Nearing the end of the first quarter of 2019, we find ourselves amid an industry in transition. So, we are offering up some thoughts on ways to raise the bar on customer satisfaction and service while addressing some of the most pressing issues faced by utilities today.
- Strategic electrification continues to develop to balance load by using beneficial distributed energy resources (DERs). Grid operators can increase or decrease load balancing by using DERs, which include solar, electric vehicles and batteries. Pilot programs are currently testing the integration of DERs, making this a resource to watch.
- For many residential customers facing rate options, choosing the best rate for their lifestyle is a head-spinning experience. Developing simplified descriptions of rates with examples of how each affect energy use helps customers wade through the options. Time of use, demand rates and even real time price rate designs are increasingly being piloted and, in some cases, mandated. If rates can be successfully explained by rate game simulations and thinking like the customers in the explanation, customer satisfaction increases.
- An ongoing challenge for the industry is to provide programs and rates that are affordable for small business owners. Many businesses lease their space and can’t afford to retrofit under-performing HVAC systems and old lighting fixtures. This resistance to upgrading can result in higher bills. Developing programs that help small business owners overcome these obstacles positions utilities as a business partner.
- Customer engagement programs are redefining the customer experience. Customers rarely think about their utility until they receive a high bill, face having their power turned off due to nonpayment, or experience an outage induced by mother nature. New software programs are allowing utilities to send relevant information to customers about their bill before it’s delivered. Proactive outreach allows utilities to educate customers and measure their satisfaction. This communication channel can also be used to relay information on programs that can assist them manage their energy use.
Apogee’s Empower Platform is empowering customers and utilities in all these areas. Customers receive timely, personalized information by text or video explaining why their next bill will be higher than normal and suggest measures and programs to reduce their use. Customers can also opt in to receive additional messaging with helpful information such as pre-heating or pre-cooling season reminders.
Customer engagement programs continue to evolve and benefit both the utility and their customers one experience at a time.