Rhythm Energy empowers growth and agents with agile CX
When Rhythm Energy started providing renewable energy plans in Texas, the company was set to scale, anticipating rapid growth. The team chose Zendesk as its CX platform because flexibility and ease of use could keep them ahead of a growing customer base. When a weather event changed the landscape of the energy sector in Texas, Rhythm Energy was positioned to meet the demand and field spectacular growth.
“Zendesk facilitates care. It creates a seamless experience where the customer has everything proactively available to them, which reduces inbound communications to the support team.”
“As a new startup, things are changing on the fly. With Zendesk, we are able to make changes very quickly without IT involvement.”
Number of support agents
Self-service deflection rate
Reduction in automatic escalations
From wind farms to solar panels, renewable energy is lighting up households across the Lone Star State and helping people reduce their carbon footprint. The Texas company leading this transition is Rhythm Energy, a retail electric provider inspiring customers to take control of the energy sources that power their homes.
The path to a more sustainable, lower emission future came with a few growing pains at first. Rhythm Energy hit the market in January 2021, only weeks before winter ice storms forced power grids offline across Texas. The Houston-based company had its hands full as traditional energy companies stopped accepting new customers, and customers sought new electricity plans with fixed rates and renewable options.
Employees used battery packs and worked around the clock to address the crisis, all while supporting a rapidly growing customer base. “Our customer base grew exorbitantly in just a week. At the same time, we were trying to make sure everyone was taken care of and we were solving customer questions,” says Jennifer Schmitt, senior director of customer care and operations.
The first two months proved challenging but also set the team up to become resilient and reliable. Every step of the way, Zendesk provided a flexible and comprehensive CX solution that could adapt to unprecedented change.
Schmitt adds, “Rhythm Energy is customer experience centric to its core. Customer service was always non-negotiable. The investment in Zendesk in large part was non-negotiable.”
Best-in-class customer experience
Schmitt knows the value of having a robust tech-forward platform from her previous experience leading CX teams. “The energy business lends itself to more frequent customer conversations, which is why a strong tool like Zendesk is important. We invested in best-of-breed tools because customers need to be able to rely on us being there.”
When it comes to electricity, customers want quick answers so most inquiries come in via phone. While messaging, email, and text (SMS) are also available as support channels, it has been the power of Zendesk’s Answer Bot to serve up information outside of business hours through the messaging web widget that has provided extreme value to the Rhythm Energy team.
Schmitt says, “Having Answer Bot was helpful to greet customers with certain information and provide some level of call deflection for the most common questions. Where do I make a payment? Where is my customer portal?” This Zendesk AI capability helped the team respond faster and reduce customer concerns around their energy.
Establishing trust and providing reassurance is also key, says Schmitt. “Zendesk enabled us to create a response that could be triggered based on the timing of the interaction: We’re open seven days a week during these hours. You can type your request here, include your email address, and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as we reopen.”
A flexible platform that easily scales
With business needs evolving day to day, Rhythm Energy required a flexible CX system to keep pace. “The best thing about Zendesk is being able to adapt and grow with it as the business is scaling quickly. Agents come up with new ideas on a daily basis and in five minutes we can have a solution ready for the team to use,” says Gina Titus, customer care team lead.
Customer Care Manager Brandon Cancino also appreciates the fast agility of the platform. “As a new startup, things are changing on the fly. With Zendesk, we are able to make changes very quickly without IT involvement.” He encourages his team to look for ways to be even more responsive: “Empowering agents to think outside the box is a good thing. You want them asking, ‘Is there a more efficient way? I can do this in five clicks. How can I do it in four clicks, or three clicks?’”
Schmitt has also found small customizations that can drive efficiency. “In Zendesk, it’s easy to create a custom form or check box to help process tickets and streamline support.” That means her team can develop proactive solutions and easily refine operations without engineering support. A win-win for everyone.
Proactive support means fewer tickets
Sometimes it helps to think like a customer. Schmitt explains, “Zendesk facilitates care. We want a seamless experience where the customer has everything proactively available to them.” Rhythm Energy has a program that provides automatic rewards for certain customer actions. Each bill also includes their carbon footprint impact and information on renewals and billing. These optimizations go a long way to reducing inbound communications to the team.
Zendesk’s FAQ integration makes it easy for agents to provide consistent educational support to customers allowing them to self-serve. Automation augments the experience by offering customers curated, pre-written articles when they need it most, on channels of their choice. This eliminates the need to retype information and keeps interactions conversational.
A standardized message can be added for instant reassurance: Let us know if you still have questions. We’re here and will respond immediately. The customers may find the answers they need in the article and have no reason to follow up with support.
Leveraging metrics for a broad picture of customer experience
Getting data organized and generating metrics can be challenging for any new business. The Zendesk reporting and analytics feature gave Schmitt and her team the power to pull reports, even in the midst of building out a fully integrated data infrastructure.
“We were able to do satisfaction surveys from day one, so we could see how customers were responding to our care and provide quantitative feedback. Those were big wins in 2021.” Being able to identify where new macros or FAQs were needed was crucial early on.
To measure program success, Schmitt starts with CSAT and NPS. “Then we look at additional contact rate and first interaction resolution numbers. Tracking the split of digital versus telephony communication also helps us understand the movement toward digitalization.”
“Our core objectives include both digitalization and customer satisfaction metrics.” Going beyond CSAT numbers can provide an even broader understanding of the customer experience. The more data that is gathered in Zendesk, the easier it is to identify investment and growth opportunities and communicate them to executive leadership.
Investing in automation to drive efficiency
As the business grew, Rhythm needed to train new support agents to handle high volumes and deliver accurate information fast. Cancino counted on Zendesk triggers, automations, and macros to get the job done.
“When we first started, we wanted agents to be aligned in their customer responses. We used Zendesk macros to quickly adjust our scripts as new scenarios came up,” explains Cancino. This ensures that customers get the exact same answer, no matter which agent they speak to.
“With Zendesk templates, a customer response email can be created with the click of a button, which reduces the chance for errors,” adds Cancino. It’s also a time saver because agents don’t have to use another system to cross-check their answers.
Standardizing transactions creates a smooth training process all around. “Zendesk is easy to teach because everything’s automated. We can take an agent with zero knowledge right off the training floor and have them assisting customers like a tenured agent” says Cancino.
Growing community and conversation
Schmitt looks forward to engaging with other Zendesk customers to solve future challenges and learn more about the platform’s capabilities. “Zendesk is more than a help desk tool. There’s a huge online community that shares solutions across different industries. Using that open source knowledge to address issues is a huge value-add provided by Zendesk.”
The north star for the Rhythm Energy customer care team is to deliver on the company founder’s mission to make customers experience energy in a better way. It appears that the team is well on its way to doing exactly that.