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.
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
Standard rate messages sent to a subscriber's mobile phone must contain three elements:
- The content provider name/program, e.g. Acme Energy Alerts
- Stop and help information (Txt STOP to quit, Txt HELP for info)
- 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.
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:
- If they'd like to receive an ETOR and power restoration verification
- 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 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.
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?