Prepay Press: April 2018
In This Issue:
In memory of our friend and colleague, Bob Finley (1947-2018).
Each year, we are blessed to host the majority of our utility customers at our annual Exceleron Users Conference, and we are busy preparing to do so again in a few weeks. It is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas, best practices and fellowship. In the coming weeks, we will mark the 9th Annual Exceleron Users Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee, from April 29 to May 1. If you have not already registered for the Exceleron Users Conference, please do so now. Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) is serving as the host utility with the Welcome Address given by President and CEO J.T. Young.
What: Exceleron’s 9th Annual Users Conference
When: April 29 to May 1, 2018
Where: The Westin Memphis Beale Street
The Conference will cover topics for everyone, whether you are just beginning to explore MyUsage® or have years of experience with the suite of applications. Here’s just some of what we’ll discuss as you network with peers and share best practices:
1. The MyUsage Mobile App
2. MDM and Analytics
3. Security (SOC2 and PCI DSS)
4. Alerts and Communication
5. Electronic Bill Presentment
6. Payment Methods
As we delve into these topics, we look forward to exploring how we can better leverage your existing data to provide additional value in operations, customer engagement, program management and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Since deploying our first prepay solution in 2006, we have accumulated a mountain of data which we believe can be very useful to you.
Thank you again for helping us become the premier utility prepay, payment service and customer engagement provider in North America. We look forward to seeing you in Memphis!
Bob Crenshaw, President & CEO
From the Support Desk
One of the most interesting parts of the training and support team’s job is receiving feedback about possible areas of improvement for our system and/or processes. Most often, this is how I decide what to address in “From the Support Desk”. So keep ‘em coming. Keep us on our toes! No question is asked too often and no question is off limits.
Issue 1 – The Ins and Outs of Pending Disconnect: With so many areas in the United States experiencing cold weather, several of you have been forced to disable disconnections based on regulations or legislation while others have elected to not disconnect customers as a matter of good practice. Keep in mind that if you elect to not send the disconnect command, upon negative balance, the balance will continue to be reduced, the meter will still qualify for disconnection and, therefore, a pending disconnect alert will still be generated. (Of course, this alert must be active on the customer profile and have an active delivery method.)
Once the “send enabled” setting is again set to “yes”, those meters qualifying for disconnections will experience disconnection of their electric service. Is this always the case? NO. (You knew that was coming – right?) It is possible to have, for example, a negative balance of $60, have disconnections re-enabled on a day of week on which your utility disconnects, not be in holiday mode and yet still not see an account in “pending disconnect” status.
So what causes this? If “disconnect on estimate” is set to “no” and the account had as estimate read which caused it to become negative, neither a pending disconnect order nor a pending disconnect alert will generate. When a valid read is received, the account will then qualify for disconnect BUT your utility’s business rules will apply. For example, if you have a one day grace between the time the account becomes negative and when the order is sent, the same will still apply.
Issue 2 – Balance Transfers: Recently, Mike Barta, our reconciliation specialist, noted that the initial reconciliation could be adversely affected by mistakes made during balance transfers. This most often occurs during prepay enrollment but could occur at any time in the prepay account’s life cycle.
How do you avoid this problem? You follow the rules you typically follow with customers enrolled in traditional billing. From our experience and from your educating us on your billing rules, we normally see the following: If an amount exists on a previously final billed account and the consumer wants to reestablish service, the previous amount is either paid up front or the amount is transferred to the new account. (This is contingent on your business rules regarding previous balances.) If, as we most often see, the balance is large enough that it cannot be satisfied before re-establishing service, the balance is transferred to the new account BEFORE the prepaid account is created. This causes it to become part of the Account Balance whose accuracy is integral to properly creating a prepay account. However, if this step is missed, rest assured, this error will be caught during the reconciliation process.
Karen Hutson, Director of Training and Support, Exceleron Software
1. The Bolivar Energy Authority (TN) and the Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative (TVEC) have both launched MyUsage Payments to offer additional, convenient, flexible payment options to customers. Here is an interesting graphic related to Bolivar payments which demonstrates that MyUsage lets customers pay any time as it best fits their lifestyle:
2. Russellville Electric (KY) has selected MyUsage as their new platform for customer engagement and prepay services.
3. Congratulations to JEA for reaching 20,000 MyUsage customers!
Rise in the MyUsage Mobile App
The MyUsage mobile app continues to grow in popularity, reducing demand on utility CSRs as customers access their account information directly, anytime and anywhere. About ⅔ of MyUsage customers now access their account information via the iOS or Android apps; the remaining ⅓ prefer to log into the web portal.
