AWS for Industries
How PayGo enhances utility customer satisfaction with AWS based digital payment solutions
PayGo® Utilities (PayGo) provides a flexible prepay platform, postpaid billing, and payment solutions for utility companies. That means any electric, gas, water, or high speed internet company can give its customers control over paying for their usage. PayGo is deployed directly to the utility and leverages smart meter infrastructure. Notable PayGo reference clients include Ameren, Exelon, Duke Energy, Southern Company, and NV Energy. PayGo also has existing marketing and reseller agreements along with integrations in place with a variety of key industry smart grid providers to support municipals and electric cooperatives. PayGo chose AWS for cloud services to meet its need for agility and to take advantage of AWS security capabilities and services. The PayGo technology leverages patented payment technologies to support the increasing capability of smart meters to lower utility costs, enhance sustainability and increase customer satisfaction.
Industry background – smart metering growth
Power and utility companies that have deployed smart grid technology are looking for ways to support enhanced customer engagement programs. Higher levels of customer engagement help to maximize the benefits for the customer and to reduce operational costs for the utility.
In the US, there are approximately 90 million smart meters deployed, with thousands more being installed every day. Now, with a greater than 50 percent deployment of smart metering, customers have increased access into insights regarding their usage. PayGo leverages these investments to support the meter-to-cash cycle – in seconds.
With the PayGo solution, customers generally reduce consumption of energy and utilities between 8-10 percent. Customer satisfaction, a key metric in utilities, increases dramatically with scores consistently increasing after these programs are deployed. Customers feel they are in more control of their utility budget and their ability to conserve. Control is the number one word associated with these programs when studied in word cloud exercises.
Moving to the cloud – creating a scalable, secure customer-facing solution
PayGo moved to the cloud in 2016 and now has its billing platform, messaging systems, payment solutions, and marketing programs fully hosted in AWS. We leverage a range of storage, compute, and security capabilities from AWS including Amazon EC2, Amazon EBS, VPC, Amazon S3, and CloudWatch, which helps us collect and manage our system performance and operational data. Amazon CloudWatch has been instrumental in ensuring we deliver a secure and seamless customer experience. An overview of each aspect of the solution follows:
- Billing platform: PayGo provides complex bill calculations from smart meter data. The system includes business rules, a rates engine, billing and settlement engine, notification platform, reporting tools and a prepay-specific Meter Data Management system. Complex billing calculations are performed as often as smart meter reads are provided – sometimes bills are calculated as often as hourly in the PayGo system, which means millions of utility bill calculations per day. Customers can see their actual daily (even hourly) spending for their utilities. This creates better conservation opportunities and more customer control.
- Payment solutions: Along with billing notifications, customers can make payments via links in the PayGo systems integrated through single sign-on (SSO). Tokenized credit/debit cards in addition to ACH transactions can be safely used with this system and accessed through PCI-certified systems for secured payments. There are auto-pay features and text-to-pay capabilities also hosted in AWS. Payment systems must be scalable and secure, as oncoming hot summer days mean tens of thousands of utility payments per day at a single utility. For prepaid programs, these utility customers pay four times per month (or weekly, on average). For those paying with cash, the CheckOut by PayGo platform is managed completely in the cloud. According to the FDIC, 68 million consumers still pay in cash an average of 10 bills per month. The customers get their billing information from the PayGo messaging systems. As the customer makes a cash payment at a retail store, the patented system validates the customer’s status in real time, leverages business rules for the respective utility, posts the payment in the utility account in real time, messages the updated account information to the customer, and then updates the back-office systems with updated account balance post payment. The solution leverages partner networks with more than 50,000 retail store locations.
- Messaging: Utility customers can obtain this additional billing and payment information through the PayGo messaging platform. Customers can receive push notifications, text messages, IVR calls, and emails every day with information regarding payments and consumption. This can equate to millions of messages per year. Customers can even get billing notifications, conservation tips, or high usage alerts via the messaging system. Customers can also manage their preferences for notifications by email, text, and phone in addition to the time of day and frequency of notifications. For the project, utilities could leverage this portal for all utility payments and notifications.
As this is being written, the utility industry is confronting customer challenges associated with the coronavirus outbreak. We know that daily bill calculations to show daily dollars spent, customer daily messaging, convenient and flexible payment channels, and change management solutions are key to support customers struggling with extra debt. The PayGo platform as supported in the cloud by AWS will play a key role to return to normal business practices. AWS utility customers can obtain additional information by visiting PayGo.