’s not so easy when we need to put this in practice, because digital… We need to understand the digital environment is really different because it depends on each person. So we need to make a digitalization, based on human experiences, not make the digital the end of this journey but is the way of this journey.
So my main responsibility is to make these transactions from the customer that used to call in the call center, or used to go to the walk-in office, to migrate to digital channels. So we need to understand the entire journey of the customer. Since the first moment of the contact and the back office situation that when we don’t have a self-service, and the return for the customer, so the base responsibility that I have to understand all the journey and identify opportunities during this journey to improve the customer experience in digital channels, make the customer more confident in using these tools that we provide for him.

Jordi Torras:
That’s amazing. And I guess that’s the way I imagine… So you have big systems, databases, back-office systems, building connections with the actual, I don’t know, pipes, infrastructure, so it’s a complicated environment. And then I’m assuming that one of the challenges that you need here is to make sure that users see all that in a way that is easy to understand for them. So I’m assuming that one of the challenges of that digital strategy is to say, “Hey, how can we simplify our company, which needs to be complex because of course there are a lot of things going on and make it easy for the customer so they can see what is for them?” So is this a challenger for you? Which other challenges are you also facing?

Renato Suplicy:
Yes, this is really important because we need to understand that the user needs to get information easier and faster because if they start to use a digital solution that we provide, but they need a lot of time to understand it, the customer will prefer to call the call center, wait in the line, or go to a walk-in office and discuss. So we needed to understand the reality. And one point that’s really important is making these interactions with the customer to understand the reality that they have before starting to develop a digital solution. So this kind of feedback before the development is very important. 
And the other aspect is we know that all the infrastructure of IT that we have is we have a lot of rules that we understand, that is important to guarantee the process, and also the rules that we have, the compliance, et cetera, but the customers don’t need to know this. They needed to understand that they have a service that is easier to use. For example, imagine a customer that has a debit and wants to negotiate this debt because he doesn’t want to have its energy cut, so we need to understand the reality of the customer and bring in the digital channel all the rules that we have to make this negotiation really easy. So you have a matrix that our billing system provides for us and gives all the support for the customer. And for the customer, the only thing that you’ll see is the possibilities of how he can pay. So in the end is this. So the main challenge is, as I mentioned before, to bring the human to strategy inside of the digital strategy. Bring the human profile of the digital channel, something like this.

Jordi Torras:
Yes, yes. Because there are rules and there are procedures. And if I call the call center, the agent is going to understand these procedures, and a call center agent has access to all your systems. He has the logic of the conversation. So he’s adding a lot of value to the conversation. Now, if it is 100% digital, all this logic and all this common sense has to be implemented into the digital channel itself. So that’s what makes, I’m assuming, one of the challenging things. So what are the main areas? Where have you been working to deploy this digital strategy?

Renato Suplicy:
Well, the digital strategy… The first aspect of our workflow, let’s call this, the first item is to understand the data that we have, to understand the behavior of the customer in each service that we provide. So why does he go to a walk-in office or why does he go to an app or et cetera. For each of the services that we have, to understand if there are changes during some period of the time and you see, oh, we have some gap here, so we need to improve something to make sure that the customer still uses the digital channel. So data is really important. 
The second phase, we have the data we need to understand the journey, to see where the opportunities point that we have in this journey, cross with the data to say here is the priority that we have of opportunities, to improve the customer experience and also bring efficiency for the company. Then we start to develop a prototype, some digital solutions and test them with the customer. So we go to the walk-in office and we call for some customers. We provide for a small group of customers to use, to test, and then, okay, it’s okay. We understand that the feedback is okay, so then we implement it. But sometimes we need to make some changes in the rules of the business also because the behavior of the customer changes every day and we have a lot of different profiles. So we need to improve our legacy systems to make their rules adapt to meet the new reality of the customer. So the front end and the back end need to be adjusted to guarantee that we are providing a better customer experience. And for these, we are using a strategy here too, so a bus to integrate the legacy system and the front end to guarantee changes will be faster than they used to be, because, in the past, we needed to change all the lines of the process, the back end, and the front end. Nowadays, you can make some adjustments in the bus and the front end, and you go ahead. So it is not so easy when we are discussing how to develop a strategy. We are looking if it’s just an adjustment that we need to do in an app or in a chatbot, but no, we need to see the entire development line to guarantee that we have a good performing solution.