Nearly 2,300 customers have reviewed the app in Google Play and the Apple App Store. Here’s what some of them are saying:
- “I think this new app is amazing, being able to view my usage daily makes it so much easier to keep up with what I’m spending.” (February 7, 2018)
- “It does exactly what I need it to, and it’s very easy to customize alerts.” (January 29, 2018)
- “I use this app a ton. It’s wonderful. I can actively monitor my usage and do [it] weekly.” (December 19, 2017)
- “This is a great app. This helps you monitor your daily power consumption and to see if you can make adjustments to reduce energy cost.” (August 23, 2017)
Our development team continues to improve and refine the mobile app. If you or your customers have suggestions for improvements, please pass them along to [email protected].
From the UAB
I’d like to personally invite each of you to consider becoming a member of Exceleron’s Users Advisory Board (UAB). Participation gives you a firsthand view of major enhancements and allows you to contribute to Exceleron’s Product Road Map where your feedback is critical as we enhance and improve our products and related offerings.
As part of the UAB, you would participate in a one hour weblink every other month. It is also my expectation that you attend our Users Conference which includes a “closed door session” between our utilities and our UAB promoting frank discussion of our product as well as desires and recommendations for enhancements. (“Closed door” means no Exceleron employees will be in attendance.) After this session, the UAB meets with Exceleron the morning after the conference ends for other participants to discuss the session and desired results.
While I realize many of you participate in other Boards and may be stretched thin, your efforts would be greatly appreciated as you and our team work towards improving our offerings.
To further encourage participation, I’d like to share with you the following from a long-time UAB member.
I have been on the UAB for several years and I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know others from across the country that are doing the same thing as me. It gives me a chance to talk to others when I have a concern or problem and I can help others do the same. It is beneficial to be a part of the UAB to give a voice for all Exceleron users and help further develop the product and how the program works. You are able to see in advance any new products or processes and help steer Exceleron to what works best for all based on UAB feedback. Being a part of the UAB doesn’t take very much of your time with a one hour teleconference meeting every other month. I have enjoyed my time on the UAB and I am sure you will too!
Please contact me directly if you have any questions or if you would like to confirm your participation.
Director of Training and Support
M: (940) 393-6676
Customer Spotlight: Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW)
Kudos to Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) for serving as the host utility for this year’s Exceleron Users Conference, April 29 through May 1st in Memphis, Tennessee.
MLGW has been using MyUsage platform since 2017 to maximize the value of its smart grid and AMI development initiatives. Chris Bieber, VP of Customer Care, MLGW, stated, “MyUsage Prepay is one of the most important applications that we’ve layered on top of our smart grid to derive additional benefits for our customers.”
Although the AMI is only partially deployed, MLGW has already begun signing up customers for prepay accounts so that their customers can leverage additional benefit immediately as they receive a smart meter. MLGW is actively promoting its prepay offering as a benefit to customers who would like to take advantage of the increased energy awareness, no deposits and no late fees or those that may be struggling to pay their bill. The utility service provider has specially trained customer service representatives in four locations corresponding to their AMI roll-out with the goal of being able to provide these customers with more information on the benefits of PrePay service.
In addition, MLGW recently developed a new television commercial focused on benefits of the prepay program, such as no late fees, deposits, or reconnection fees.
MLGW invites community discussion and participation, and has held town hall meetings to engage the community in discussions about the benefits of the Smart Grid and prepay as an added value to residential customers.
Exceleron and MLGW will also be collaborating on a social media campaign to familiarize customers with MyUsage and its benefits, make “MyUsage” become a household name, and help customers feel like “part of the family.” The Exceleron team will generate engaging, lifestyle-based assets for deployment across social media channels with dedicated hashtags, and the MGLW team monitors online conversations and engages with customers while maintaining the brand voice.
MLGW is always willing to share its PrePay MyUsage experience with other utilities. Come talk to them at the Users Conference next month.
MLGW is the nation’s largest three-service municipal utility, serving nearly 426,000 customers. Since 1939, MLGW has met the utility needs of Memphis and Shelby County residents by delivering reliable and affordable electricity, natural gas and water service. For more information, visit www.mlgw.com.
Employee Spotlight: Chase Venters, Director of Data Security
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.
