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Utility Customer Communications via SMS/Text Messaging (part 2)


In the last blog post, I talked about the background of SMS/Text Messaging and what this means to utilities, providing customers with the flexibility of receiving information and initiating requests through SMS/text messaging.  Now, let's dig a little deeper and discuss how text messaging works, and some of the uses and benefits.

Carrier Requirements

The wireless carriers have very strict rules regarding what, how and to whom a commercial entity can send a text message.  Most of these rules apply to premium messaging due to the additional cost implications to the subscriber.  The four most predominant requirements for standard messaging are described below:

In order for a commercial entity to send a text message to a subscriber, the subscriber must 'opt-in' or specifically request to receive text messages.  Opt-in can be achieved by:

  • Sending a specific keyword to the short code
  • Signing up on a website
  • Specifying your preference in an IVR application
  • Speaking with a live agent

Message Elements
Standard rate messages sent to a subscriber's mobile phone must contain three elements:

  1. The content provider name/program, e.g. Acme Energy Alerts
  2. Stop and help information (Txt STOP to quit, Txt HELP for info)
  3. Contact information, e.g. www.acmeenergy.com

Support for Help and Opt-Out
Content providers must support the required keywords for help (HELP) and opt-out (STOP, QUIT, STOP ALL, etc.) and respond to the user appropriately when one of those keywords is received.

Pricing Information
Since the subscriber does not pay the provider to receive a standard rate message, the only cost to the subscriber is the fee to the carrier for sending and receiving messages.  Standard rate messages must contain the phrase 'Msg & data rates may apply'.

How Text Messaging Works

Text messaging is an option with the TFCC High Volume Call Answering (HVCA) system.  The IVR asks customers:

  1. If they'd like to receive an ETOR and power restoration verification
  2. How they'd like to be notified - landline, cell or text

Outside the IVR, customers sign up via a registration page to receive ETOR or other text messages.

Two-Way Texting
Two-way texting lets you send and receive two-way SMS messages.  Two-way texting is sending text messages to a short code and getting a return text message.

Example: A common utility two-way text message might acknowledge the outage report or ask for confirmation that the customer's power has been restored.

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Text Messaging Uses

The following is a sample of the utility message types:

  • Power outage reporting
  • Restoration confirmation
  • Outage status
  • Planned outage notification
  • Balance inquiry
  • Payment reminder
  • Request call back from CSR
  • Curtailment/load shed request
  • Usage information
  • Appointment reminder
  • Meter reading submission

 Text Messaging Benefits

  • Provide greater choices and convenience to customers
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Available even if the power is out
  • Leverages current HVCA system and existing interfaces with CIS, OMS, etc.
  • Utility client does not need to acquire SMS short code
  • Requires minimal use of IT resources from client
  • Reduces calls to the call center
  • Less expensive than the IVR

In the next blog post, we will talk about the steps to implement a text messaging program.

How has your utility implemented a text messaging program?








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