Innovating Japanese Customer Service at TEPCO Energy Partner with Google Maps Platform
Mr. Yoshitaka Iizuka
Team Leader of the DX Promotion Office at TEPCO Energy Partner, Inc.
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Editor’s note: Today's article comes from Mr. Yoshitaka Iizuka, Team Leader of the DX Promotion Office at TEPCO Energy Partner, Inc., a group company of Tokyo Electric Power Holdings, Inc. (TEPCO). Iizuka is leading a comprehensive digital transformation (DX) initiative based on Google Maps Platform. He strives to realize the company's vision of becoming a "future-oriented infrastructure company" by achieving the twin goals of providing a quality customer experience and improving operational efficiency.
At TEPCO, we’re guided by one management philosophy: “Placing the highest priority on safety while fulfilling its responsibility and pioneering the future of energy for a safe and comfortable life.” With this in mind, TEPCO continues to provide energy and services indispensable for our customers' lives and the growth of numerous corporations.
TEPCO Energy Partner, Inc., is a retailer of electricity and gas that provides detailed customer services, such as proposals to reduce customers' energy burdens.
Improving Customer Service and Operational Efficiency
The energy industry used to be a sector that had not changed much. However, due to deregulation and the new services offered by various companies, the industry is changing rapidly. This is also true for the standard of customer service. Traditionally, customer service was based on call centers receiving phone calls from customers. As a result, it could take a long time to determine the customer’s location, causing difficulties in providing the appropriate support.
We set out to provide an easier, more convenient, and higher quality customer experience and service to become the company of choice for consumers, all while achieving a reduction in operational cost. We set up an omnichannel system to quickly respond via web-based forms, chat, and automated voice services.
The Reasons for Choosing Google Maps Platform
In our daily operations, it is vital to manage information on which buildings are supplied with electricity or gas. Likewise, customer support needs to accurately identify the service location and the details of the contract. Service address is the basis of our business. Unless we improve location accuracy, promoting digital transformation (DX) itself will be difficult. We chose Google Maps Platform to meet this fundamental need.
I was already familiar with Google Maps in my private life and fully recognized its ease of functionality and accuracy. Also appealing were Google Maps Platform’s rich set of APIs, with well-documented accessible information on each specification, usage, and examples. I found an excellent development partner in Goga, Inc. ("Goga"), so we decided to implement Google Maps Platform just six months after our DX project started.
Completing System Implementation in Just Three Months
Since tens of millions of locations needed to be identified through Google Maps Platform, we had to devise some innovative methods to reach our goal, like distributing requests to avoid reaching the API specification limits or handling tasks over a long period while using Google Cloud.
However, despite these intricacies, we had no major issues in the development process. Goga is an expert in mapping data, and the architecture of Google Maps Platform is ideal for agile project development.
We formed a small project team to develop, test, and modify each individual issue by leveraging Google Maps Platform. Large-scale projects are typically conducted in a waterfall approach and become time-consuming. However, we completed implementation exactly as planned and quite quickly, in just three months. It was a huge boost for us.
Drastically Increased Convenience and Accuracy with just two APIs
The Places API is used to provide an autocomplete feature to improve the customer experience. When customers enter their address in a web inquiry form, the autocomplete feature will populate the correct address or display a list of options, simplifying the process. The autocomplete function is also used by operators. When they receive customer queries, they can quickly confirm the address and input the data.
In addition, we use the Places API in a sub-project to expand corporate sales. We have one of Japan's biggest infrastructures, containing various pieces of information such as store operating hours, service details, and user reviews. We are currently analyzing this data with the Places API details to explore the possibility of making new suggestions for energy use and developing more diversified services.The second, Geocoding API, is used to identify more accurate locations from address information provided in channels like chat, voice recognition, and web forms. We use this Geocoding API most frequently.
Information on electricity and gas supply points used to be text data in our contract management system. With the Geocoding API, we converted it into latitude and longitude, then integrated it into our database. This greatly improved our location search speed, accuracy, and flexibility, and expanded our response capability. Unlike chatting over the phone, operators can now simultaneously respond to multiple queries.
Tripled Operational Efficiency and Achieved Significant Cost Reduction
Our company now handles about 300,000 inquiries per month, which means we tripled our operational efficiency compared to customer service provided by telephone operators. The impact has been substantial, both in terms of improving the customer experience and increasing operational efficiency and reducing cost.
By converting location information into latitude and longitude, we could also improve the database's accuracy because it helped identify inaccuracies and any incorrectly input information in the contract management system.
Becoming a "Future-Oriented Infrastructure Company”
We have achieved significant results in this first phase of DX with Google Maps Platform. We now expect further growth and new possibilities by continuing to use more Google technologies.
For example, for data analysis, in addition to Google Analytics, we have started implementing BigQuery, Vertex AI, and Looker in the last year. We can use Looker, specifically, for various types of analysis and new business areas through the integration with Google Maps Platform.
Our pursuit of improving customer service never ends. By providing a better customer experience with Google Maps Platform, we keep moving toward realizing our vision of becoming a "future-oriented infrastructure company."
For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.