SMS solutions in the energy sector
Providing innovative and efficient customer service
Customer service telecom specialists Difference Corp enlisted the help of Comapi to offer a bespoke solution for a leading UK energy provider. The company (who serve half a million customers) were able to dramatically improve the amount of meter reading submissions and bill payments they received using SMS, whilst discovering some unexpected benefits of SMS along the way. They needed a provider who had experience in sending at scale, and who also understood the complexities of SMS and the range of its use.
The client was already provided with telephony services for their call centers from Difference Corp when they enquired about a solution for two main challenges. They wanted to increase customer submissions for meter readings and create a means for bill payments that was both convenient for customers and likely to improve promptness.
Before employing SMS, the energy provider used a combination of initial email and follow-up phone calls. This was not only costly with the average cost to serve of a live phone call being between £3.50 and £6 per session, it was also inefficient, with low email open rates and a lackluster response from customers who were either not compelled enough to act or it was not convenient for them to do so. The energy provider is a company in a period of rapid growth, so it was also imperative that any solutions were able to handle high volumes and had an element of future-proofing.
Without meter readings, energy companies are unable to provide accurate bills, resulting in a poorer experience when customers are made aware that they have either over paid, or owe more than they had expected. This may affect a company’s brand and cause them to lose revenue with a loss of retention, or a decline in new customers. Likewise, late bill payments result in a negative repercussion for a company, with the costly nature of chasing up the customer, and the tiered expenses of a debt recovery process.
With an established solid working relationship and a track record of pioneering successes, Difference Corp identified the advantage of the client utilizing SMS and approached Comapi to be a provider. Comapi and Difference Corp worked together to provide the solutions that the client needed and Comapi now send over a million SMS communications for the client every month.
For meter readings, the end customer would now receive an SMS to prompt them to submit the data via a unique link. The 98% open rate of SMS led to a 60% success rate of response, a figure which surpassed the client’s expectations and also vastly exceeds typical rates for the energy sector as a whole.
One of the advantages of using SMS for meter reads that became apparent was the ability to forward the message to another person, typically another occupant. For example, if the account holder receives the text whilst they are at work, they can forward the message onto their spouse or housemate who they know is at home in order to submit the meter readings whilst it is fresh in their minds. This was also an advantage of using SMS to remind or request bill payments, where the end customer could forward a link to the bill and the payment portal to a recipient who is co-responsible for it such as a housemate or family member.
The links, contained in the envelope of the SMS, took advantage of Comapi’s link shortening services, which reduced the unique ID that is generated by the client for their customer portal access down from three segments to under one, immediately saving the cost of the two additional segments per interaction.
Difference Corp also worked with Comapi to ensure that the shortened links reached a level of requirement of randomness so that they were secure and would prevent other users accessing the link either by error or with malicious intent.
All of Comapi’s SaaS or API solutions provide a plethora of useful data for clients, including tracking services which are particularly useful for the client in the lead up to a debt recovery process. By using SMS, the client can identify that the user has received and opened the text message, and whether they have clicked on the link. It can then be undisputed that they have been notified of any intentions to escalate matters if there is no resolution within a given time period.
Currently, the SMS communications are sent manually through Comapi’s SaaS platform. The client is looking to switch to a more automated process with the use of Comapi’s APIs. This would automate a customer journey from the point of onboarding and buffer their path of transition whilst switching providers, giving a superior customer service experience to many competitors. They would also like to take advantage of Comapi’s HLR services which would enable them to verify that a phone number is live and in use, and that the user on sign up has not provided the company with a dummy number, or provided an inaccurate one by mistake, as it is as important for the end-customer as it is the energy provider that the number is correct to offer the end-goal experience. The client will also be able to adopt any future channels (such as Facebook Messenger, RCS, Twitter DM or WhatsApp) with ease because of the simplicity of use of Comapi’s One API, which only requires a single integration.