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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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Navigant Research Report Shows Global Spending on Customer Engagement Through Demand Side Management (DSM) is Expected to Reach $1.1 Billion by 2027

Posted By Brett Feldman, Thursday, May 31, 2018

Navigant Research Report Shows Global Spending on Customer Engagement Through Demand Side Management (DSM) is Expected to Reach $1.1 Billion by 2027

To enhance competitiveness and meet customer expectations of new technologies, utilities and retail suppliers should invest in customer-centric DSM products

A new report from Navigant Research examines the global market for customer engagement through DSM (CEDSM), providing market forecasts for spending segmented by region, through 2027.

As customer expectations grow for new technologies, so does the market for CEDSM products, making it easier for utilities and retail suppliers to engage with them. However, uncertainty in the long-term cost-effectiveness of these solutions remains a barrier to global adoption, in addition to region-specific competitiveness of a deregulated energy supply market. Click to tweet: According to a new report from @NavigantRSRCH, global spending on CEDSM is expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2027.

“Because of the changes in consumer expectations, utilities and retail suppliers are seeking DSM software solutions that can lower the cost-to-serve and improve customer satisfaction and engagement,” says Brett Feldman, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.

According to Navigant, to enhance CEDSM competitiveness and customer acceptance, utilities and service providers should focus on combining budgets and revenue streams to cover costs, transition to newer business models while complementing existing DSM programs rather than replacing them, and offering accurate building energy use models to build customer trust.

This report, Utility Customer Engagement through DSM, examines the global CEDSM market, with a focus on market drivers and barriers, case studies, and forecasts for residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) CEDSM spending. The study examines the trends related to CEDSM to highlight regional activities and approaches to behavioral DSM and utility marketplaces. Global market forecasts for spending, broken out by segment and region, extend through 2027. The report also profiles key CEDSM solutions providers and provides recommendations for utilities, retail suppliers, and vendors that aim to enhance CEDSM effectiveness.

Contact: Stefanie Bradtner
+49.221.270.70.142
stefanie.bradtner@navigant.com

* The information contained in this press release concerning the report, Utility Customer Engagement through DSM, is a summary and reflects Navigant Research’s current expectations based on market data and trend analysis. Market predictions and expectations are inherently uncertain and actual results may differ materially from those contained in this press release or the report. Please refer to the full report for a complete understanding of the assumptions underlying the report’s conclusions and the methodologies used to create the report. Neither Navigant Research nor Navigant undertakes any obligation to update any of the information contained in this press release or the report.

Tags:  Behavioral  customer engagement  customer engagement digital  Customer Engagement Energy Efficiency  Customer Engagement Residential Programs  Customer EngagementResidential Programs  customer satisfaction  digital engagement  DSM  Energy Efficiency  energy efficiency programs 

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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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Apogee's Energy News

Posted By Karen Morris, Friday, March 23, 2018
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Proven Strategies for Building Email & Mobile Lists

Posted By Karen Morris, Monday, February 19, 2018

Apogee Institute recently hosted an event highlighting digital customer engagement where panelist from  E Source, Jackson EMC, PPL, LCEC, and Duke Energy shared their story. Keenan Samuelson, Analyst & CCXP, of E Source laid the groundwork outlining his Utility Marketing Survey. Keenan named the top three strategies for collecting digital contact information as automated capture, such as registering for and online account, online service orders or online bill pay, marketing efforts, through direct contact from the call center, and a poll strategy, giving customers something of value in return for information such as bill explanations, payment reminders, outage updates and energy use alerts.

Shared challenges faced by utilities named during the presentations where:

  • Conservative policies: Proving to utility executives that increased customer satisfaction is directly related to frequent, valuable, information exchange through multiple channels.
  • Antiquated CIS portals: Difficulty storing and collecting data through call center contact due to missing fields for email or mobile.
  • Regulation: SMS messaging needs consent and record retention, email requires SPAM compliance and list maintenance. Processes need to be set up by utilities to comply.

How are utilities meeting these challenges?

Amy Bryan, Director of Residential Marketing, Jackson EMC, has ranked in the top 5 for customer satisfaction in her segment consistently since 2005 but, faced the challenge of conservative communications policies. To convince management, she launched a pilot that delivered value through personalized video bill explanation, triggered when the customer’s bill was higher than usual. Then energy summary reports were sent, each with a call to action. Surveys show the emails received a 90% satisfaction rating with less than 1% choosing not to receive the emails. Starting with only 50 thousand emails collected through paperless billing and call centers, in 2018 Bryan will launch advertising campaigns that drive members to a preference center allowing customers to opt-in, increasing their digital reach. Delivering value made the difference.