As you all know, security is of utmost importance to Exceleron, and with that in mind, we want to help you get to know our Director of Data Security, Chase Venters. Chase started working with Exceleron in 2008 in a consulting role and he now is responsible for Exceleron’s compliance with PCI-DSS and other standards. He also provides oversight over our network engineering and certain development efforts, such as MyUsage Payments.
Q: When did you start working at Exceleron and in what role?
In 2008, I provided consulting for Exceleron to evaluate the security and scalability of its interactive voice response (IVR) platform. Following my report, Exceleron hired me to design a new IVR system, which now powers all inbound and outbound telephone calls for MyUsage customers.
Q: How have you seen security in the utility space evolve over the past few years?
There is an ever-increasing emphasis on compliance with data security standards. These critical standards provide guidance to ensure all members of an organization participate in its data security posture. While the importance of robust technical security controls cannot be overstated, the people trusted to access those secure systems can wind up being the weakest link if a nefarious attacker exploits their human decency in a social engineering attack.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most pressing security issue facing the utility industry?
I am often impressed by the security efforts of our country’s largest utilities, which have large, dedicated IT teams. Smaller utilities face the same security challenges of large utilities, but they have, at best, a small fraction of the resources large utilities do to address those challenges. It is a tremendous challenge for these utilities to maintain the highest levels of security with fewer resources.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
My wife and I are proud parents of a four-month-old boy, our first. I spend a few hours a week in the gym, train in Krav Maga, and love to travel.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working at Exceleron?
Two years of consulting and eight years as a full-time employee have taught me that one of Exceleron’s many strengths is employee retention. We’re a small-but-growing team. Everyone has an opportunity to learn and make a significant personal impact.
Partner Spotlight: Honeywell
We periodically feature our partners in the Prepay Press. If you would like to see your company or organization featured here in a future edition, please send an email to [email protected].
For the past 12 years, Exceleron has been working closely with Elster, now part of Honeywell Smart Energy. Many Exceleron customers, including MLGW, Midstate Electric Cooperative, the Orlando Utilities Commission, and the city of Ocala, Florida, and other municipalities are using MyUsage in conjunction with Honeywell meters and AMI solutions.
“We partnered with Exceleron to leverage our AMI solutions in support of the MyUsage Prepay application,” said Honeywell Sales Manager Jim Schreiber. “The technology is very valuable to the endpoint customer, and the integration between our two companies is relatively easy, which our joint customers really appreciate.”
Honeywell has been a strong supporter of prepay programs at MLGW, Ocala, and other utility service providers, particularly in the Tennessee Valley Authority region. “As utilities talk about their continued success with the MyUsage solution and the money they’ve saved in charge-offs and bad debt, we use those success stories to share how much customers like the software and enjoy the energy portal.” said Mr. Schreiber.
Through its EnergyAxis solution, Honeywell provides a comprehensive and unified AMI platform for electricity, water and gas that supports ongoing service delivery for the connected utility. In Mr. Schreiber’s experience, utilities sometimes have questions about how to further leverage their AMI investment. He often arranges opportunities for these utilities to meet with other utilities that are already using MyUsage Prepay in conjunction with Honeywell solutions.
Mr. Schreiber notes that every municipality has a subset of customer who struggle to pay their utility bills, so MyUsage offers a valuable solution that can resolve financial problems, improve customer satisfaction, and increase the ROI on AMI investments.
In 2012, Midstate Electric Cooperative (La Pine, Oregon) and Ocala Utility Services (Ocala, Florida) received an award from Honeywell for excellence in delivery of the prepay program solution.
Most recently, Honeywell and Exceleron have deepened their partnership by developing an integrated solution for MLGW, which is hosting the Exceleron Users Conference April 29 – May 1, 2018 at which Honeywell will be a Grand Sponsor. MLGW President J.T. Young will give the Welcome Address at the event.
For more information about Honeywell’s solutions for utility service providers, drop by their booth at the vendor fair during the Users Conference, or visit www.honeywellsmartenergy.com to learn more about how Honeywell’s end-to-end connected solutions help utilities maximize the return on their smart grid investments.
Honeywell (www.honeywell.com) is a Fortune 100 software-industrial company that delivers industry specific solutions that include aerospace and automotive products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes, and industry; and performance materials globally. Our technologies help everything from aircraft, cars, homes and buildings, manufacturing plants, supply chains, and workers become more connected to make our world smarter, safer, and more sustainable.
April 17-18th, 2018
April 29-May 1, 2018
April 30-May 4, 2018
June 15-20th, 2018
New Orleans, LA
Booths 603, 605, 702, and 704