Jordi Torras:
Yeah. So this hub, I understand now better, is super important, because it’s connecting maybe new applications, maybe legacy applications. And then of course all the digital channels. So that bus is orchestrating all these communications where, at the same time, you are trying to understand how customers are doing things differently, so that changes over time, but also rules change over time. So having all these applications orchestrated in a way that you keep on serving your customers, that’s fascinating. That’s amazing.

Renato Suplicy:
And one point that’s important is to understand that the customer, that one single customer is not 100% digital all the time. So we need to understand, for example, a claim for some service that was made, it’s difficult to make this in a digital channel. The customer wants to hear from the human, from a person behind this, to understand the complaint that he’s made about the company. So we understand this kind of service is not possible to make digital. Of course, we can provide better information for the customer to understand the reality too, before he makes a complaint. But it’s different when for example, the customer wants to have a second copy of his bill. It’s really easy, so go to a digital channel. But we know that we have some intermediary. That’s that negotiation, for example, we can make it digital, but it’s more complex.
So we are using a methodology that we created, we divide our customers in 100% digital. That is a customer that in a period of time, he only makes contact with us in a digital channel and it was 100% self-service. The other part of the customer, we consider the [ibert 00:14:12] digital that the customer goes to a digital channel, but also goes to a human contact channel. And the last one is the customer that is 100% human contact because he doesn’t have some experience, or the service that he used to make his request is more complex, et cetera. So we are using this data to understand the customer journey. So we make this analysis in a period of time, and we understand better about our solutions and how we can improve our customer service.

Jordi Torras:
So is a range, it’s not like 100% digital, 100% analog. Depending on the service, depending on the person, you’re going to have a different range of that. And for a company like Neoenergia, it looks to me that you are investing a lot in customer service, a lot in making your customers happy. Why is that important for you?

Renato Suplicy:
We only exist because we have customers. Every company on the planet, if they don’t treat their customer as the property of importance that they need, they don’t have a business. So looking at the energy sector, that is a sector so important for all the people on the planet, we need to understand that we need to provide a better customer experience, a better service because one day without energy can impact a lot in the life of the customer, or a big company. So in the end, we have a strong operation that provides energy quality really strongly and with good quality. On the other hand, we need to take care of our customers when they need us. In the end, if you don’t think of the customer as the main part of your business, we are probably going to fail, we won’t have sustainability in our business. So here in Neoenergia, we make a customer-centric strategy. So the focus is our customers, and we are here to provide a better service for them. And we believe that independent of the changes of the market that happen in the energy sector, Neoenergia needs to be the first company in the mind of the customer, when he’s looking for an energy company. So if you have this kind of relationship with good communication, with good quality of service, with good access to information service, you have a good relationship and a strong relationship in the long term.

Jordi Torras:
Yes, absolutely. And especially for sectors which are sometimes called commodities, when there is… And I mean, what I want is energy. And then the difference comes with how I am dealt with as a sort of good customer service. It becomes an essential part of the business, a mission-critical application because it ultimately impacts how competitive the business is. That’s fascinating. Let’s get a little bit deeper into the space of artificial intelligence because I wonder in such a complex environment as Neoenergia, I’m assuming that AI is used in different ways for different reasons. So maybe you could share with us, how is your vision on this digital strategy and how artificial intelligence has been there to help your efforts in this digital strategy?