Susan Smith, Customer Experience Specialist, PPL, believes in the power of digital communications, her paperless billing campaign increased enrollment by 60%. Her biggest obstacle was collecting text consent. There was no way to know if the phone number on file was mobile. Her solution was to create a screen pop in the CIS portal that asks the CSR to explain the benefits of email and text messaging and gain the consent needed to send information. CSR’s efforts had an 86% success rate. She also developed a preference center, that proved 83% successful, and IVR prompts that delivered a 56% success rate. Getting the call center on board was key but Susan sees all customer contact points as opportunities.

Joe Padgett, Director of Customer Care, LCEC, discovered his customers wanted digital communications 24/7. In 2010 he had only 20% of his customer’s emails. He then began to put accountability in place through performance reviews that held CSRs responsible for collecting and updating information. Today he has 86% of his customer’s email information. He then delivered value through bill notifications and high bill alerts. Other tactics include a preference center, mail, and an email customer care box. He also uses a third-party vendor to keep his email database purged of bad emails.

Sandra Buzzard and Tamarah Delevan, Digital Engagement Team, Duke Energy have extended their digital reach by email from 26% in 2016 to 58% by the end of 2017. How did they do it? CSRs collect emails from inbound calls. Email addresses are used for user names such as start/stop services on the web, and online accounts. Duke Energy has a preference center on their website also accessible on Facebook. They have also purchased lists to match up email addresses with name, addresses, and phone numbers.

If your goal is to increase customer satisfaction through customer engagement it is vital to give personalized messaging that brings value. To do this effectively, the first step is gathering correct emails and mobile numbers. Forward-thinking utilities are paving the way to a better customer experience. If you would like to listen to the full presentation you can download the recording here.

Contact Karen Morris at 678-684-6801 or kmorris@apogee.net for more information.

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Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Customer Engagement Residential Programs  digital engagement 

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How to make your customer engagement POP…

Posted By Karen Morris, Monday, November 6, 2017

Today’s customer expects instant everything. Communications from the companies they know and do business with should be personal, timely, and relevant.  Forward thinking marketing and communications professionals also know an integrated marketing approach is most effective. Offering customers a choice through multiple channels gives the customer a sense of control, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and engagement.

Personal, Outbound, and Proactive (POP)

Forbes predicts that by 2020 82% of internet traffic will be video. That is up considerably from the current 69% in 2017. Including video in your communications mix is engaging and fun. Apogee’s personalized bill explanations are seeing extraordinary results with 98% of utility customers wanting to receive these communications regularly. What could be more relevant, and proactive? The videos explain in easy to understand terms why a bill has changed and offers a simple call to action designed for program promotion, surveys or just to encourage web traffic.

Today personalization means more than just adding first names.  Personalization is now defined as personalized content recommendations. Sending threshold alerts to customers demonstrates the power of outbound personalized and proactive communications. Letting a customer know when their bill is nearing a set amount mid-cycle then offering proactive recommendations on how save before the high bill drops. This enables the customer to take steps to manage their usage.

Energy summary reports are another way to engage energy customers with relevant information. In one control group, Apogee emailed summary reports to 40,000 customers. Among the group that received these reports, customer satisfaction increased by 16%.

What could be more relevant and personalized that your bill analysis, energy threshold alerts, or an energy summary report?

Recommendations for Success

1.      Provide information that addresses the customer benefits ahead of desired utility benefits.

2.      Include multiple outbound channels and tactics in your toolkit.

3.      Make customers feel valued by giving them relevant information they need.

 

In a recent study by Forrester, 68% of firms surveyed identified personalization as a priority. The days of sitting back hoping customers will visit your website are long gone as is blasting emails to thousands without targeting. Personal, outbound, and proactive messaging is a must if you want to get customers engaged and keep them engaged.

Digital engagement tools like online audits, video bill explanations, and text alerts are easy ways to communicate relevant, personal information. These should be essential elements of any utilities’ marketing toolkit. 

To learn more about ways to improve your customer engagement visit www.apogee.net or contact Karen Morris at info@apogee.net , 678-684-6801. 

Tags:  apogee Interactive  Customer Engagement Residential Programs  Energy Analysis 

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Apogee Interactive Announces Low Income Behavioral Program at BECC Conference

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Atlanta, GA (October 17, 2017) Today in Sacramento, Jim Malcom, Apogee Executive Vice President, shared the firm’s new customer engagement solution for low income utility customers at the 8th annual Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference.  This growing segment is increasingly difficult and costly for utilities to engage and serve. They tend to be expensive to serve due to the number of times they call, the number of truck rolls associated with service interruptions, and their inability to pay their bills.  As a result, they also tend to be a drag on the customer service scores.

“These customers are not hard to identify, they are hard to engage and influence using traditional methods,” said Malcom.  “Apogee’s service reduces costs and increases customer satisfaction by making these customers aware of how they use energy, how they can control their energy bills, as well as making them aware of the payment options best aligned with how they are paid.”

Apogee’s groundbreaking behavioral solution, EPIC (Engagement Platform for Information and Communication), uses simple, timely, personalized, automated communication methods widely proven effective with the general population and customized to this segment’s special needs.

