Best Practice

MS Dynamics CRM

Energie Steiermark x gorelate: Digitalization of customer service and planned use of AI for increased customer satisfaction.

20. November 2023

Ina Baltes

For the subsidiary "go green energy" of Energie Steiermark, gorelate has implemented a CRM project, marking the first instance of integrating a cloud solution within the traditional on-premise infrastructure. With Dynamics 365, service agents can be significantly supported in handling the growing number of inquiries, and the management of tariff adjustments in marketing can be effectively streamlined.

Insights into the project, as well as a preview, will be provided by Christoph Markaritzer from Energie Steiermark, Jörg Konwalinka from MICROSOFT, and Hermann Hofbauer from gorelate.

Insights into the Project

Background & Decision for Dynamics 365 and gorelate

Go green energy had been using a historically grown update.seven CRM solution in customer service for years, which no longer received support, raised security concerns, and did not allow for further professional development. Therefore, a new solution was needed.

Simultaneously, there was a future initiative within the corporation through the "fit4future" project: a strategic reorientation towards an omnichannel customer service, setting the direction for the CRM's further development. The goal was to provide a consistent experience and the same information to all customers across various channels (e.g., phone, email, letter) and seamlessly switch between them.

After a market analysis, it quickly became apparent that Microsoft Dynamics was the suitable solution. The transition to a cloud solution was sought to integrate customer management into a comprehensive business app. Following legal scrutiny and demos with IT and departments, the decision was made to implement Microsoft Dynamics.

Successful Partnership of MICROSOFT and gorelate as Valuable Project Partners for E-Steiermark

Jörg Konwalinka, Head of Business Applications at Microsoft, has been accompanying gorelate since day one. The longstanding collaboration is characterized by a high level of trust and fruitful results. The partnership is close, reliable, flexible, and simultaneously agile in the process.

"…Of course, expertise is also crucial: We at Microsoft offer an incredibly vast platform and possibilities within Microsoft technology with the corresponding innovation… and combined with the competence in the energy sector that gorelate brings, given their extensive experience, this combination is, of course, beneficial."

Jörg Konwalinka, Head of Business Applications at MICROSOFT Austria GmbH
 


"We are a public company, thus a sector-specific client, where a procurement process had to be conducted in accordance with procurement law. Gorelate was then one of the recommended implementation partners and won this procedure as both the technically best and commercially most favorable bidder – it was a very clear outcome!"

Christoph Markaritzer, Project Lead MS Dynamics at Energie Steiermark

Collaboration ENERGIE STEIERMARK & gorelate

Hermann Hofbauer reports on an extremely successful and at the same time unusual project. The project was one of the first to start in the midst of the pandemic. This led to the project initiation, workshops, and sprint meetings being held exclusively virtually for a long time, and the project team initially only got to know each other through video conferences. Nevertheless, the collaboration worked exceptionally well, as the team constituted a good mix of IT experts and specialists from Energie Steiermark, as well as employees from gorelate. From the beginning, the collaboration was described as professional but also humorous, with this interplay of joy being precisely what contributed to the success and work

motivation also led to an outstanding project outcome. Towards the end of the project, in-person meetings became possible again, leading to a joint celebration to conclude the project.

Christoph Markaritzer adds that they had an excellent connection with gorelate from the start and knew they had made the right choice with this implementation partner. The collaboration worked well also because external and internal team members operated on an equal footing.

The Project Implementation: Challenges and Highlights

Technical Challenges

One of the initial technical challenges was to integrate the Dynamics 365 cloud application into the existing on-premise system landscape of Energie Steiermark, an infrastructure operator highly focused on security. To achieve this, a proof-of-concept was conducted, testing various use cases, all of which were highly successful. It was crucial to securely transfer the customer database into the Microsoft Cloud.

For this purpose, an integration layer was developed to securely link the cloud solution with the on-premise structure. This involved important technical steps regarding security. All necessary measures were successfully implemented, and the operation has been running stably for almost two years.

Focus of the processes

In terms of the processes in the project, a particular emphasis was placed on supporting the service agents, as the number of support requests in the energy sector has significantly increased in recent years. The software was intended to effectively and sustainably facilitate the work of the service agents. An important aspect of this was the omnichannel approach, aiming to redirect customer inquiries received via phone, email, or web portal to the respective teams in a targeted and swift manner. Additionally, service agents were to be supported in handling and resolving inquiries through clear dashboards and the implementation of a knowledge database.

