Mobile Messaging Case Study

Cumberland Electric Keeps Lines of Communication Open with Field Personnel (Cont'd)

About Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation Facts

Business Needs

Rapid and cost-effective communications with service personnel on the road

Networking Solution

AT&T Business Messaging broadcasts text messages via an online portal

Business Value

Greater productivity and improved safety for field teams; lower communications costs

Industry Focus

Electric Utility


80+ field staff, 89,000 member-customers

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation (CEMC) is a rural electric distributor that has served customers across five counties in north central Tennessee for the past 70 years. With over 220 employees, CEMC is responsible for delivering power to 89,000 commercial, residential and industrial locations. At any given time, the company has more than 80 staff in the field, including meter technicians, collectors and linemen/servicemen. Being a cooperative, CEMC is a not-for-profit organization governed by a board of directors elected by the membership.


The customer service organization had been using wireless phones to stay in touch with service personnel in the field. While the phones were effective for communicating with individuals, notifying entire teams during emergencies and special situations was cumbersome and slow. CEMC needed a way to get alerts to teams and groups very quickly – without the prohibitive costs of conventional text messaging.


CEMC now uses AT&T Business MessagingSM , which allows customer service managers to broadcast text messages to entire field teams, or just select groups, via an online portal. Managers can compose and send a detailed message in a matter of minutes, without making individual calls, and without contracting for SMS texting on all wireless phones in the field.

Serving Customers Who Are Also Owners

We would have two or three people making calls to each individual cell phone, getting the message out. It could easily take twenty or thirty minutes of calling to reach everyone.”

- Robina Galford, Control Center Coordinator, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation operates as a cooperative where members pay a one-time fee of just $10 and effectively become part owners. Many take an active part in company affairs through events and meetings throughout the year.

The CEMC doesn’t generate power on its own, but distributes power generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. It is responsible for maintaining all the lines and facilities that deliver electricity to its customers.

“Our customers don’t have another choice for an electric company,” said Robina Galford, CEMC’s Control Center Coordinator. “Yet our managers are very attentive to customer service, treating each customer right, making each customer feel important, as if the customer could go to a competitor at any time.”

Keeping the Lights On

CEMC normally has more than 80 employees out in the field at all times, handling everything from meter reading and servicing, to collecting bills and repairing downed lines. For most everyday communications with these outside teams CEMC relies on wireless phones. Collectors, for example, frequently call back to cashiers to report a payment. Or dispatchers call a linemen crew to send them to repair a blown transformer.

But in emergencies or special weather situations, where CEMC needed to get information or instructions out to everyone at once, using the wireless phones was inefficient. Whenever summer temperatures reach 95 degrees, for example, CEMC automatically cancels all service suspensions, and must alert all collectors and bring them back to the office. Or when a tornado threatens, it’s critical to advise all field personnel to seek shelter or return to CEMC.

“We would have two or three people making calls to each individual cell phone, getting the message out,” said Galford. “It could easily take twenty or thirty minutes of calling to reach everyone.”

While conventional SMS wireless texting could be an option, Galford notes that in CEMC’s case, the cost of providing unlimited text messaging for all field and company phones was difficult to justify. Another solution was required.

Broadcast Messages in Minutes

Now with AT&T Business Messaging, Galford and her staff can get a detailed text message to more than 136 wireless phones in a minute or two, all through an online portal. By setting up different groups in Microsoft Outlook, staff can broadcast a message to selected teams or groups – or to the entire company – as needed. It’s as simple as typing a message on screen and pressing ‘Send’. And since AT&T Business Messaging doesn’t work through conventional SMS messaging, there is no need for texting plans. A more cost-effective blanket fee covers all the necessary messaging.

Galford notes that setting up AT&T Business Messaging was remarkably easy, and required no special IT skills. It all works through a web-based interface that allows Galford to set up the service as she and her teams needed.

After implementing AT&T Enterprise Messaging, Galford notes that CEMC staff use the capability almost daily, especially the supervisors of the collector and meter technicians. The system also sees duty year-round in weather situations, whether it involves alerting linemen about tornado warnings in spring or instructing all crews to have their trucks fueled and readied in advance of an impending ice storm.

“The bottom line for us is productivity and safety,” said Galford. “We can get information out fast, whenever we need to. It’s less costly, less stressful and much easier all around.”

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