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Xcel Energy Garners AESP Award for Personalized Video Messaging Program

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Enhancing the Customer Experience and Improving Brand Perception

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA - January 23, 2019 - Today during the Association of Energy Service Professionals’ (AESP) 29th National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, attended by more than 700 utility professionals, Xcel Energy was recognized for outstanding achievement in customer engagement. AESP is dedicated to bringing veteran and young energy industry professionals together to highlight the most forward-thinking energy companies and to help advance their careers. The AESP Energy Award is granted to select utilities annually to recognize the spirit of innovation. Xcel Energy’s outbound communications program, developed by Apogee Interactive, combines customer engagement, customer satisfaction, education, and program promotions.

Xcel Energy’s Personalized Video Messaging (PVM) program has achieved strong results in customer engagement using proactive, personalized videos to educate customers about how to lower their electric bills, prepare for heating and cooling seasons, delivers annual energy summaries as well as and an email message with information about online energy audits and other programs.

The pilot program, which has now gone to scale, showed that 89 percent of Xcel Energy customers found the videos were very or somewhat useful, with 93 percent giving encouraging feedback. Of the recipients responding, 58 percent reported an improved perception of the Xcel Energy brand.

Engagement, as measured by open and click-thru rates were equally impressive.  Open rates topped 50 percent with click-thru rates of 16 percent an increase of what the company typically experiences. Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the pilot was the 15 percent reduction in calls to the contact center from the treatment group receiving the personalized videos vs. the control.

Apogee’s CEO, Susan Gilbert stated, “Today’s highly competitive marketplace has proven that regardless of industry, companies that deliver personal and relevant messaging find increased customer engagement.” She added, “Our clients are seeing astounding and lasting results with our outbound communications platform, Apogee is proud to serve Xcel Energy and support their innovative approach to customer engagement.”

About Apogee Interactive: Apogee Interactive is a woman-owned business and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive and personalized communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net or on LinkedIn.

About Xcel Energy:

Xcel Energy (NASDAQ: XEL) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices. For more information, visit xcelenergy.com or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Tags:  Apogee Interactive  award  customer engagement  digital engagement  marketing 

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Performance Metrics Gone Wild!

Posted By Karen Morris, Thursday, November 8, 2018

 

I recently had a conversation with a utility executive who informed me of an unbelievable occurrence.  He had discovered that customers calling the contact center questioning a high bill were being recommended to have an in-house energy audit rather than receiving an answer to their question; the appropriate answer was the summer temperature had increased from the previous month and there were more days in the billing cycle.  The reason for this occurrence was that the contact center representatives were being measured on the typical and well-known metrics such as first call resolution, average handle time and number of calls answered.  The easiest path to meeting these metrics was to pass the customer along to another department.  When speaking with another utility executive I heard the same story and then another executive conveyed the same message.

Referring a customer to a field audit does have some positive benefits such as increased customer engagement, and if the auditor does discover a defect in the home, it will improve customer satisfaction.  However, the down-side to the contact center representatives’ actions most likely outweigh the potential benefits.  First, from a customer’s point of view, the question was not answered; the inquiry was merely deferred.  Second are the financial ramifications; the cost of a call is typically between $7.50 and $12.50- the cost of a field audit is typically between $250 and $300.  Using the 6x to 8x expense to revenue multiple from my previous article, the cost of the frivolous field audit erased the entire annual revenue generated by the customer. Third, from an operational efficiency standpoint, it is much more efficient to recommend that a customer use an on-line self-service tool rather than calling the contact center or requesting a field audit; digitally engaged customer are 20% more satisfied than non-digitally engaged consumers.

The Apogee suite of solutions are designed to specifically answer these customer inquiries either directly by the customer via a utility website or by a CSR.

 

About The Author

Jim Malcom, Chief Financial Officer and EVP of APOGEE Interactive, Inc.

