Energy companies have a responsibility to their shareholders, customers and the regulator to operate cost efficient businesses.
Whilst the cost of natural resources has soared in recent months, beyond the control of energy companies in today's highly competitive marketplace, the battleground for gaining and retaining customers has become the service levels they offer.
A key component is the meter reading process.
A recent survey by LogicaCMG found 82 per cent of people want a smart meter, but at £180 each (or £8bn across the UK).
“The roll-out of these meters is simply not practical and would be prohibitively expensive for the power companies”, said Ted Hopcroft of LogicaCMG (Evening Standard, 21/07/06).
Scottish Power, decided to introduce the world’s first ‘meter reading by text message’ service.
Using this new service, managed by mobile marketing company Incentivated, Scottish Power's customers can now text their meter reading from their mobile phones directly to Scottish Power in order to generate an actual bill not an estimated one.
To offer customers an alternative option to Interactive Voice Response, online and postal submission of gas and electricity meter readings.
To provide a cost effective and efficient method for meter reading collection and so reduce processing costs.
Incentivated’s solution for achieving the objectives set by Scottish Power was to:
- Provide accurate text reading solution, which serves billing engine (see picture).
- Register reading to automatically return either confirmation or error message
- Ensure system is reliable with immediate delivery and confirmation.
Details of how and where to send the texts were included on calling cards left by engineers if the customer was not home when they called.
The readings were validated and inserted directly into the existing billing engine providing accurate bills.
The customer then received a ‘bounce-back’ text message confirming receipt of the reading.
If the reading appeared unrealistic, the incoming text detailed where the mistake has been made.
ROI / Results
Mobile meter readings have proven to be beneficial to Scottish Power for many reasons:
- After only 80 days since rollout, 1.4 per cent of readings are being collected by SMS. This is growing week by week.
- The mobile channel is reliable and low cost with a reduced Cost Per Reading of 44p compared with £1.52 by post.
- The mobile channel generates higher response rates compared to other channels. For the Home Mover department, 52 per cent of people sent a text reminder to return their closing reading replied.
- Readings are more accurate than other methods: clerical errors and 'misreads' are eliminated.
- Environmentally friendly, as less paper is used for calling cards and reduced gas emissions are created from vehicles on call-outs.
The service has also resulted in benefits for Scottish Power customers:
- Reduction of reading estimates which avoids build up of debt or over-payment.
- Reassurance with instantaneous delivery and immediate confirmation.
- Less intrusive than a telephone call or knock on the door.
- Increased choice of communication which puts the customer in charge of providing readings.
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