Technology of Microsoft Dynamics 

A third interesting aspect was exploring and understanding the technologies of Microsoft Dynamics. It was recognized how flexible the software is and what adjustments can be made. This allowed for quick and flexible responses to developments in the energy market and implementation of sales adjustments.

"When a sales adjustment is necessary, for example, because a tariff model no longer exists, the customer receives an email from us with an offer, where they basically just have to confirm the offer with a button click. This completes the contract, is processed automatically, and the service team doesn't have to do anything else except continue to take excellent care of the customer."

Christoph Markaritzer, Project Lead MS Dynamics at Energie Steiermark AG

Benefits for Users and Successes Through the Project

Dynamics now significantly supports marketing communications, which no longer need to be externally handled by agencies but can be internally implemented in collaboration between sales and IT. The digitization of customer service and modern overviews lead to a significant relief for service personnel. This allows them to focus on important customer cases, while simple inquiries and use cases are automated through an integrated knowledge database.
 


"The user feedback from end users in marketing and service was very positive. Inquiries can now be processed much faster and more efficiently. This naturally pleases the service agents but also simultaneously increases customer satisfaction."

Hermann Hofbauer

project leader & Technical Consultant

Outlook towards the Integration of Artificial Intelligence

Christoph Markaritzer is already eager to see how the implementation of Artificial Intelligence can further support these efforts. He sees great potential both in the area of email reply management and in the ongoing optimization and simplification of service processes.

Jörg, how can new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) further alleviate the service, and what potentials do you see for E-Steiermark?

The topic of AI is a very significant one. MICROSOFT and he see a lot of potential, especially in the service environment. Why? In fact, every company is faced with the challenge that there are too few resources available to provide customer service. At the same time, customer inquiries are increasing. Thus, there is high demand on one hand, and on the other hand, too few resources to address this demand. The processes are becoming more complex, so the onboarding process for new employees is also getting longer and more challenging to acquire all the necessary know-how and information.

„And that's exactly where AI plays a crucial role. Through artificial intelligence, we call it CoPilot, essentially a co-pilot next to me who helps me quickly access information and find the right answers. It offers the possibility to quickly access information that is available somewhere in the company; using simple voice input, it searches through knowledge bases, documents, past cases, and information scattered throughout the company, then presents this information to me in an appropriate form, such as in an email or in a chat as an agent when I'm chatting with a customer. This significantly accelerates the entire process and helps everyone in responding to customer inquiries. We currently see this as one of the biggest cases and definitely as a potentially next step for Energie Steiermark.“

Jörg Konwalinka, Head of Business Applications at MICROSOFT Austria GmbH

Further Future Perspectives

The project for go green energy was successfully completed last year. There, the expansion of real-time marketing for online campaigns is still pending. Currently, a follow-up project for another client is already underway, where both customer service and field service are to be implemented. In this case, it involves the business of a regional heat supplier, where heat technicians are to be supported in processing their work orders in the field service through tablets.

About Energie Steiermark and go green energy GmbH & Co KG

Energie Steiermark, headquartered in Graz, is an Austrian energy and service company. Rooted deeply in our home region, not only through our owner, the Province of Styria, we contribute to its development as a reliable service partner and a dynamic force of innovation. With our 29 main operating locations in Styria, a sales company in Vienna, and stakes in various enterprises, we are always close to our customers. This holds true not only within Austria but also beyond its borders: in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Germany, and France. We prioritize energy efficiency and innovative service offerings in the fields of electricity, natural gas, heating, and mobility. The solutions come from our over 1,900 employees, dedicating their experience and expertise to a fair partnership with approximately 600,000 customers at home and abroad. Everything is in the green zone with us: In energy generation, we rely exclusively on renewable energy from water, wind, sun, and biomass.

The go green energy GmbH & Co KG supplies more than 170,000 satisfied household customers and small businesses nationwide in Austria with green electricity and climate-neutral gas. Since its inception, the focus of this specialist in environmentally friendly energy supply has been on delivering energy at long-term fair prices and providing the option to switch online with just a few clicks. With this digital business model, go green energy is one of the largest alternative energy providers in Austria.

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