 

Jim Malcom is Chief Operating Officer of Apogee Interactive, Inc., providing oversight business and financial operations of the company. His senior management experience in the telecommunications and management consulting industries is providing strategic direction for Apogee’s continued growth and success.

Malcom brings more than 20 years in corporate finance and accounting to Apogee, which began with the firms KPMG and Ernst & Young in Atlanta. His career steadily expanded to include senior posts as chief financial officer, corporate controller, vice president and treasurer for such area companies as Heidelberg USA, LecStar Telecom and Powertel.

He is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration, a certified public accountant, and a chartered global management accountant.

 

 

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Cost reduction  Customer Engagement 

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Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Strengthens Member Relationships With Apogee’s Bill Alerts

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, October 23, 2018

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA  Today in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative’s Manager of Marketing and Member Services, Autumn McMahon, and Apogee Interactive’s Account Manager, Stephanie Knight, presented OEC’s case study at Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperative’s Public Relations / Member Relations fall conference. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can use big data to better inform and engage members.

Since the onset of mandatory TOU rates in 2013 and impending rate increases, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative realized it was crucial to help members better understand their bills. Ms. McMahon was instrumental in launching OEC’s member education campaign, knowing members needed relevant and proactive communications.

McMahon shared her strategy for building strong member relationships, reducing the need to make bill inquiry calls, and educating OEC members on ways to save energy. The pilot program she launched this year included mid-cycle bill alerts letting customers know in advance what their bills were forecasted to be while there is still time to influence them.  It also included links to a home energy audit that lets members profile their home and receive tips on saving money.  Beginning in January of 2018 with a soft launch sending 1,400 mid-cycle email alerts, the program has grown to more than 153,000 bill alerts containing links to the online audit the energy audit calculator and other energy education resources.

Results were remarkable!  Recipients reported these statistics:

  • 92% want to continue to receive the email alerts.
  • 94% rated alerts very or somewhat useful.
  • Email open rates were well above expected, averaging 42%.

“These messages are thoughtfully helpful during peak periods of usage & can help us prepare (plan to save ahead) for high peak periods if necessary! THANK YOU for considering our situations & ideas. It will help ALL of us!” OEC Member

“I love getting this information. Please don't stop.” OEC Member

During the program, the online energy audit was used to make 11,470 calculations increasing the number of home profiles. OEC is using the data collected in the home profile combined with AMI data to further personalize and target members for programs and rebate offers.

According to McMahon, “The best part of this program is my team doesn’t do the leg work.  We have a 30-minute call once a month with the Apogee team.” Putting the member in control of their energy use and taking away the surprise of a higher than normal bill is building stronger relationships with members and starting meaningful conversations.

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is a woman-owned business and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive and personalized communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/99046/.

About OEC:

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative is the state’s largest member-owned electric cooperative and provides electricity to over 44,000 members and 55,000 accounts in seven central Oklahoma counties. The service area includes approximately 2,200 square miles and 5,500 miles of line.

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  communicating rates  customer engagement  TOU 

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Apogee Builds Solutions to Move Utilities from EE and DR to Electrification

Posted By Karen Morris, Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jim Albert CTO Interview from Apogee Interactive on Vimeo.

 Helping Utilities Turn Challenges into Opportunities

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta GA, September 13, 2018. The team at Apogee Interactive has identified several significant challenges facing utilities today. Apogee’s utility visionaries have combined their insight to the energy industry with client feedback to create new capabilities offered in their latest feature pack release set for September 25th.

Lead by Chief Software Architect, Joel Gilbert and Chief Technology Officer, Jim Albert, Apogee’s development team has focused on ways of effectively communicating the complicated topic of solar, net metering, new rate structures, and the impact of electric vehicles. Apogee is helping utilities move from energy efficiency and demand response towards customer engagement, operational efficiencies, and beneficial electrification.

For many years, outside of their whole-house cost and savings analyzer, Apogee has offered specialized tools for helping customers understand the cost impacts of solar, EVs, and various alternative electric rates.  But customers usually pay one bill and don’t think of these as separate issues.  This release wraps them all together and lets customers model whatever scenarios they are considering.

