It’s vital for utility providers to keep their customers up-to-date, but finding the right communication method can be an expensive and time-consuming project. Luckily, using mass text messaging for utilities is an economical and simple way to communicate with customers. Regardless of the utilities an organization provides, harnessing the benefits of SMS for utilities is easy through a few key approaches.
Use a Mass Messaging Service
One of the first things a utility company should do when looking to use SMS for utilities is to sign up for a mass texting service. This service will allow you to reach all of your customers simultaneously, and many services offer benefits such as:
- Combination voice + text messaging
- Automatic replies
- Text templates
- 2-way messaging
After you’ve set up a mass messaging service, it’s easy to dive into some of the ways you can use your service to benefit your customers.
Usage or Outage Alerts
SMS is a great way to update customers on critical issues like usage and outage alerts. For example, if there are caps on electricity or gas usage, a simple SMS message can help customers by notifying them that they’ve almost hit their limit.
Conversely, mass texting makes it easy to notify a customer if there’s a spike in usage in comparison to their usual usage for that time of year. For example, if there’s an increase in gas, this may be a sign of a dangerous gas leak situation.
Additionally, updating customers on future and current outages will help customers plan ahead and know when they can expect services to be restored. This will not only keep customers informed, but will also work to reduce the number of inbound calls to the service center.
For water companies, it’s beneficial to use SMS alerts to notify customers of shut-offs in the local area and water restriction notifications. Mass texting can also be used to quickly send emergency alerts if there are potential dangers in the area. For example, sending water boil alerts is a quick way to inform specific customers about water contamination and give them instructions on how to avoid exposure.
Electrical companies can benefit from mass texting by sending messages to their customers if there’s an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage, commonly known as a brownout. If it’s intentional, an SMS message can be used to give detailed information about the duration of the brownout, and if not, it provides a prompt warning to customers so they’re aware.
Payment and Invoice Reminders
A missed payment that causes utility shut-offs can be frustrating for both the customer and the utility company. Since 98% of text messages are read within 15 minutes of delivery, SMS payment reminders are much more effective than paper or email reminders.
Text payment reminders not only help your customer pay on time, but can also enable your customers to pay in a manner that’s convenient for them. If you choose to use a pay-by-text approach, customers will be able to easily pay via text message. As the service provider, you can send the bill information directly to the customer’s phone via text. The text message can cover a number of details that encompass the customer’s bill, including:
- Which bill needs to be paid
- The amount due
- The due date
- A hyperlink to the payment portal
These reminders can also be used to preemptively address potential issues. SMS messaging can be used to reduce overdue payments and save time chasing bills through messages such as:
- Sending a text message when a bill is generated
- Sending a reminder a few days prior to the due date of the bill
- Sending a message if a payment is overdue
Using this approach can make for a non-intrusive way to communicate that reaches the customer instantly. In addition, mass texting is often more cost-effective than other methods, and a mass texting service saves you the time of having to message each customer individually.
Feedback and Communication
An influx of calls to your customer support team can overwhelm the system leading to long wait times and frustrated, anxious customers. Using text messages as a form of communication is an excellent way to eliminate stress and quickly respond to customers.
Using SMS as a way to answer questions means that you can significantly reduce your time spent on the phone and workload. In addition, if you have questions that are asked often, you can come up with an answer bank to swiftly respond to inquiries.
SMS can also be used for feedback. For example, you can send out a survey to customers weekly, monthly, or yearly to gain insight into whether or not your customers are pleased with your service.
Utility companies can really benefit from mass SMS messaging, as text messages are preferred over more traditional methods of communication. Through providing warnings, payment and invoice reminders, as well as building the bridges of communication between customers, utility companies can keep customers happy and satisfied.
Ron Kinkade is the Director of Marketing at Text-Em-All, an automated calling and group texting company that provides solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 15 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron enjoys bass fishing, beach vacations, and spending time with family.