TCPA: Can Utilities Send Text Messages to Consumers?

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:

  1. they initially sign up to receive utility service,
  2. subsequently supply the wireless telephone number, or
  3. later update their contact information

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.

Cost Saving Tools

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.

Top Uses of Text Messaging Among Utilities

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.

  • Prepay notices
  • Storm warnings
  • Beat the Peak initiatives (to reduce usage during peak times)
  • Outage notices
  • Bill due reminders
  • Delinquent notices
  • Payment confirmations
  • Company announcements and more!

Utilities Currently Using Text Messaging

CDE Lightband

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.

Contact Us for Help

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.


UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 3

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: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 2

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.


2016 Top Concerns

UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 1

UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 1

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.

Visit UGM Website


Daffron Technology Services Plan

Western Cooperative: Viewing important messages as they happen

Western Cooperative: Viewing important messages as they happen

“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 – marketing@cdamrk.wpengine.com / 888.DAFFRON.


Daffron Financial Management System

Save time and money with Daffron’s Financial Management System

Save time and money with Daffron’s Financial Management System

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:

  • Export reports directly to Excel, PDF, and other formats.
  • Update nearly every system with our Accounts Payable module, integrating invoice data across solutions.
  • Take advantage of self-service payroll access in which users can make changes and updates on their own time.
  • Complete forms to comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations.
  • From Payroll you can add labor to Work Orders, update usage to vehicles in Transportation, and send budgeting information to General Ledger.

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!”


Daffron Consumer Communication

Houston County Finds ROI in Daffron's Consumer Communications

Houston County Finds ROI in Daffron's Consumer Communications

“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:

  • Bill reminders
  • Delinquent notices
  • Prepaid notices
  • Payment confirmations
  • Company Announcements and more!

“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.”


So you've planned your entire AMI implementation - or have you?

You've planned your entire AMI implementation - or have you?

An Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system represents a significant investment for utilities – one that is essential if you hope to leverage smart grid technology for your staff and your customers.  But during the planning and budgeting phase, it can be easy to overlook the comparatively inexpensive process of integrating your chosen AMI solution with your existing CIS/Billing solution.  Without that crucial step, your staff may not properly benefit from automation like remote connect and disconnect Service Orders, meter information updates, changes to customer accounts and other key time-savers.  In addition, support for prepaid metering and other customer initiatives can rely heavily on the integration between these two critical systems.

So whether you are in the early stages of AMI planning, or if you are already in implementation, make sure part of your overall strategy includes integration with your CIS/billing platform.

For more information, call Daffron today!


Payment Kiosks Enhance Service

PaySite kiosks that Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corporation in Fayetteville, Ark., has set up in merchant zones across its service territory are providing consumers with a new level of convenience. The kiosks, boasting simple on-screen instructions, let consumers view their current account balance, make payments by credit card, check, or cash, and receive quick payment confirmation.

Tight integration between the co-op’s Daffron & Associates customer information system (CIS) and US Payments, relying on MultiSpeak® Initiative specifications, makes the kiosk benefit possible, notes Todd Townsend, the co-op’s vice president of corporate services. “Information is sent securely and instantly between the systems in real time, and once a member’s account information is checked against our CIS database, payment is posted as if the consumer was in the lobby. The kiosks will even prevent a cash-only consumer from trying to pay with a check.”

The setup also provides a seamless audit trail for consumer service staffers so that, if a member has further questions, co-op representatives can supply answers quickly.

“We’re constantly striving to increase our membership’s level of satisfaction,” Townsend points out. “The kiosk portal gives members an additional payment method, which will hopefully boost their experience.”


Cancer Memorial Park

Daffron & Associates would like to congratulate its co-owner and long-time employee, Karen Daffron, who has been recognized as Bowling Green, Missouri’s Citizen of the Year.  Karen is the President of the Cancer Memorial Park Foundation Board of Directors.  Almost everyone has been touched by this terrible disease, and Karen wanted a way to honor all who have fought the battle with cancer.  Cancer Memorial Park has been her idea and vision from the outset and, with the enthusiastic help of the Bowling Green community and beyond, the park has become a reality.  It is a true example of the community coming together to make something great happen.

About the Cancer Memorial Park Foundation

The Cancer Memorial Park Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to memorialize and honor those who have lost the fight with cancer and support those currently engaged in the fight.  The park is constructed with a paver brick floor engraved with personal messages from contributors and the names of loved ones remembered or honored.  Several memorial benches along with custom made caps for the walls of the cancer ribbon also contain engraved names and messages.  The Foundation hopes that the park will continue to raise cancer awareness for many years to come.

CancerMemorialPark