Gilbert explained, “Our solar module predicts the actual solar generation and add that back into the net metered results when analyzing the customers energy use.” Adding, “Whether they are looking at roof-top or community solar programs, customers can use our new release to get a realistic and un-biased estimate of solar production and cost impacts for their homes.”

Apogee has provided analysis for electric vehicles for many years, but this release is designed to help utilities promote electric vehicle adoption by showing realistic side-by-side savings predictions. The module will be included in the overall home energy analysis.

The big Feature Pack reveal is being presented in a series of webinars scheduled for September 25th and 27thWatch this short video with Jim Albert, to learn more.

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. Serving the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform is used by hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Consolidated Edison, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net  or on LinkedIn.

 Media Contact: Karen Morris, 678-684-6801 or kmorris@apogee.net

 

 

  

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  customer engagement  Electri  Energy Efficiency Experts of Tomorrow  solar 

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Apogee Announces Enhancements to Engagement Platform

Posted By Karen Morris, Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Apogee Addresses Utility Clients’ Needs in New Feature Pack

Atlanta, GA September 5, 2018, Apogee Interactive’s Chief Technology Officer, Jim Albert, announced today that his team is releasing new, cutting-edge features that enhance and expand Apogee’s current software offerings. This feature pack release will be available to existing and new clients on September 25, 2018.  New features help utilities address today’s most challenging topics, including communicating solar options, net metering, electric vehicles, new rate structures, and adding more personalized videos to the outbound messaging platform.

Mr. Albert explained, “Apogee knows the energy industry.  We listen intently to our clients’ needs.” He added, “Issues around community solar, electric vehicles, and communicating new rates have been top of mind this year, and the success of Personal Video Messaging has led to an explosive expansion of our video library.”

Apogee will share details of the of the 2018 feature pack in a series of webinars on September 25th and 27th.  

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. Serving the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s comprehensive digital engagement platform is used by hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net  or on LinkedIn.

 

 Media Contact: Karen Morris, 678-684-6801 or kmorris@apogee.net

Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Customer Engagement  Customer Engagement Energy Efficiency  Electric Vehicles  Residential Programs  Solar 

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Apogee Shares Wonders of Personalized Video Messaging

Posted By Karen Morris, Monday, June 18, 2018

Municipals Embrace New Digital Engagement Methods

 

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA – Jun. 19, 2018, Today at the American Public Power Association (APPA) National Conference in New Orleans attended by more than 1200 municipal utility professionals, Apogee Interactive, Inc. shared the results of four years’ experience sending millions of personalized video messages to utility customers.  Apogee is the newest addition to the Hometown Connections Partnership, and was invited to share what they do for hundreds of US utilities.  The firm was honored at a Hometown Connections Partnership appreciation breakfast on Tuesday morning.

According to Susan Gilbert, the firm’s CEO and co-founder, “Use of this type of messaging is exploding as utilities are finding customers love receiving them. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  One general manager of a North Carolina utility shared with us a voice mail recording from a customer raving about receiving one, saying, ‘We’re used to getting customer high bill complaints, but this is a first getting a high bill compliment!’”  The caller was referring to the video bill explanation she had received and wanted to express her gratitude for having it explained that the higher bill was due to it being 10 degrees colder and there being additional days in the billing period. 

According to Apogee’s experience and studies, other proven benefits of personalized video messaging include:

  • 15x higher email click through rates than industry standards
  • Proven reduced calls to the contact center
  • 58% improved perception of their utility
  • Double digit improvement in customer satisfaction
  • Increased program participation
  • Improved program targeting

Gilbert added, “Customers often don’t know they are served by their city and don’t know the advantages that offers them.”  That observation led to Apogee producing a Welcome Series of personalized videos.  “Upon establishing new service, customers receive a personalized video letting them know the benefits of being served by the city and that additional videos will be coming to help them understand their bills and available programs,” she continued.  Subsequent videos are triggered when billing or usage data signals there maybe a problem or an opportunity to participate in a program matching their usage profile.

