Centrica Connected Home


"Salesforce help us to make the most of the Internet of Things and transform the homes and lives of our customers."

— Nina Bhatia
Managing Director, Centrica Connected Home

Centrica energises its Connected Home initiative with an exceptional customer experience.

The radiators are warm. The hallway lights are on. The radio is playing. With Hive products and services, coming home after a long day is a lot nicer. Hive, which is pioneered by Centrica Connected Home, gives people more control over their homes and their lives through the power of connected technology. “We want to empower our customers to take control of their home environment and their electrical devices anytime, anywhere,” said Neil Procter, Global Head of CRM at Connected Home, the Centrica business unit responsible for developing technology-led home management products and services. “We want to free people from having to be next to a plug or a thermostat; we want to make the inflexible flexible.”

The Connected Home team at Centrica, an energy and services company, took its first step towards achieving this vision in autumn 2013 with the launch of Hive Active Heating™, the first product in the Hive family. “With Hive Active Heating, people can not only time when their boiler kicks in on a daily basis, but also protect against frost, programme their holiday dates, and boost their heating or hot water for a short time if the weather changes unexpectedly,” explained Procter.

Creating a hive of activity

Smart light bulbs, motion sensors, and plugs have joined the Hive product suite, along with ‘actions’, which enable customers to bring together different connected products to make their lives even easier. For example, by connecting a Hive window or door sensor to one of their smart light bulbs, people can ensure their lights come on to welcome them home as they open the front door. The Hive products are also integrated with Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant Alexa.

“We want to give customers the flexibility to create smart homes that suit their lifestyles. But we need to make sure we are providing them with products and services that deliver value,” said Terence Sorrell, Business Solutions Manager at Connected Home. As well as spearheading new initiatives related to the Internet of Things (IoT), the team is also looking at artificial intelligence. “We want to build intelligent learning into our devices and develop algorithms that will help us identify things before they happen. This will not only help to drive our product development decisions but also inform our customers about their home appliances and resources,” added Sorrell.

The data scientists at Connected Home are already developing a device that will help detect potential leaks by monitoring water flow based on a household’s normal usage volumes at certain times.

Launching a global customer service platform

Salesforce has been part of the Hive revolution from day one, automating, integrating, and accelerating many core business processes. “We needed a platform that was extremely agile,” said Neil Procter, Global Head of CRM for the Connected Home team. “It took us just a few hours to work out that Salesforce was the right solution. And, because new features are constantly being added, it’s well placed to support our future plans.”

The Connected Home team relies on Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud at every stage of the customer lifecycle — whether they are keeping customers up to date with their latest innovations, completing a sale, fulfilling an order, or providing technical support.

With smart homes still a new concept to many people, responsive technical support is key to Hive’s success. A team of 150 agents in Glasgow answer customer queries across social media, email, web chat, among other channels. “Salesforce has become our global customer service platform. We can see everything we’re doing and everything we’ve done,” said Sorrell. “It makes it easier for our people to do things in a standard way — and in a smarter way.”

Connected Home has reduced the number of contacts to its technical support team by 12% since moving the customer registration process to Service Cloud, saving both time and money.

Innovating and expanding fast

Standardised business processes and working practices will be fundamental as the Connected Home team grows not just the Hive ecosystem but also the Hive global footprint. With a UK customer base of more than half a million, the Hive brand is ready to make a beeline for North America and beyond. “With Salesforce, we can launch new products and break into new markets faster than ever before,” said Sorrell.

With its business evolving so quickly, the Connected Home team must continue delivering an excellent customer experience. The Hive brand already has impressive Net Promoter Scores (NPS), as well as a remarkable statistic whereby 75% of customers claimed to have already recommended the brand to their friends or family.

“Customer service is what sets companies apart. Hive products are designed to make people’s lives easier; we need to ensure the same applies to our services,” said Andrew Jones, Head of Customer Experience at Connected Home. “We want to offer a world-class experience where our team is encouraged to engage openly with customers.”

Providing smart devices and smart support

Service Cloud captures every support interaction and Net Promoter Score and provides a knowledge base of FAQs. It also raises automatic cases from an analytics tool, which tracks the health of connected Hive devices. “With Service Cloud, we can be more responsive to our customers, and identify and resolve issues before they’ve even been noticed,” said Sorrell.

The Connected Home team captures customer feedback at three key touchpoints, which contributes to the Hive NPS ratings. With Marketing Cloud, the team will be able to personalise these surveys and schedule distribution based on the customer’s product usage. “We want to send the right information to the right people at the right time,” said Jones.

Creating a buzz with personalised content

To further personalise the customer experience, the Connected Home team plans to use Marketing Cloud to tailor all its communications, including monthly newsletters and onboarding instructions. “With Marketing Cloud, we can communicate with customers based on how far they’ve travelled on their Hive journey,” said Jones. “We can also try out different approaches to see how customers respond to content. It enables us to learn and fail fast.”

Marketing Cloud is integrated with Honeycomb, Centrica Connected Home’s custom IoT platform, which provides a range of insights into customer journeys and behaviours. For example, the team can see if a homeowner has bought a product but not yet activated his or her account, or how a customer’s heating usage compares with other people in the same area. “By integrating our data sets and systems, we’ll be able to unlock new intelligence to drive greater efficiency and richer customer engagements,” said Procter.

The Connected Home team has already used a number of Salesforce APIs, creating more than a dozen connections with other enterprise and cloud-based systems, including Zuora for subscription billing and Centrica’s work management platform for scheduling customer installations. “In the past, we didn't know for certain if a British Gas engineer would be available at the specified time,” said Sorrell. “Salesforce gives us the visibility to fulfil all our installation promises, and we’re incredibly proud of that.”

With more Centrica system integrations in the pipeline, Connected Home will be able to gather an even wider range of insights to support its growth ambitions in the UK and beyond. “We want to reach thousands more customers by the end of the year, and to provide an exceptional experience to every one of them,” said Procter. “Salesforce helps us make the most of IoT and transform the homes and lives of our customers.”

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