Sending text messages to your consumers just got a little easier for utilities, municipalities, and cooperatives. Thanks to a decision by the FCC on August 4 of last year, “consumers who provide their wireless telephone number to a utility company when:
have given prior express consent to be contacted by their utility company at that number with messages that are closely related to the utility service so long as the consumer has not provided instructions to the contrary.” Read the full text of the order here.
There are still many things to consider when sending text messages, which is why it is important to get advice from a professional. We are proud to partner with TextPower, who has excellent resources on this topic. Check out this video from TextPower for an attorney’s point of view on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Also, see this blog about how they can help your utility tackle the problem of not sending messages to a number that has been disconnected and reassigned to someone else.
Another important thing to consider when communicating with consumers via text message is the ability to know who has received and opened your message. Even more importantly, you need an easy way to identify what phone numbers in your database are mobile numbers. Over, 40% of US households no longer have a landline phone, but list their mobile as their home or primary phone number. Daffron has developed tools to help your utility with this issue. We have partnered with TextPower to offer Daffron customers an audit or scan of your phone number directly in your CIS database so that you are not wasting money by sending messages to landlines or numbers that have been disconnected.
Additionally, our Consumer Communications module offers you the ability to monitor the delivery status of the text messages, which is updated by the phone carrier. Similar functionality extends to emails and other system-generated messages. When sending emails from within the Consumer Communication module, you also have the ability to see when an email is opened and which links have been clicked within each email.
The November 2016 edition of RE Magazine, published by NRECA, talked to several industry leaders about this issue, and they emphasized the positive impact of this ruling on Cooperatives, as it allows them to continue to implement and grow “Beat the Peak” and prepay programs for their members. The following are some of the most popular ways that cooperatives and municipalities are using text messaging to improve communication with consumers.
CDE implemented notifications through the Daffron Consumer Communications module as a part of their Prepaid Billing Project. They are sending notifications to consumers for payments received, low balance alerts, and late payment notices to help improve communication. They look forward to expanding the use of notifications in many other areas.
Alpena Power Company (APC)
APC plans to use Bill Ready, Bill Due, Payment Processed, and Delinquent notifications. They are preparing to offer consumers email and text options for notifications in the near future. APC plans to communicate the new notification options to consumers by advertising their options on bills, on their home page, and making fliers available at the counter for walk-up customers. Every six months, a company report is published with important statistics about APC’s service and used as a bill insert. An insert encouraging consumers to sign up for their preferred notifications may be used as a part of that communication as well.
As utilities continue to enhance the way that they communicate with consumers, Daffron will continue to provide resources and solutions to help meet those needs. Use our contact form if you have any questions on this topic or want information on any of our products and services.
If you aren’t excited about UGM 2016 yet, then you must have missed Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. UGM 2016 is focused on addressing the biggest concerns facing your organization. We are taking a big picture approach to how Daffron helps you connect every job task within every department to achieve your goals.
When you are looking at the big picture, you don’t just look at yesterday and today, you also look to the future. That is why classes at UGM 2016 will focus on how the Daffron solution is working in every task you perform to connect you to the future.
If you aren’t overly concerned with, or already have a good grasp on, the big picture and just want some good old fashioned education, don’t fret. We’ve got you covered. We still have sessions dedicated to training, and you will have access to one-on-one help at any of our education stations spread throughout the conference hall.
UGM is swiftly approaching and you should be excited about the changes to this year’s format! This is Part 2 of our UGM preview. If you missed Part 1, you can always find it and any of our past stories on daffron.com/news. Let's look at some of the new session tracks for 2016.
Consumer Experience is influenced by a lot of different factors: how you set your rates, your hours of operation, how to report an outage, how they want to pay their bill or view usage data, and many more. The classes in the Consumer Experience track will take you from the planning stages of what data you want to collect, to what triggers consumer communications, all the way through to mobile apps and the tools we are developing for automating service orders.
Workforce Efficiency classes are going to involve a hands-on approach to improving tasks in every department. From the first class on Tuesday, all the way through the final session, you will get to work as teams to go through an entire new service project in the most efficient way possible. This will involve learning from other users on best practices, and will encompass Staking, WMS, FMS, and CIS job tasks.
We will also be introducing Education Stations this year. Stop by or schedule an appointment if you want some one-on-one time with a Daffron employee to find out more about a topic or learn best practices. See the agenda and session descriptions once you login to ugm.daffron.com.