The cost-effectiveness of this new communication method is a major factor in its success.  Apogee developed a technique for delivering personalized messages at costs a fraction of alternative messaging methods.

 

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. Serving the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform is used by hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net  or on LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Karen Morris, info@apogee.net or 678-684-6801

Tags:  #PublicPower  Apogee Interactive  customer engagement  Energy Efficiency  Residential Programs 

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Enhance the Experience Improve the Brand

Posted By Karen Morris, Monday, June 4, 2018

Xcel Energy is enhancing their customers’ experience and improving their brand perception all while reducing calls to the call center. It all started with their interest in the impacts of Personalized Video Messaging.  How would receiving a personalized, relevant, timely, and useful message affect a customer’s perception of the utility?  Impact the call center?  Influence digital customer engagement? Drive program participation?

How’d They Do That?

During a recent pilot, Apogee analyzed 500,000 Xcel customer’s billing histories to find the best candidates for various programs. By analyzing billing histories, Apogee identified customers most

suitable for HVAC retrofit programs and behavioral targets for refrigerator programs or programmable thermostats, enabling the messaging to be relevant to each customer.

The pilot was designed to test personalized outbound video messaging, specifically looking at customer’s perception of the utility, impact on click-through rates, ongoing digital engagement, program participation, and impacts to the call center. Treatment and control groups were established to measure how customers responded to the messaging.

Over the 4-month pilot, 120,000 emails were sent to test the reaction to several types of video messaging.

  1. Pre-heating season video,
  2. Personal video bill explanation,
  3. Personalized annual summary report video, and
  4. Email message with an online energy audit offer.

Results are In!

The pilot revealed that 89% of Xcel customers thought the videos were very or somewhat useful with 92% giving encouraging feedback. The video bill explanation went only to customers whose bills had increased by more than $20, and each quantified and explained the factors causing the bill to be higher (weather, days of service, rate change, behavior). Of the recipients reporting, 58% reported improved perception of the utilities brand. The personalized email inviting customers to fill out a home profile to receive a free online energy audit allowed Xcel to collect more home profiles and this data is now available for Xcel to use to further customize messages for future campaigns.

Much to our surprise, throughout the pilot, click-through rates (CTRs) increased on each distribution from Xcel’s average CTR baseline of 3% to 5% for the first, to 14% for the second, to 16% on the third distribution, a 5x increase from baseline. In addition, compared to the control group, customers in the treatment group showed fewer contact center calls.

In conclusion, greater, ongoing customer digital-engagement was proven using this method and at costs of only pennies a message. Xcel’s pilot goes to scale for all jurisdictions beginning on summer 2018 where 9 million messages will be sent in 6 different events.

learn more at www.apogee.net

 

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  customer engagement digital  Customer Engagement Residential Programs  digital engagement  Energy Efficiency 

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Apogee Shares Xcel Energy’s Video Messaging Success

Posted By Karen Morris, Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Personalized Video Messaging in the Energy Industry

 

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA - May 23, 2010 Apogee Interactive’s CEO & Co-Founder, Susan Gilbert and co-presenter Suzanne McCloskey, Research Technology and Strategy Analyst, Consumers Energy, conducted a Video Messaging Master Class today at the Association of Energy Service Professionals (AESP) 2018 Spring Conference.  Susan highlighting recent pilots including one for Xcel Energy (XEL).

Apogee analyzed 500,000 XCEL customer billing histories to find the best candidates for various programs.  Treatment and control groups were established to measure how customers valued the messaging, and how the messaging affected customers’ perception of the utility. Results showed reduced calls to the call center and that 58% reported improved perception of their utility.

 “While many of our distributions achieve extraordinary click-through rates, some nearly 20 times the industry average, the biggest surprise was how customer interest increased as subsequent videos were sent,” said Susan Gilbert, Apogee CEO.  “Our second video received three times more viewers than the first, and the third was higher than the second,” she added.

