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Encouraging homeowners to make retrofits when they aren't thinking about them is difficult. What could be easier is doing so when energy efficiency (EE) is top-of-mind for them.
The question is: "When are people thinking about energy efficiency?".
The answer? When they are moving into a new home.
In fact, USA Today rates “Improving energy efficiency” as the number one upgrade you can make to increase the value of your home. For example, a Remodeling.com survey found that homeowners could recoup 116% of the costs of attic insulation.
Homeowners are increasingly aware that HVAC, water heaters and window upgrades are cost-effective changes that provide a solid ROI when it comes time to move or sell.
Despite this interest, this is an issue for utilities. Even if people are willing to make energy efficient upgrades, this does not eliminate the big problem of free ridership rate among their customer base. Free ridership, is of course, the degree to which energy efficiency program participants take incentives for projects which would have been done with or without the program.
Getting more program participation while reducing free ridership rate. In fact, on their own, they are both issues that the utility world has not seemed to figure out yet. Of course, for some states, there’s less of an emphasis on free ridership, but the fact remains that utilities must get their customers to participate in energy efficiency programs.
So, how can utilities get more people to make energy efficient retrofits, while actually showing that they influenced those decisions?
Answer: By targeting homeowners who are likely to move or sell their home!
These homeowners are the perfect candidates for EE programming. Why? They recently bought a new house, and want to ensure their new asset is as valuable as possible. Their family is moving in, and they want to sure its comfort and livability.
A disgruntled homeowner who's used to what they're living in? Not happy when you tell them about a $2,500 HVAC incentive.
A new homeowner who's told about a free Smart Thermostat? They'll be thanking you, because that’s could raise the value of their asset.
There are a plethora of ways utility program managers may be able to do this, and some of them are listed below:
Digital Marketing: Online platforms such as Facebook and Google allow you to show your ads to specific people who are in your likely range of people who want to move. With Facebook, you can actually use Interest targeting and ask Facebook to show your ads to people who are most likely to be moving. The ad might say something like, “Selling your home or moving? Learn how a new HVAC can increase your home property value by XX%!”
A message like this would really resonate with the homeowner who is moving or selling their home.
Surveys and Direct Mail: Another way of knowing what your customers are doing? Ask them!
Short online surveys done via SurveyMonkey, or paper mail ones are an easy, effective way of figuring out which of your customers are moving, or not. You know that any customers that identifies that they may be thinking of moving would likely be interested in energy efficiency retrofits. Therefore, these individuals would be great candidates for marketing efforts down the line.
The drawback of this method? It is rather time consuming, low-tech and sometimes, people just don’t want to be bothered.
Implementing New-Age Software-As-a-Service (SaaS) Products: SaaS. It's not as complicated as it sounds. People have long dismissed utility engagement tactics as dated and low-tech, but that is simply no longer the case. Technology solutions such as MyEnergyXpert are able to take data science and AI, and integrate them with online platforms to identify homes that are ripe for participation.
The technology exists where people will now be able to target homeowners who are most likely to enrol and when they want to enrol.
Utility program managers can now look like geniuses - people are participating because of them, and they can easily track why and how.
It's time to flip the script on utility customer engagement for energy efficiency programs.
Sending customers 50-page unwanted home energy reports? There's no need.
Dealing with contractors for complicated home audits? Forget about that. Wasting marketing and customer care budget on campaigns that won't work? Those days are over.
Giving customers personalized recommendations right when they need it? Sign them, and us, up.
For the past decade, electric utilities have been busy upgrading their operations with advanced meter infrastructure. Although customer acceptance of “smart’” technology has been mixed, there is now overwhelming evidence that technology is transforming how customers expect to be engaged. It should come as no surprise that technology is also redefining how utilities can engage with their customers. Moving beyond online bill pay, real-time consumption charting and a digital presence across social media platforms, utilities must now also consider an expanding array of digital customer services, often driven by artificial intelligence, to better communicate with their customers on an individual level and generally improve operations.
