4 Innovative Ways The Renewable Energy Sector Is Using Mobile Technology

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While NGOs increasingly use mobile technology for monitoring and evaluation, in emerging markets like Kenya, businesses are also using mobile solutions to both advance sales and increase their impact. Social enterprises in the renewable energy sector have been especially forward-thinking, leveraging mobile technology to better understand their clients and support their Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Realizing that mobile channels represent a cost-effective and scalable information management solution, companies such as One Degree Solar and Burn Manufacturing are engaging their clients through SMS and automated voice messaging (Interactive Voice Response) to support their customer relationships and inform their growth and impact strategy. These renewable energy companies are harnessing mobile technologies to extend their reach and give voice to the markets they serve. They are also using an integrated approach in which technology is used to sell but also measure the impact that their products have on client lives.
What are they using mobile technology for?

  • Product warranty activation: Clients activate their product warranty by texting their product serial number through a toll-free SMS. The activation triggers a set of questions that allow the company to understand where their products are going and who their clients are.When Burn Manufacturing, a clean-cookstove company, started activating warranties through SMS the number of registrations multiplied by six, from 5 to 33 percent, within two years. These activations have given them the needed data about their client base and their distributors to allow them to grow by more than 38 percent over the past year alone.
  • Post-sales customer support: Gone are the days when a client needs to make a call and wait on hold to speak to an agent. Innovative cookstove and solar lantern companies are making customer support hassle free for their clients. Their clients now send a toll-free SMS to troubleshoot an issue or make a product inquiry. If the pre-programmed menu does not resolve the client question, the last question in the pre-set menu asks if the person would like to be connected to a customer service agent. This increases the efficiency for both the client and the company.For instance, since providing toll-free SMS support, Burn Manufacturing has seen customer engagement go up by 30 percentage points. When they asked their clients about their satisfaction with the new SMS customer service hotline, more than 90 percent of the company‚Äôs clients expressed satisfaction in using this mode of communication.
  • Social impact surveys: Because many renewable energy companies are social enterprises, they measure their social impact on a regular basis. By using web-based platforms to create and send surveys via SMS, clean energy companies simplify and expedite the data collection process making it easier to access real-time information. These surveys can also be sent immediately or scheduled at recurring intervals for ongoing monitoring and evaluation.When a client purchases a One Degree Solar Brightbox, she is asked how much money she spent on kerosene in the last week. Upon answering this questions via SMS, the client then automatically receives the same question every six month. This simple and automated question provides key data for One Degree Solar on how the purchase of their product both saves their clients money and also reduces carbon footprint.
  • Marketing initiatives: In combination with traditional radio or print marketing campaigns, companies are generating sales leads through SMS and IVR.One Degree Solar, for example, ran a radio campaign in which they encouraged listeners to send a toll-free SMS for more information on their product. They quickly generated 1,700 SMS-inquiries and then within a month 10 percent of these leads turned into sales. Previously, when they only relied on a customer service hotline, the company was receiving only about 100 queries each month.

It is a commonly accepted truth that organizations need information to make effective decisions but in markets such as Kenya, data is scarce especially when it comes to getting information from rural areas and insular communities. By integrating mobile tools in their daily operations, clean energy companies are overcoming the barriers to communication to intimately understand the changing context they work in. Through this, organisations are making better and quicker decisions as well as achieving greater impact.
By Fabrice Romeo of Echo Mobile