Prepay Press: May 2017
In This Issue:
In just the first quarter of this year, Exceleron has already hit two important milestones: We welcomed our 300,000th active utility account, and use of the MyUsage mobile app has outpaced use of the MyUsage web portal. These two milestones are a testament to the ways in which convenient 24/7 access to consumption and payment information improve customer service and engagement.
Interest in the MyUsage suite of applications continues to grow as more and more utilities seem especially interested in the ways in which prepay programs not only improve customer service but also reduce write-offs. Our latest study across multiple utilities shows that 12% prepay penetration typically yields a reduction in write-offs of about 70%, and many of our utilities are realizing an ROI of up to 300% when they calculate the benefits of deploying MyUsage.
Our experience continues to show that payment convenience is key to the success of any prepay program, so we’re redoubling our efforts to improve and expand MyUsage Payments. This fully integrated payment platform expands utility payment networks and empowers consumers by giving them easy access to multiple payment methods. When you use MyUsage Payments, customers’ cell phones essentially become a mobile payment location, allowing them to make payments anytime, anywhere with easy cash, credit and ACH payment options—and you benefit from some of the lowest payment processing rates in the industry.
At Exceleron, we continually strive to improve our products and services as we rethink the relationship between utilities and customers. We welcome your suggestions for how we can better help you serve and engage customers, and we encourage you to reach out to us anytime.
Bob Crenshaw, President & CEO
Payment Processing with MyUsage Payments
Exceleron’s expanded MyUsage Payments offers some of the best payment processing rates and service in the industry.
Our experience as North America’s leading utility prepay and payment service company has shown that seamless, convenient payment options are key to implementing a successful prepay program. With MyUsage Payments, customers quickly and easily select the amount, method, and frequency of their payments through a smartphone app, the Internet, over the phone, or while visiting one of over 500,000 retail locations worldwide.
MyUsage Payments builds customer loyalty and increases utilities’ cash flow by providing a flexible, on-demand payment solution that supports convenient payments at any time, from anywhere, and by the method your customers choose. Now we’re expanding MyUsage Payments to include full credit/debit card and ACH processing services. Exceleron has brought in leading experts from the payments industry to deliver the best and most affordable payment processing services in the industry.
Many utilities have deployed multiple payment methods in an a la carte fashion as new technology becomes available. While this adds convenience for customers, it often results in complex integration, multiple remittance files, and reporting and reconciliation challenges. MyUsage Payments changes this by bringing all the utility’s payment options into a single platform, consolidating all collected payments into a single remittance file for the utility, and eliminating the need to maintain multiple connections and integrations.
MyUsage Payments is built for easy integration with customizable features. Our payment processing services are fully integrated with MyUsage for a seamless, intuitive user experience at utilities that are already using MyUsage Prepay, Usage Monitor, Debt Assist, or Mobile Apps. In addition, MyUsage Payments is PCI-DSS compliant, has batch and real-time integration options, and handles both prepay and post-pay payments.
With more utility prepay experience than any other provider in North America, Exceleron has developed an extensive payment network. We have achieved economies of scale and built direct banking relationships that give us the freedom to offer some of the lowest rates and best service in the industry. By selecting MyUsage Payments for your payment processing needs, you may even be eligible for a reduction in your MyUsage Prepay licensing fees.
We invite all utility clients to request a free, no-obligation fee analysis of MyUsage Payments. To learn more about how our expertise in utility services, fee transparency, and competitive rates will transform the payment experience for you and your customers, contact COO Jeff Severs at (214) 663-1604 or [email protected].
From the Support Desk: Deployment Update and News
Within the past year and a half, we have distributed several deployment updates pertaining to Exceleron’s enhanced alert platform, “MyUsage Communication Alert Center.” These updates have highlighted the enhanced capabilities including custom alerts, bulk alerts, push notifications, settings to encourage monetary savings pertaining to alert costs, and enhanced reporting of alert statuses and delivery.
Many of you have taken advantage of these capabilities to improve consumer communication and increase consumer engagement. Examples include weekly energy efficiency tips, notification of rate increases, notification of annual meetings, and more. However, some utilities have not yet begun to realize the benefits of enhanced communication.
Therefore, I ask you to review the applicable deployment updates or ask your Account Manager to email you the updates if needed. It’s a simple process which begins with your Account Manager. Simply determine what alerts you would like to send, and our support team will assist you in setting them up. In the future, you will be able to effectively and efficiently compose your own alerts for delivery on your desired schedule.
Customer Spotlight: Clinton Utilities Board
When Clinton Utilities Board (CUB) of Clinton, Tennessee, launched FlexPay in late 2012, the benefits were almost immediate for both CUB and its customers.
“Our most troublesome customers have thanked us for starting this program,” said CUB’s Director of Accounting and Finance, Dudley Fagan. “The program truly benefits the customer and the utility, making FlexPay one of my proudest accomplishments in 35 years.”