“Up until now video messaging simply named the items on the bill and were considered cost-prohibitive at around a dollar per message.” Susan explained, “What is different now is the analysis explains impacts of weather, days of service, rate changes and behavior impacts, and most remarkably, all at pennies a message.”   

“What was viewed as too expensive, utilities are now embracing as the most affordable, high impact method of engaging customers,” she concluded.

During the Video Messaging Master Class attendees were given the what, how, and why of offering their customers personalized video messages. Ms. Gilbert explained the ease of secure billing data transfer, setting up treatment and control groups, creative content development, and the evaluation process.

According to WordStream 51% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI. In addition, viewers retain 95% of a video message compared to 10% reading text. With their application of machine learning and predictive analytics, Apogee software architects predict this is only the beginning of data integration technology that will provide customers more meaningful engagement with their energy providers.

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers digital proactive and personalized digital communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net  or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Karen Morris, info@apogee.net or 678-684-6800

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Customer Engagement Residential Programs  Energy Analysis 

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Turning High Bill Complaints into High Bill Compliments

Posted By Karen Morris, Thursday, May 10, 2018
https://vimeo.com/261493758

Tri-County EMC Raises the Bar on Digital Engagement with Apogee’s Envoy Platform

Turning High Bill Complaints into High Bill Compliments

For Immediate Release

May 10, 2018 - Atlanta GA, - Today at National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Connect Conference in Salt Lake City, UT, Apogee Interactive’s Sr. Account Manager, Cindy Smallwood, and Tri-County EMC’s, Manager of Marketing and Member Services, Bob Kornegay, shared their case study highlighting the stunning success of Tri-County EMC’s outbound communications strategy using Apogee’s ENVOY digital engagement platform. NRECA’s annual Connect Conference draws more than 600 utility professionals from cooperatives across the US. The conference agenda focuses on best practices in marketing, communications, member services, and the latest energy innovations and technologies.

“I am not surprised Bob Kornegay is an early adopter of our personalized video bill solution. He is dedicated to raising the bar on member engagement and providing the best resources for his members,” said Cindy Smallwood, Apogee Interactive.

Mr. Kornegay began planning Tri-County EMC’s new engagement strategy in May of 2017. Today he is sending personalized video bill messages to his members with sustained open rates of 50% and click through rates of 25%. These numbers reflect a 10 times increase over energy industry standards.

Kornegay said, “When I receive a call from a member thanking me for sending a notice that their bill will be higher than normal, I know we are on the right track.” He added, “Cooperatives shouldn’t fear engaging with members through multiple communications channels, our members want to hear from us and when the message is relevant, proactive, and personal our member satisfaction rises.”

Listen to Tri-County EMC’s HIGH BILL COMPLIMENT!

Apogee’s outbound communications platform includes energy summary reports, personal video bill explanations, energy alerts, and emails. Apogee’s clients using these methods are achieving extraordinary results that include increased satisfaction scores and reduced calls to the call center across the board.

About Apogee Interactive:

Apogee Interactive is a woman-owned business and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers digital proactive and personalized digital communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit www.apogee.net or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/99046/.

About Tri-County EMC:

Tri-County EMC is a non-profit rural electric utility cooperative. We were chartered on May 8th, 1940, by way of the Rural Electrification Act and have since been an affiliate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We provide safe, efficient electric energy to our members of Wayne, Duplin, Lenoir, Johnston, Jones, Sampson and Wilson counties. Tri-County EMC is a member-driven cooperative committed to providing reliable electric power at a reasonable cost, to offering superior service, and to taking an active role in supporting the communities it serves.

Contact: Karen Morris, Apogee Interactive, 678-684-6800 or info@apogee.net

 

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  corporate communications  customer engagement  Residential Programs 

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Apogee's Energy News

Posted By Karen Morris, Friday, March 23, 2018
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