Renato Suplicy:
AI is really important because we can make faster services easier and give our employees more time to do complex things for the customer and for the corporation. So we are using AI in different kinds of environments here. In customer service, we are using, in the front end we’re using, especially in our chatbot that we are using Inbenta solution, that’s great. We can discuss, use more. And this has improved a lot of our customer service. And I will give you more information ahead. And also in our back ends with analysis. As I mentioned, we have a lot of data, but we don’t have the opportunity to analyze all the data that we have if we use only human man-hours. So we need AI to give us our insights in how we can improve our process, how we can improve our customer service and et cetera.
When we are looking in the front end, I take the example of the chatbot, the customer receives the information really fast with AI. So imagine something that the customer wants to make a contact, but he doesn’t understand how to ask for this service. And when we have an AI who’s as strong as we have invented, the customer just mentions something and AI makes all the magic that I use to say here. And you see, oh, okay. I understand what this person wants and give options for him.
Okay. You mentioned this topic. We have this kind of possibility here to go deep in your topic, and I continue to help you. It’s easy. And for us, it is really important. And we think that AI will continue to be one of the main lines of our digital strategy. And as I mentioned before, AI needs to be together with the strategy of human digitalization, because if you don’t have this, the bot and the AI that we have can make some changes that don’t compare with the expectation of the customer, because it is AI. So we need to have this kind of partnership, human, AI.

Jordi Torras:
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s fascinating as well because what you say is there is the front end AI, with conversational AI, intelligent chatbots, and all that, but then sometimes the public forgets that behind the scenes, when it comes to how you optimize this journey and how to understand better your customers and your business, AI is used massively with tons of data that you have from out of your systems and help you make decisions as well. So AI has been everywhere, penetrating the front end with natural language processing all these technologies, but as well on the back end, when it comes to machine learning to understand, okay, how can I process all that data and what kind of decision I can take out of it? So that’s impressive.

Renato Suplicy:
An example that I can use here to make this integration front end and the backend. Imagine if your customer reports an outage and we need to check if it is a single problem that could be only in the house of the customer, that is not the responsibility of the energy distribution company, or if it’s something that is not only with this customer, the neighborhood, et cetera. The AI can check if this outage is a single or not, and also make automatic contact with the neighbor of this customer, “Please inform me. Do you have outages in your home also, yes or no?” “Oh yes.” So we have a problem that’s not unique. But if the customer informs us, “No, I don’t have an outage.” Then you can inform the customer of a different situation. “We checked in our system and with your neighbors that we don’t have any outages in your neighborhood. So please make this kind of checklist in your house to see if the energy is returned or if you need to have some support from a third party.”

Jordi Torras:
Oh, that’s amazing. And I remember when I was a kid in Spain, in the ’60s and the ’70s, the light was off. There’s no electricity. And you will look at the windows and say, “Okay, is the neighbor…” So that’s what we did back then. There was no digital anything. So we cannot say, “Okay, is it us? Or is it everybody?” But now the systems, of course, do that automatically and intelligently. That’s fascinating. You have mentioned a little bit that you work with a company called Inbenta. And we’re so happy and proud to be helping you in this digital strategy. So I would love if you could share with the audience, what has been your experience working with us? That would be great.

Renato Suplicy:
Okay. Neoenergia has the largest digital transformation project for customers in Brazil, the first point. So this is a partnership with our regulator here. So the investment that we are putting in is heavy. And when we start to plan all this program, we start to see, we can do this alone only with our staff. So we need to have a strong partnership with other companies to make that, okay, this way is true, large, and we can serve more people who can serve with us, but we need to have strong company with us. And one of them was Inbenta. That was really, we are really glad to have you guys with us. Ernest Young, who is our prime vendor of this program, introduced you guys to us. And it was since the first moment was really great because the Inbenta team understands that we want to do a digital transformation, but base it in a human perspective, not make the digital the end of the journey, but the way, and when we discuss about Inbenta in that Inbenta have a lot of use case regarding customer contact and understand that the customer behavior changes a lot. So we need to have a strong team to adjust the solutions that we have in the chatbot that we have with Inbenta makes us really glad. Nowadays, just to give you an idea, here in Brazil, WhatsApp is the main app the people use here. And for the first moment that when we are planning the digital transformation program, we define a main strategy to be where the customers are. Not where we want the customer to go. So when we define these, we say, “Okay, WhatsApp will be our platform, the main platform of digital transformation, to make the digital conclusion for the customer.” And when we brought the WhatsApp and Inbenta solution, we saw a lot of digital transformation customer experience because it’s really easy. And we have around 1.5 millions per month of customers contacting WhatsApp, and based on the chatbot that we developed together. And so we are really glad, this is the good and the main example that we have of win-win. The customer wins with this, and the company wins with this. And when we are looking for a partnership, Neoenergia wins with this and Inbenta also, so the environment is great. It’s great.