According to a 2015 study by Navigant, two of the top concerns for utilities in 2016 are: enhancing the consumer experience and improving workforce efficiency. Daffron solutions help utilities address both of these issues, as well as many other tasks utilities face every day.
In addition to the traditional line up of sessions, attendees of the 2016 Daffron UGM will have the opportunity to experience how Daffron solutions work together across your entire organization to achieve a better consumer experience, and to increase workforce efficiency.
To accomplish this, we are restructuring how you experience UGM. It takes many people across every department to achieve a better consumer experience. Therefore, our consumer experience classes will address these cross-departmental hurdles and how the Daffron solution can connect everyone together.
Similarly, our workforce efficiency classes will incorporate Staking, FMS, WMS, and CIS elements throughout the week, to mirror how all of these pieces are being used in your organization to accomplish the goal of workforce efficiency.
This means that your classroom experience will be integrated just as tightly as our software suites integrate with each other and with third party vendors. Sitting alongside people of all departments and discussing how the Daffron solution tackles the big picture, you will learn how your utility can pull it all together and improve your consumers’ experience and workforce efficiency.
“Daffron has bent over backwards to give me access to their in-house tools they use for monitoring, and it is the personal touch they can offer that sets them apart from other companies.” states Craig Cramer, Manager of Information Systems at Western Cooperative Electric. “Being able to see messages of importance as they happen has been extremely helpful, especially the notifications of disabled accounts, and I keep an eye on the Monitor Page throughout the day. Kudos to the TSP team!”
While technology continues to grow and change, many companies find their budgets can’t keep up with the demands for new staff or additional specialized training. Daffron heard this concern from our customers in our focus groups and at UGM. In 2015, we officially launched a full scale Technology Services Plan, (TSP). Some services were already available, such as Disaster Recovery, however small businesses needed more flexibility with more options. Daffron now includes, application server management, network management, and hosted email services.
Network management services includes real-time server monitoring for your iXp applications. Our in-house tech experts are notified of any possible issues giving them time to research and prevent or resolve bigger problems from interrupting your day. The monitoring does not stop at 5 o’clock. With our automated text system, the on-call tech is notified 24/7/365 so you can sleep easy. Our technical specialists will help with VPN tunnels, firewall configurations, PTF upgrades, system saves, PCI DSS security analysis, and much more.
Application health is a vital piece of any business and Daffron would love to talk to you about what services would best accommodate your needs. Contact your sales team for more information – email@example.com / 888.DAFFRON.
Duplication of work, manual errors, reduction of workforce, and lack of communication between departments; all these stumbling blocks can be overcome with the proper technology. Software systems have evolved from addressing individual tasks or processes, to connecting every department in your organization along with each task in your workflows.
As your utility manages the day-to-day business operations, you need a system in place to handle the increasingly complex accounting, regulatory, and human resource requirements. Mobile devices, electronic databases, and email are tools often used to try and cope with the many aspects surrounding these workflows. However, the proper Financial Management System (FMS) can harness all of these tools and use them within a system designed to eliminate the stumbling blocks you face.
As the saying goes, “Time is money.” The amount of time saved by an effective FMS is staggering. With a decreasing workforce, the ability to do more with fewer resources is a must. Daffron’s FMS is a single solution that connects General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Payroll/HR, and Fixed Assets modules. Our FMS also connects your software across departments to provide one common view of your company’s financial landscape. With FMS users are able to:
Cathy McKay at Grundy Electric Co-op says, “KUDOS to the great group of Daffron employees who worked diligently with me to produce successful ACA 1095B forms! Yet another great example of the support we receive from the GREAT people at Daffron!”
“Are we under-utilizing the Daffron system?” That was the concern Robert Stephens, Assistant Manager at Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power (CEL&P), had prior to attending the Daffron User Group Meeting (UGM). “It was a definite eye-opener.”
It is all too common to only scratch the surface of using all the features and interfaces of a software solution, the very solution that is designed to make your lives easier by improving daily operations, increasing overall productivity, and saving you time and money. If you don’t feel your software is adding value to your utility, chances are you are under-utilizing its functionality.
“Participating in the UGM sessions and conversations was just the beginning of making sure we were utilizing all of the built-in features, functionality, and interfaces” explains Stephens. Manual processes, external spreadsheets, and lack of integration between systems can slow you down, costing your utility time and money. Utilization of the software you already own is a key component in your ROI.
