volume 66 - issue 5 - may 2016
Customer service at your convenience
SMECO's primary goal has always been to provide superior customer service to its members. In addition to a state-of-the-art contact center that offers assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Cooperative wants its members to have choices. SMECO wants its members to have the ability to work with us at their convenience and in the method of their choosing. To open up customer self-service options, the Cooperative has introduced new technological applications that give our members greater control over their service.
In December, SMECO implemented Account Manager, a web-based customer self-service channel that offers customer-members the freedom to do business their way. Account Manager automates service options that could previously be handled only with a phone call and makes managing a SMECO account convenient, easy, and efficient.
Account Manager offers comprehensive payment and account information on a single screen with one-click access to a variety of services. Customers can update their contact information, sign up for budget billing, and more. The Notification Preference Center lets members choose how SMECO communicates with them. Notification settings are for emails and text (SMS) phone numbers. Preferences can be changed to enable paperless billing, outage texts on a cell phone, or payment notices via email—customers just choose and click.
SMECO will continue to add new functions to Account Manager, working to improve our customers' ability to stay connected with the Cooperative.
The SMECO 24/7 mobile app and text messaging services were initially introduced in 2013 and provided access to SMECO through smart phones and mobile devices. The SMECO 24/7 mobile app lets members report an outage, view the up-to-date outage map, and pay bills—all from a mobile device. The app is free and provides direct links to SMECO's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and news feeds. The SMS text messaging service made it possible to report an outage, receive power restoration updates, and request status updates via text. The SMS texting feature was expanded in 2014 to include the ability to pay by text.
Interest in renewable energy continues to expand at an exponential rate. More than 2,400 SMECO customer-members have net meters, and that interest continues to grow as the cost of hardware declines. Net meters can be installed for solar, wind, or biomass generating systems. Residential or commercial customer-members who want to generate their own electricity can participate in SMECO's net metering program. SMECO wants to help its members achieve their renewable energy goals.
Many customers want to know if the investment in a residential solar array will pay off for them. To help customers determine if solar is a good option for their homes, SMECO launched WattPlan®, an online tool that allows customers to model the costs and benefits of residential solar power. To use WattPlan, customer-members can visit smeco.wattplan.com, enter their address, input their average monthly bill, and see the results instantly. WattPlan will suggest the number of solar panels and provide an estimate for annual kilowatt-hour production and annual electric bill savings. (The figures shown are estimates only.)
All net metering installations must be registered and approved by SMECO to properly interconnect to the Cooperative's electric system. To participate, customer-members must submit an application to SMECO detailing the proposed interconnection. To expedite the process, SMECO employs PowerClerk®, which puts the application process online and allows SMECO to receive applications more quickly, reduce errors, and reduce the time and costs associated with interconnection completions. In addition, applicants can now track the status of their submission electronically.
The Cooperative continues to investigate and implement technology that will make staying connected with SMECO more convenient for members.