Covid, Service continuity and SMS
COVID-19 has had societal and economic effects on supply and demand in the energy and utilities sector, posing unique challenges to the resilience of communications infrastructures and business continuity plans in this sector.
“Uncertainty associated with the current crisis, and increased home working in the customer base is forcing a spike in volume through call centres, testing their ability to adjust at scale and companies’ ability to communicate effectively during this crisis, especially with vulnerable customers.”
Amidst all the uncertainty, continuity of essential utility services was paramount and SMS was used widely to keep customers informed of any changes or updates and reduce inbound calls to already overburdened contact centres.
During the first 2 months of the COVID-19 crisis (March / April) Púca noticed an overall 25% rise in the volume of SMS sent versus the same period in 2019, and this is despite volumes in some sectors such as retail dropping off altogether during the same period.
“The increase in message volumes that we saw during the crisis has continued as companies return to business as usual. This demonstrates a renewed focus on SMS as a targeted and immediate way to get through to customers when it matters most”
Eileen Carroll, Púca MD.
Optimize communications with SMS
Despite the compelling reasons to use SMS, according to Snapdesk’s 2020 report just 53% of Utilities companies are using SMS to communicate with their customers.
Here are some of the ways that utilities businesses can optimize their customer communications through SMS;
- Notify customers of service interruption: With SMS boasting a 98% open rate, this is the most effective way of notifying your customers of any interruption to your service or appointment changes
- Text Reminders: Whether you are looking to notify your customers to remind them to carry out a meter reading, leave out a bin or pay a bill, SMS is the most effective way of reminding customers at the right time.
- Low Balance Alerts: Notifying customers of low balance can be a smart way to let customers know it’s time for them to top up their account and this can help prevent customers from becoming inactive or disengaged.
- Latest News & Offers: SMS can be a great way to keep customers updated on the latest news and offers from your company. Including a link to your companies blog and customer portal, can be a great way to increase engagement and sales.
- Make it easy to pay bills: Paying a utility bill over the phone or by logging in to your account can be time consuming and frustrating for customers. While SMS is widely used for bill payment reminders, some utility companies such as Magnet Networks have adopted more evolved pay by link solutions to send secure payment links and reminders, give customers a fully branded and painless payment experience.
SMS Communications: a 2-way street
SMS isn’t just for outbound communications. As the following statistics from Snapdesk illustrate, consumers are happy to respond to SMS alerts directly, and appreciate the ability to do so;
“3 out of 4 consumers get frustrated when they can’t respond or take action after receiving an automated text message. 61% of consumers think businesses should use the same number for calling and texting. 58% of consumers have tried to reply with a text message after missing a call from a business. Consumers are 4 times more likely to respond to a text message than call back to a voicemail”.
Snapdesk January 2020
With the current proliferation of communication channels, the simplicity, ubiquity and reliability of SMS stands out.
And with additional rich media functionality on the horizon with RCS, now is the time to add SMS touchpoints to your communication strategy so you are well positioned to take advantage of these new capabilities in the future.