The U.S. energy sector is in the midst of massive transformation in response to the quest to reduce carbon footprints across all commerce and industry. This coupled with concerns over waste mitigation and sustainability has changed virtually everything in the supply chains. Even the boardrooms of major corporations and stockholders are demanding answers to long-term environmental agendas. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced almost everyone to rethink the way they do business, hastening the adoption of digital solutions to what was an in-person business model. A new report by Apogee Interactive analyzes the transitions over the past few years and how the customer engagement game has and will continue to change as the result.
Twenty-three percent of Fortune 500 companies have committed to significant carbon reduction by 2030. Pressure from corporations, consumers, and regulators will make decarbonization a major theme in the energy business for the next few years.
Customers are demanding supply-side solutions such as solar, wind, and energy storage along with demand-side solutions such as EV charging and replacing natural gas/delivered fuels for space & water heating. Pandemic disruption, slowing traditional electricity sales, changes in consumer behavior, and dramatic shifts in climate regulations are today’s biggest threats to the energy business. Utilities are under pressure to move from pilot programs to sustainable energy offerings quickly and at scale.
#2 Intersection of Personalization & Video
The two fastest growing trends in marketing and advertising are the use of personalization and video. Research shows utility videos and messages that pertain to individual customers generate higher click-through rates, greater program adoption, and elevated customer satisfaction and loyalty.
In addition, customer experience research shows consumers today expect a personalized experience when they interact with a brand. It is now considered table stakes in building loyalty across all demographics. A utility’s customers are comparing their online interactions to those with Amazon, their bank, and other progressive providers like the travel & hospitality industry and even their local grocery store.
#3 Aligning Rates with Costs & Carbon
The growth of rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources is placing electricity pricing out of sync with the cost to produce and deliver it. Utilities are focusing on moving from volumetric pricing to time-based or demand models, as utilities with time-based pricing report a rise in net revenues. Yet this is much easier to say than do. The key element is to first educate and communicate to regulators, customers, and intervenors about your reasoning. Then offer at least two easy-to-understand plans and support those with customer advisory support to minimize fears over choice.
In every case, pay special attention to explaining seasonal differences that, while small, are directionally inconsistent with annual results. Very simply, watch out for how these choices impact customers in the spring and fall! They may save overall, but they are likely to drop out or complain bitterly if they are forced to stay on a rate plan that they perceive is disadvantageous to them.
#4 Spotlight on Energy Equity
Nearly one-third of U.S. households have difficulty paying their energy bills or adequately heating and cooling their homes. Utilities should boost awareness of their energy savings and assistance programs, making it easy for low-income customers to participate. Too often, interactions center on payment notices, late fees, increasing deposits, and service disconnections. By deploying caring and compassionate communications, utilities can build a trusting relationship with this consumer group.
Effective communication must be relevant to the consumer, provide actionable insights, and be timely. The communication method should be in the manner the customer chooses; Apogee has found that Short Message Services (SMS) or text messaging is an impact and well received method of communication.
#5 Big Data Produces Big Results
We are witnessing the convergence of Internet of Everything (IoE), big data analytics, and “Zoomification” for both our work and home lives. This, coupled with technical advancements in HVAC and our quest for safe and comfortable living spaces, is bringing with it actionable intelligence and control from remotely collected and distributed data.
In 2021, remote energy audits, fault detection and diagnostics, quality assurance and other data-driven methods will move into the mainstream. These techniques combine utility meter or bill data together with data from home HVAC systems, smart thermostats, weather stations, imaging technologies, and even air quality metrics to paint a picture of current and potential improved home performance. Utility programs must be designed and implemented to empower building occupants to make energy efficiency upgrades or behavioral changes.
As economic, political and climate forces increase the urgency to improve the energy efficiency and demand flexibility of buildings, technological advancements enabled by big data analytics are allowing our industry to better target and engage customers and implement impactful measures. Those who embrace this new, performance-based toolbox will be rewarded with greater program cost-effectiveness and better outcomes. In addition, they will have customers and employees who are engaged by these leading-edge insights.
Apogee Interactive is a privately held, woman-owned business and one of the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement SaaS provider for energy utilities. As the Hometown Connections partner for customer engagement, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive, targeted, relevant, and personalized communication for hundreds of North American utilities, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, ConEd, LADWP, and Jackson EMC. For more information, visit www.apogee.net or on LinkedIn. Or contact Karen Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.