This new-wave of digital communication and personalization is not a moment too soon. Today’s customers expect that digital tools and processes will provide them with personalized access to information and services through their laptop, tablet, mobile device and even conventionally printed formats. These modern customer expectations are being provided for across virtually all industries today, and customers now expect the same level of interconnectivity and congruence from their utility services. Utilities must augment traditional customer communication methods with innovative technology solutions that help to personalize the customer experience while simultaneously improving the cost-effective delivery of kilowatts and other initiatives.
Over the last several years, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with utilities and their customers through a variety of mediums including online building assessments, site visits, building energy reports, and in-bound customer service queries. Based on the data collected through these interactions, there are a number of trends and findings that every electric utility should consider when planning their upcoming customer service delivery strategies, program and marketing campaigns, and even operational expenditures.
This article focuses on findings and trends in two main areas:
How utilities should communicate with customers, and
How utilities can personalize their communications
How Utilities Should Communicate
With so much emphasis placed on moving customer interactions to the digital realm, you may wonder if the sun is finally setting on conventional paper-based communications?
With most of the utilities I engage with, the percentage of customers that have an email address on file with the utility is less than 30 percent, which is undeniably low. This finding is echoed by a 2017 Accenture Report finding that “only 27 percent of energy consumers are active digital users. A third of energy consumers are still struggling with their experiences on their energy provider’s digital channels.” Meanwhile, a 2018 GSMA report on the mobile economy explains that smartphone penetration in North America is currently at 84 percent of the population indicating that the lack of digital customer engagement is likely not due to a lack of digital access, demographics, or even personal preferences.
With smartphone penetration in North America expected to continue growing through 2025 and digital engagement on the rise across all industries, it is hard to imagine that the majority of customers will continue to want to receive paper from their utility. Indeed, that day may already have come and gone. Another recent utility-focused study by Market Strategies International found more than 50 percent of customers would already prefer to engage with their utility digitally, but “only 33 percent of consumers recall any digital communication from their utility.” The Accenture Report found that 88 percent of customers were ready to engage digitally with their utility. The Accenture Report also outlined the myriad of benefits of a digital customer engagement strategy, including more than 50 percent reductions in customer service costs, lowering of operating expenses, and even improved productivity and innovation across the utility workforce.
Figure 1. Smartphone Penetration in North America
Note: Smartphone Penetration in North America continues to rise, supporting an increased appetite for digital content
Source: GSMA Intelligence 2018
Figure 2. Customer Communication Preferences for Different Utility Initiatives
Note: Digital vs Direct Mail preferences can vary significantly, depending on content and customer motivations
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 43k
In light of these trends and benefits, it is no wonder that other industries are pushing forward with digital transformations. Coleman Parkes, a UK based research firm, ranked industries’ efforts towards digital transformation on a scorecard and found utilities came in last out of 10 industry sectors examined. The leading industries according to the same scorecard were Telecom and Banking/Financial Services.
So, if customers are struggling to engage with their utility through digital channels, and utilities are struggling to find ways to boost digital engagement is there any hope of making progress? A recent program I was involved with indicates the answer can be a resounding “YES.” During a home energy assessment initiative in 2018, more than 100,000 households received home energy assessments and personalized home energy reports with the option to receive their report digitally via email or on paper via direct mail. During this engagement, we saw a complete reversal of digital engagement trends with more than 90 percent of program participants opting to receive their report digitally via email.
Reading between the lines, this speaks volumes to the perceived interest or value placed on typical utility communications and the customer’s motivation to engage with typical communications. There is an argument to be made that although the majority of utility customers continue to receive paper communications, they still aren’t as actively engaged as the customers that do engage digitally. For example, looking at site traffic referrals across digital platforms in Figure 3, the majority of traffic comes from digital leads such as social media, web-ads and referral landing pages. Similarly, the largest upticks in our site traffic occur after digital marketing campaigns and integrations with online utility “customer account pages" and partner websites.
