Providing unmatched customer service means going beyond offering a 24/7 contact center. In a recent Oracle study, 63 percent of utilities respondents noted that they do not offer intuitive online user experiences, yet 87 percent said they recognized a trend toward customers wanting a more individualized experience. With a keen sense of this purview, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) providing power to more than 160,000 customers integrated a customer self-service application from Oracle into its existing customer information system to help satisfy this consumer-centric trend and count itself among those offering a comprehensive user experience.
“SMECO is a cooperative, which means it is owned by its customers and operated for them on a non-profit basis,” said Sylvia Welch, managing director of IT, SMECO. “Our goal is to provide the highest satisfaction for our customer-members. Previously, we relied on a third party to provide our members with online capabilities, but these were limited to the ability to log in, view a bill, maintain paperless status, and make a payment. With Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service and Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing in place as part of an integrated customer service platform, members can leverage simplified single sign-on to access everything in one location. Our members can manage their communication preferences, update account contact information, make payments and payment arrangements, view a 13-month energy usage graph, view and report outages, and stop service all within an intuitive, full-service online user experience.”
Prior to implementing the Oracle solutions, SMECO’s customers had expressed their desire for more self-service capabilities. The co-op recognized that its highest call volumes involved making payments and payment arrangements. With the Oracle solutions in place, the utility was able to automate the payment process, which improves customer service, enables members to engage with SMECO in their channel of choice, and allows the contact center staff to work more efficiently and focus more time on solving complex issues.
“Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service is the perfect complement to SMECO’s services and existing Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing solution. The cooperative can now offer members a comprehensive web portal to enhance the customer experience,” said Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Utilities. “With a range of online account management features, bill payment options, streamlined communication channels, and service request capabilities, SMECO met its goals, and its members benefit from a seamless, intuitive user experience available at the click of a button.”
To continue its commitment to member satisfaction, SMECO plans to utilize additional Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service capabilities to expand user options within the co-op’s mobile application. Currently, the mobile application offers outage maps and outage reporting capabilities; SMECO will leverage Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service to add an account management option, enabling customers to securely log in and instantly access even more information and account management tasks via their mobile devices. SMECO is also working on an advanced metering infrastructure project, which will be complete in 2017. As part of that initiative, SMECO will launch an energy portal to show customers their detailed energy information, including high bill alerts, within Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service.
Contact: Lacy Cooper - O’Keeffe & Company
P: +1 540-364-5913 - E: lcooper[.]okco.com.
SMECO (smeco.coop) provides electricity to more than 160,000 services in Charles County, St. Mary’s County, southern Prince George’s County, and all but the northeast portion of Calvert County. Co-ops are distinctly different from investor-owned utilities because co-ops are owned by their customers, and these members elect the men and women who serve on the Board of Directors. Co-ops also issue capital credits to their members. What are capital credits? They are the member’s share of the co-op’s margins, based on how much electricity the member purchased and the rate at which the account was billed. SMECO’s margins revenue less expenses are used as working capital for new construction and system improvements. When SMECO’s Board of Directors determines that a percentage of the capital credits can be distributed to members through a general refund, capital credits will be issued by check or credited to members’ electric bills.
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