Jordi Torras:
Yes, and from our side, it’s like we’ve been working in the WhatsApp channel for a while. And when we guys… We started working with you and the volume of messages is starting to pile on, is gigantic. It’s amazing. And it proves that philosophy that you guys have, it’s like, “Hey, what are our customers using? WhatsApp? Let’s go there.” That’s what they use. Let’s make their life easy. And now, wow, the traffic is, I believe, is, if not the most, one of the most intensive AI applications deployed over WhatsApp messaging in the world. That’s what I believe. The volume there is gigantic. So a question here, kind of futuristic, so what’s next? What are you guys planning for the future when it comes to this digital strategy? Anything that you can share with the audience about exciting projects that you have?

Renato Suplicy:
Yeah. The first one is, of course, to expand more and more the chatbot in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. So in our goals, we put more service and more information for the customer in our chatbots, but also we make the omnichannel strategy to guarantee that the customer continues our journey, depending on the channel that he goes, he continues the journey and AI will be one of our support on this. In the final month of last year in December, we implemented the chatbot on our website. So it is something, it’s a strategy that we are seeing. Okay. Remember when I mentioned that we have 100% [inaudible 00:30:18] in the average customers? We need to migrate the average customers to 100%…

Jordi Torras:
So push the middle into…

Renato Suplicy:
Yeah, exactly.

Jordi Torras:
Increasing this percentage.

Renato Suplicy:
And we believe that by putting AI inside of our digital channels, like our website or app, we will guarantee the customer continues the journey in this, the channel that he started. But of course, if for some reason he wants to change, okay, he’ll continue the journey where he stops it. But we believe that this kind of strategy, of giving the support for the customer, even if he’s already in a digital channel, we will guarantee our immigration hybrid to be 100% digital. So we have good feedback from this solution that we implement, that your team will help us in December. So customers that want to have a good experience, our digital channel, you not to be alone. We are going to have our AI together with him.

Jordi Torras:
That’s amazing. All right. I would be talking for hours with you here because it’s fascinating what I’m learning. And I believe that the audience will appreciate that a lot, but we have our limitations on time so I would like to ask you if someone in our audience would like to know more, try to ask you some questions and get to you, what would be the best way to contact you?

Renato Suplicy:
Please get in touch with me on LinkedIn. My name is Renato Suplicy. You are going to see me there, and we can chat and make a benchmark, et cetera, especially because when we are looking for, as I mention, a customer independent of your sector, you need to demonstrate that you must have the administrator in your company. So change ideas, perspectives, insights, is really important because I believe that the community, the society, will be a better place when we work together to help the people in the end. So, please get in touch with me. Regarding the energy sector, depending on the country that you are in, you can work on the same thing, making the customer journey simpler and giving a better customer experience. So please let me help you. And please help me also with your ideas.

Jordi Torras:
I’m so glad to have this modest channel here, this podcast, to also be this kind of community, to exchange ideas. I’m glad, I’m pretty sure many of the audience will contact you because what you have accomplished at Neoenergia in such a short amount of time is absolutely impressive and really inspiring. Renato, thank you so much for being here with me today. And thank you to the audience for looking at that. Is the recording… It’s going to be on many different channels and podcast stations. So stay tight. We’re going to have another episode very soon. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Renato.

Renato Suplicy:
Thank you. Bye bye.

Jordi Torras:
Have a good one. Bye, bye, bye.

Read more
Ebook

How can chatbots serve your omnichannel strategy? Download our ebook!

Omnichannel strategies involve, of course, several channels, but did you ever thought about chatbots?
Discover how to easily integrate a chatbot in your omnichannel strategy and explore the benefits of an ‘omnibot’