Stephens shares a few tips that are helping CEL&P maximize the Daffron system.
Tip 1. Instead of using history comments, we are moving towards using General Service Orders, which can easily move work from department to department.
Tip 2. Interface! Exploit the power of the Daffron applications by making sure you are taking advantage of the interfaces between the applications.
CEL&P, founded in 1890, is located in Indiana and is locally owned and operated by their customers. Daffron is proud to partner with CEL&P.
Brian Taylor, Superintendent/General Manager at CDE Lightband, launched his career 30+ years ago, learning the ropes in the utility industry on a home-grown software system. Manual processes and lack of enterprise integration were the norm. The challenges were significant, yet simpler than what utilities face today.
Working in the IT Department in his early years, Brian experienced firsthand the need to stay abreast of the rapid changes in technology and in the utility industry. The forward-thinking technologies of 30 years ago are a long-lost memory that has been surpassed many times over as technology continues to change and improve to meet the emerging needs of the utility and the growing demands of the consumer.
At the 2015 Daffron User Group Meeting (UGM), Brian reminisced about earlier years before turning his focus to the challenges of today.
Through the years, CDE has worked closely with Daffron to handle these challenges, to stay ahead of the evolving market and customer expectations, and to develop a long-term technology plan to achieve their goals in the changing world of the utility industry.
Expanding on its service and the needs of its consumers, CDE currently provides broadband to almost a third of its consumers; a number that continues to increase each year.
“The importance and value of the relationship between our utility and our software vendor, Daffron, has grown substantially over the years,” states Brian. “As our utility and needs have grown, Daffron has been there with the solutions that enable CDE to operate efficiently, utilizing the latest technology.”
About CDE LightbandCDE Lightband, formed in 1938 when the distribution system was purchased from Kentucky-Tennessee Light & Power, is located in Clarksville, Tennessee, serving over 67,000 consumers. All power consumed by CDE and its customers is supplied by TVA. CDE’s mission is to improve their community through the reliable and affordable delivery of electric and broadband services.
“Our customers appreciate the convenience of being able to monitor and manage their own accounts,” explains Tara Young, Office Manager at Houston County Electric Cooperative in Texas. “Decreased costs and increased customer service with the implementation of Daffron’s Consumer Communications has been wonderful.”
The success of utility companies is constantly being redefined by consumers as their expectations rise. Easier access to accurate account information, more options for paying bills, and a desire for two-way communication are just some of the challenges that utilities are facing today.
Faced with these same industry obstacles, Houston County turned to Daffron, their partner for over 30 years. After implementing Consumer Communications, consumers at Houston County can now view accurate account information with the ability to drill down into their daily usage cost, and can even compare usage against the weather report for that day for better understanding of their bill. Consumer Communications enables utilities to automatically relay information, such as:
“There are no surprises, which our consumers really like,” states Sarah Goolsby, Senior Billing Analyst. Consumer Communications allows utility customers to take control over their usage and easily engage with their utility company.
Like all Daffron solutions, Consumer Communications works seamlessly with our CIS solution through automation and real-time integration, providing you with the most effective tools for communication and billing functions.
“It really is a partnership. And has been for years,” summarizes Tara at Houston County Electric about working with Daffron. “They are our family and always come through.”
“The Operations Team is extremely happy with the iXp software!” exclaims Luann Warren, Operations Support Supervisor at CDE Lightband in Tennessee. “We love the quick access tab from Service Order inquiry and the task bar.”
One of the features the CDE Operations Team uses daily is the direct Google Maps link from the service address. They use this feature as a quick way to look at a location – you can see if an object is overhead or underground, and see transformers, poles, phone, and cable vaults.
“Many times this has saved us money by not having to send a crew or engineer to look at a location because we can verify details from the street or earth view of the area,” says Warren. For example, they receive multiple calls about CATV pole-mounted booster boxes, AT&T pedestals, etc. Most times they can easily identify these by looking at the Google map. While they are also able to call up their system mapping, this is an easy way to jump right to the location virtually and look around.
Google Maps integration is a small piece of the benefits CDE is realizing through the iXp Solution. “Our service order process, tracking, and returning works smoothly and is very streamlined,” states Warren. With efficiency and system integration being at the forefront, iXp provides the functionality and processes CDE needs to deliver top quality service and support to their customers.