FlexPay has grown steadily since its introduction in 2013, and today more than 2,100 CUB customers are enrolled in the program. Additional customers rely on MyUsage Monitoring to track their consumption while remaining on the traditional post-pay program.
Through FlexPay, CUB offers prepay accounts with no deposits, late fees, or reconnection fees. For consumers stuck in a downward spiral of repeated disconnections, fees, and large monthly bills, prepay accounts offer a ray of hope.
Prior to FlexPay, CUB had an average of 13 cutoffs per day, but two years after implementing FlexPay that figure had fallen by 77% to an average of just 3 cutoffs per day.
CUB has used MyUsage Debt Assist to help more than 2,000 customers pay off outstanding debt as they continue to receive service. For example, one customer enrolled in FlexPay in October 2014 with a balance of $ 2,137. Thanks to MyUsage Debt Assistance, that debt was paid in full in May 2016 and today the customer remains active in FlexPay.
CUB reduced write-offs by 60% in the first two years of FlexPay as shown in the following graph. Write-offs net of recovery represent a mere 0.06% of revenue now, compared to 0.33% just a few years ago. This is in line with Exceleron’s finding that for every dollar invested in prepay programs, utilities can earn a return of up to $3 on their investment in bad debt recovery alone. And this impressive 300% ROI doesn’t even begin to reflect the additional benefits associated with better cash flow, reduced call volume, and increased customer satisfaction.
Looking to the future, CUB anticipates that FlexPay will steadily grow for years to come. For an extra added convenience to FlexPay customers, CUB recently added an outdoor kiosk and two kiosks at stores on the outer parts of its territory. “Our customers continue to tell each other about the benefits of FlexPay,” said Fagan. “They’re so excited about the program, and in many ways, they’re our best advocates and promoters of prepay. Maybe not in my lifetime, but I honestly can foresee the day when most customers are on FlexPay.”
About the Clinton Utilities Board
Clinton Utilities Board (CUB) was founded in 1939. When the town acquired the system, it served only 1,877 customers. Today CUB distributes electric service to approximately 30,000 customers in six counties and four municipalities. CUB provides the necessary facilities to distribute electric service over approximately 1,400 miles of high voltage circuitry. CUB also provides water service to more than 6,000 customers and sewer services to more than 4,000 customers in the City of Clinton and the Claxton community. For more information, visit www.clintonutilities.com
From the UAB: UAB Overview
Greetings Prepay Utilities,
I have the pleasure of serving as the User Advisory Board (UAB) Chairman this year and being the first to write to you in 2017. I would like to briefly tell you about myself and the UAB’s focus and plan for this year.
I currently work for JEA, the eighth-largest community-owned electric utility company in the United States and the largest in Florida, as the Customer Solutions Manager. I’m charged with overseeing the customer experience for our four main Billing and Payment programs: AutoPay, eBill, Levelized Billing and our Prepay offering called “JEA MyWay.” We have one of the largest prepay programs in the nation with just over 13,500 customers, who represent about 3% of our total customer base. Our program began in January 2012 with a full rollout in December 2013. We don’t directly promote the program, so our net monthly growth of 300-500 customers is primarily due to the word-of-mouth recommendations of MyWay customers to their family, friends, and neighbors.
But enough about me! Let’s talk about the UAB and our three main areas of focus for this year: UAB participation, the Exceleron Users Conference, and enhancement prioritization.
First, we want to hear from you and get you more involved in the UAB. In the near future, we will send out a survey to gather your thoughts on where the UAB can add value to your utility. I encourage you to tell us how we are doing and what you would like to see from us. The UAB is a great resource for benchmarking whether your program is just starting out or more established. Exceleron has worked diligently to enhance its products and we have a full list of planned enhancements. We want to keep presenting Exceleron with new ideas, but we need your input to do so. Along these lines, I ask for your active participation with the UAB in 2017, and I strongly encourage you to nominate someone from your utility to serve on the UAB. The time commitment isn’t extensive, and you can be directly involved in the conversations about future enhancements. Exceleron and the UAB have also discussed incentives for utility participation, so keep an eye out for more information.
Second, we want to focus on the Exceleron Users Conference. This is our singular event and we want to provide as much value as possible, but this depends on your feedback and participation with the UAB. If you have a great topic to discuss with other utilities, let us know and we might be able to build a session around it. Do you have an idea for how we could make the agenda more impactful? The Users Conference exists for Exceleron customers so we, the utilities, drive the agenda, sessions, topics, and tone. Let’s shape it into a can’t-miss event with something for everyone: co-ops, IOUs, municipalities, pilot programs, and established prepay offerings.
Finally, the UAB has helped Exceleron prioritize and rank enhancement requests with initial scores, but the UAB doesn’t yet represent every type of utility. Therefore, we will be reaching out to the community to get opinions so that we can provide a well-rounded ranking to Exceleron. I would love to see some utilities that have yet to participate with us get involved with this critical work.
If you would like to be involved in any of these activities, please contact Karen Hutson, Director of Training and Support for Exceleron, at [email protected], or email me directly at [email protected]. The UAB and I look forward to the initiatives we have planned in 2017 and hope to have an awesome year filled with impactful enhancements, valuable benchmarking, and active participation from the community.
