Roanoke EC

Members continue to enjoy auto-pay, embrace new text message tools

Roanoke Electric Cooperative has a history as an early adopter of new technologies to better serve its 14,500 members in northeastern North Carolina. The co-op has participated in a number of beta releases with SEDC and was recognized by Smart Metering Magazine as a 2015 Global Smart Energy Elite for its innovative use of SEDC’s UPN software for its customer information systems and billing.

Challenge
In 2015, Roanoke set out to upgrade its entire phone system. The move hit an obstacle when Roanoke discovered its goal of converting its connection architecture from PRI (Primary Rate Interface) to SIP (Session Initiating Protocol) would require an upgrade to their legacy IVR system at a cost of nearly $15,000. In addition to the one-time upgrade fee, the legacy IVR would also mean expenses for new software and new hardware as well as yearly maintenance of the equipment.

Also, the legacy system lacked some capabilities they needed. “We wanted to add interactive texting and voice alerts,” said Robin Hoggard, manager of technical services for Roanoke Electric Cooperative. Roanoke needed to manage costs but did not want to skimp on functionality.

Certain factors were non-negotiable for the co-op. “We record our call center phone calls to ensure quality of service. We needed to improve efficiency by reducing the number of workers who needed to log into the payment queue at the same time to take payments by phone.”

Roanoke also needed to sustain and support services for its popular automatic payment tools. With thirty percent of customers making automated payments each month, Roanoke needed to keep that option available and easy to use.

Solution
Already an SEDC customer with a positive experience with UPN software for business and customer information systems, Roanoke found they could not only save money but expand functionality with SEDC’s IVR solution.

Because AutoCue IVR is a cloud based, software as a service (SaaS) solution, there would be no additional hardware or software costs – no one-time upgrade fee, no equipment purchase or maintenance fees, no annual maintenance costs.

The technology turned out to be simpler for customers and Roanoke associates to use, too. When a call comes in, the AutoCue IVR automatically associates the phone number the customer is calling from with the member’s account number. The caller doesn’t have to bring or tell or enter their account number and the associate doesn’t need to go look it up. It’s a quicker and easier system.

The AutoCue Suite enables interactive texting and voice alerts with members. “We can send an outgoing message when a payment is due or when an outage is scheduled,” Hoggard said. “It allows us to be in compliance with the new telecommunications regulations regarding cell phones and texting by providing members the capability to opt in or opt out of the texting alerts. Roanoke members can even pay by text.”

Texting can be a valuable communication tool in outages, too, and Roanoke’s SEDC IVR is being integrated with another vendor’s outage management system. “When the integration is complete, our members will be able to text us about an outage as well as receive a text when the outage has been restored,” said Hoggard.

Transition & Results
Implementation was easy, according to Hoggard. “We filled out a questionnaire on our existing configuration, our needs and wants for the new solution. Two SEDC experts configured our system, set it up, and tested it for about two weeks. SEDC did most of the work — and that’s the way I like it!” Hoggard said.

“It was ready even before our phone system,” Hoggard said. “For the go-live, we simply changed over after 5 p.m. April 30, and the next morning, May 1, it was live. People couldn’t tell there had been a change; that’s how seamless it was.”