With Interactive, Online Energy Management Tools
With advanced metering in place, Florida’s Lakeland Electric decided to leverage its data collection and management capabilities to help customers engage with the utility in meaningful and productive ways. The utility selected the web-based energy analysis, education, and engagement platform, EMPOWER, from Apogee Interactive to transform its relationship with customers.
Lakeland Electric is the third largest public power utility in the State of Florida serving 127,000 customers. Apogee Interactive is a marketing partner of Hometown Connections and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities.
“The intent of Lakeland Electric’s project was to build energy management tools that move the relationship with our customers from a once per month, brief interaction on our website or a cursory review of our monthly bill, to one where we can become partners with our customers in helping them understand, manage, and even predict their energy costs,” said David Kus, Assistant General Manager, Customer Service. “We believe that the wealth of data provided by our smart grid system can be presented to our customers in an engaging format, as well as in a way that empowers and motivates proactive energy cost management.”
Kus continued, “By providing our customers with tools such as proactive bill analysis and alerts, one-click rate comparisons, home energy analysis, tips to help customers manage on exceptionally hot or cold days, recommendations and services as seasons change, and data on the connections between weather and size of their bill, we can help our customers take control of their energy bill while helping the utility forego future generation needs.”
Lakeland Electric’s goals for the energy toolset project included:
- Use smart grid data to provide customers with historical & future energy use.
- Promote the utility’s ability to be an “energy advisor.”
- Enable customers to know the amount of their next bill to prevent the “big bill surprise.”
- Enable customers to use their Energy Profile via the utility’s website to manage energy dollars.
- Help customers choose their best “Price Plan.”
Lakeland Electric selected Apogee Interactive as the project vendor after a competitive bid process. The utility solicited proposals to have a vendor supply two products; the first was an assortment of online energy management tools that take advantage of the smart grid data, for use by utility customers and employees; the second was a new website, with an updated design and improved navigation. Vendors were evaluated on eight criteria (Price, Online Tools, Deliverables, Web Site Offering, Post-Implementation Support, Project Timeline, Examples of Similar Work, and References). Apogee scored the highest of the five firms that submitted proposals.
Apogee’s EMPOWER is a comprehensive Digital Engagement Platform that combines billing & AMI data, customer information, and home profiles. EMPOWER enables a host of personalized, relevant messaging and cost-cutting opportunities. Benefits to the utility include reducing calls to the call center, shortening calls that do come in, and generating an e-mail address for greater customer digital engagement.
- Energy Advisor is the heart of the EMPOWER platform. It enables customers to enter their home profile and e-mail address to receive an in-depth audit of their home and ongoing updates to their energy performance as they make changes.
- Energy Forecast lets visitors to the utility website know how the weather is going to impact their daily and weekly energy costs in advance of them receiving their bills, while there is still time to impact them. This application includes a virtual thermostat letting customers change settings to see how much a single degree of comfort costs. Alerts enable customers to specify what kind of bill-related notifications they want to receive (above threshold amount, higher than last month, etc.) by what method (text, e-mail, phone, etc.).
- Personal Video Messaging creates customized movies for each customer explaining their bills, letting them know why they are different from last month or same month last year. Other video messaging includes Energy Summary Reports, Beat the Peak requests, Storm Alerts and other public service announcements personalized to that customer’s home and situation.
- Energy Summary Reports can be delivered as e-mails, mailed paper reports, or video messages. They show customers where their energy is being used on an annual basis (pie chart) and disaggregated by end-use on a monthly basis (colored bar chart) so they can clearly see weather impacts.
Dave Kus noted, “Apogee Interactive is helping Lakeland Electric provide a complete, end-to-end solution, including:
- Integrating billing and AMI data into a whole house assessment
- Creating rate comparison and other single-issue calculators
- Showing customers how their house rates on a performance scale
- Sending text and email alerts and alarms
- Distributing personalized video messages
- Powering a field energy audit
- Enabling customer service representatives to more quickly answer billing questions
- Showing customers what their bills are on a daily basis in the context of the weather forecast
- Helping them understand the cost of a single degree or two on their thermostat
“These useful informational touch-points are building trust, confidence, and digital engagement with our customers,” Kus said.
Lakeland Electric is gathering statistical feedback from its customers regarding their satisfaction with its energy management toolset. The utility has engaged an outside firm to perform monthly transaction surveys. Recent results show that on a scale of 1-10 (10 being 100% satisfaction), the toolset has a score of 86% satisfaction. As of February 2018, 11% of, or about 14,000, utility customers have created profiles on the website.
For 2018 and beyond, Lakeland Electric will continue to grow the number of customers setting up energy profiles, analyze traffic patterns and user preferences to fine-tune the toolset, and launch enhancements such as a comprehensive video messaging campaign and links to Amazon’s “Alexa” virtual assistant.
“The Apogee staff have proven to be strong business partners,” Dave Kus said. “They are committed to Lakeland Electric and are very responsive to our needs. They address issues quickly and are open to our suggestions. We look forward to continuing our work with Apogee as we expand our customer engagement programming.”
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Assistant General Manager -Customer Service