Brian Pippin, UAB President
Partner Spotlight: Tantalus
In late 2016, Exceleron entered a joint marketing partnership with Tantalus, expanding the reach of the MyUsage suite of applications to utilities that rely on the award-winning Tantalus Utility Network (TUNet®). In a very short period of time, five utilities are now using Tantalus in conjunction with MyUsage to improve customer engagement and control.
TUNet is a Smart Grid communications and applications platform that enables utilities to automate processes, improve business operations, and deliver top-tier customer service. “Tantalus really understands our core focus on changing the relationship between utilities and customers,” said Jeff Severs, COO of Exceleron. “By drawing on our strategic alignment, we can help more consumers realize the benefits of smart grid applications.”
“We entered this partnership because we knew our prospects and customers have a strong interest in prepay, and Exceleron’s MyUsage solution has a very strong reputation in our marketplace,” said Matt Haile, Tantalus’s Director of Commercial Marketing. “We’ve spent a lot of time educating utilities about why they need AMI, and as their programs mature it’s exciting to show how applications like MyUsage extend the benefits of our technology to end users.”
Tantalus appreciates how MyUsage can work for all utilities regardless of whether they have a meter data management (MDM) system in place. Since MyUsage can pull meter reads directly from the headend even if MDM isn’t available, utilities aren’t limited by the rollout of MDM and other technologies. Alternatively, TUNet and MyUsage can be easily integrated with existing MDM systems for a comprehensive real-time prepay solution.
“Our relationship with Exceleron helps our customers further leverage the value of the Smart Grid technology investments that they have already made,” said Laura Wright, Marketing Communications Manager for Tantalus. “Feature applications like MyUsage Prepay can leverage the edge computing power of TUNet endpoints and can be added without a lot of incremental costs. This strategic approach to expanding smart grid deployments through applications increases ROI and helps utilities position themselves for the future.”
Tantalus provides a two-way, multi-purpose platform that enables access to data to power advanced Smart Grid applications for monitoring and control of electric, water and gas municipal and cooperative utilities. TUNet® – the Tantalus Utility Network – is an award winning flexible end-to-end WAN/FAN/LAN/Grid Edge communications system. TUNet is purpose built for the Smart Grid and unites utility applications through a software-defined radio (SDR) and distributed computing capability embedded at every endpoint. The result is enhanced value across all utility departments through solutions such as automated metering, outage management, power quality monitoring, load management, distribution automation and grid optimization that are both cost-effective and practical to deploy throughout urban and rural service areas. For more information, visit www.tantalus.com.
Employee Spotlight: Mike Barta, Senior Account Manager
The Employee Spotlight provides insight into some of our key employees, such as how long they have been with our company, their talents, their favorite aspects of their job, and what they like to do outside of the office.
Mark Barta’s 14 years with Exceleron have been defined by his commitment to customer service. Mike began working on the phone and Voice over IP (VoIP) side of the business in 2003 and easily transitioned over to MyUsage and prepay utilities back in 2009. A multitasker and MyUsage support expert, Mike enjoys problem-solving on behalf of customers and discussing possible solutions with the entire support team. “Because we have a continually changing dynamic software service, I enjoy learning about all the facets of our service and sharing that information with customers and peers,” he says.
Mike was born in Chicago, but he’s lived in Dallas since high school and claims Texas as home. But his tastes are much broader than Texas Bar-B-Q. Mike loves international cuisine and is a self-described “political junkie.” An avid traveler, there is hardly a major U.S. city that he hasn’t visited.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Exceleron?
A: My favorite thing about working at Exceleron is the daily interaction I have with our customers. I thoroughly enjoy working with all of our customers and solving their issues, whether it is something major or minor. I enjoy working with customers on reconciliation and meter related issues, be they simple or complex. I also enjoy training and working with utilities to assist in setting up the best practices and procedures for prepay services.
Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: I am a fair weather Dallas Cowboys fan avidly following them when they are winning. (I spent years attending many games [both good and bad] while my youngest daughter was a Junior Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for 9 years).
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I have 3 grown children. My son is a software developer in Austin. My oldest daughter is in college working on her business degree. My youngest daughter will graduate from medical school in May and begin her internship at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in June. My wife shares my interests in food, travel, history, and politics. She is a gourmet cook and an extremely avid learner. I always ask her if I need to know something quickly, because she knows something about almost everything. And she is usually right!
Onboard: New Customer Introductions
Municipal Utilities Board of the City of Albertville – Albertville, AL
Shelbyville Power Water & Sewerage – Shelbyville, TN
May 22-26, 2017
Fort Worth, TX
June 13-15, 2017
Fort Worth, TX
June 16-21, 2017
June 26-29, 2017
Orange Beach, AL
EXCELERON USERS CONFERENCE: We will be hosting our Users Conference in the spring of 2018. Exact location and dates will be announced soon.