EPIC is targeted to mobile phone users and employs multiple channels including email, SMS/text, and social media.  The program approach is perfectly suited to the low-income trade allies and community agents including churches, non-profits, and community action agencies. This multi-channel strategy extends the reach and fills the gaps of traditional communication approaches.

According to Susan Gilbert, Apogee CEO, “Lower income customers spend a disproportionately large percentage of their paychecks on energy and create most of the billing and payment inquiries. Apogee customized our time-tested tools to proactively engage and assist these customers, demonstrating their energy provider cares while giving customers a sense of choice and control in their lives.”

Customers learn to manage their energy use, improve the comfort of their homes, and lower their bills, while utilities benefit through increased customer satisfaction and reduced costs to serve.

Contact kmorris@apogee.net for complete details of the presentation and how EPIC is enabling utilities to connect with and better serve their low-income customers.

Apogee Interactive, Inc.

Apogee Interactive is one of the nation’s leading providers of customer engagement software services for the energy industry. Partnering with utilities since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive, personalized communication to consumers nationwide. Apogee’s proven SaaS platform enables more meaningful customer engagement, proven sustainable energy results, reduced operating costs and improved program performance for utilities. For more information, please visit www.apogee.net and follow on Linkedin and Twitter at @apoweb.

 

 

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

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Why Low-Income Customers Need Their Utilities’ Help Now More Than Ever

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Utilities have struggled for years to engage their customers, and in no segment, have they struggled more than low-income. Low-income consumers have historically been difficult to serve, and managing the challenges of delinquency and bad debt have further bogged down these relationships. Today, even though the stock market is hitting record highs, unemployment is on the decline, and poverty rates are falling, this problem might seem like an issue that utilities can take a break from focusing on. That isn’t the case.

The rebounding economy has not improved conditions for millions of low-income families in America who are still living in perpetual financial insecurity. Helping these families manage their energy spend so they can keep the lights on and ensure that their children stay warm in the winter should be a priority for every utility. With proposed federal budget cuts on the horizon this situation could decline even further.

ACEEE reports that low-income households are spending an average of 7.2 percent of their income on utility bills, that is more than triple the spend of median households. Utilities now have a unique opportunity to ease this energy burden and help these families get ahead.

How can utilities help and still be profitable? 

 In researching a solution to the low-income burden on both families and utility Apogee discovered that it is common for this customer segment to contact the utility several times every month repeatedly. These customers are well known to the utility, they may not be hard to reach but they are hard-to-serve.

The benefits of a successful low income strategy include substantial rewards. For every 10,000 low income customers, if you reduce one call per month for ten percent (10%) of these customers, the annual savings to the utility is between $60,000 and $90,000.  For larger utilities, for every 100,000 low income customers, the savings are $600,000 to $900,000 annually. These savings do not consider other hard costs such as reductions in collection efforts, bad debt, and avoided disconnect and reconnect services, nor the benefit of improved cash-flow, improved customer satisfaction and increased customer engagement.

What’s the secret?

Deliver a message that is relevant, personal, and prompt. Remember the basics of customer satisfaction. Give customers control, care, and choice.

Control

  • Just in time energy and payment alerts delivered by email or text that allows time to adjust behavior before the high bill arrives.
  • Energy saving recommendations that put customers in control of their energy use. Suggesting actionable low cost or no cost opportunities to save energy.
  • Program awareness offering opportunities to participate and benefit.

Care

  • Deliver your message with dignity when there is still time to make a difference in the bill.
  • Reach out through social organizations.
  • Offer multi-lingual communications and address cultural differences.

Choice

  • Communicate multiple payment options like budget billing, authorized payment centers or pre-pay options.
  • Allow customers to choose their preferred method of communication.
  • Use a mobile friendly preference management system

Apogee is dedicated to helping utilities build trust and bring value to low income communities while easing the burden to serve this growing segment. Apogee’s new Energy Platform for Information & Communication, or EPIC, offers a way to tackle the challenges associated with engaging hard-to-serve customers proactively, through ongoing engagement. EPIC gives actionable guidance for renters, low-income or multifamily dwellers.

Want to learn more about low income outreach strategies and digital engagement that can help you make a difference in your community? Call 678-684-6801 or info@apogee.net or visit  www.apogee.net. Subscribe to Apogee's blog at www.apogee.net/blog

 

About The Author

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

Mr. Malcom, has been Apogee's advocate for low income initiatives for the past 2 years. He brings more than 25 years in corporate finance and accounting to Apogee, which began with the firms KPMG and Ernst & Young in Atlanta. He has held senior posts as chief financial officer, corporate controller, vice president and treasurer for such area companies as Heidelberg USA, LecStar Telecom and Powertel.

Jim 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.

 

Tags:  Apogee Interactive  Customer Engagement Energy Efficiency  Customer Engagement Residential Programs  customer satisfaction  low income 

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