Digital marketing and leads are key to helping customers engage with digital content, they also tend to be more cost-effective and trackable than direct marketing activities. (Note: direct traffic is comprised of in-person engagements, direct mailings, conventional marketing, radio ads, etc.)
So, the future, and the present, for that matter, are digital. But what should utilities be talking about with customers across their developing digital channels? Research indicates that personalization is key to effective communication with customers. And luckily, digital mediums offer unprecedented personalization at lower unit costs than paper or other conventional mediums.
Figure 3. Breakdown of Website Engagement Origin
Note: Digital marketing and leads are key to helping customers engage with digital content, they also tend to be more cost-effective and trackable than direct marketing activities. (Note: direct traffic is comprised of in-person engagements, direct mailings, conventional marketing, radio ads, etc.)
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 57k
How Utilities Can Personalize Communications
The starting point for electric utilities that seek to better understand and communicate with their customers is often consumption history. Information about the customer’s building can be just as informative, if not more so. Building data, such as building age, size and basic information about key equipment and appliances, can provide immediate insights into energy consumption patterns when analyzed through physics-based models or through machine learning algorithms.
Utilities have a strong use-case to collect building information directly from customers, and they are often able to learn a lot about a population in a relatively short amount of time. For example, building data collected over two months through an online building assessment was cross-referenced with actions taken to enroll in energy efficiency programs. When the data was sorted by region, a clear trend emerged: low participating regions had building stocks with a narrower age distribution across a more recent period, while high participating regions had a wider distribution of building ages with a significant number of older buildings.
Building data indicated a trend that older buildings were more likely to participate in energy efficiency programs.
Figure 4. Building Age Distributions for Regions with Low and High Program Participation
Note: Customer engagement can be significantly influenced by building stock and geography. Participation tends to be higher in areas where the building stock is older and more diverse
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 100k
When the trend was applied in reverse, regions with older buildings were targeted with marketing campaigns to increase the likelihood of program enrollment, while simultaneously targeting older buildings with a higher average potential to reduce consumption. Relatively straight-forward initiatives like the example just provided indicate that data collected from customers can be used not only to personalize communications back to those same customers, but they can also uncover trends that facilitate more effective and personal communications with customers outside of the surveyed population.
From this example, we can also see that personalization isn’t limited to putting a customer’s name and address on every message. Simply including facts, or even suggestions, targeted to specific building types, customer personas or geographical areas dramatically increases resonance in a historically “one-size-fits-all” industry.
Building data can also be combined with consumption data to provide new insights into customer motivation. In this example, data from an online building assessment platform was analyzed to estimate the difference between the building’s current performance and a modern standard (i.e., annual energy-saving potential). Savings potential was then compared to average historical monthly energy bills provided by a utility partner.
Although the general population saw an increase in their maximum savings potential correlated with higher average monthly energy bills, the population that engaged with the program did not. The engaged population was characterized by an above-average savings potential, regardless of their current average bill amount, and the average annual savings of the engaged population was relatively flat. This indicates that targeting customers simply based on high consumption or high bills is not effective. Engaged customers are often looking for high return-on-investment or above average performance increases, which are not necessarily correlated with high energy bills.
Figure 5. Customer Communication Preferences for Different Utility Initiatives
Note: Engaged customers do not necessarily have higher energy bills, but they do have a higher savings potential on average. In this case, savings potential is determined by building characteristics and equipment that consume more energy than modern, efficient equivalents
Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc. 2018, sample size = 43k
In addition, building data provides some of the best insights into what topics, services, and energy products customers are most interested in. Customers tend to be most interested in products and services that are related to building features and equipment they currently have. The more unique the building feature or piece of equipment, the more likely a customer is to engage or convert on products and services related to that equipment. In another program, where digital home energy reports were sent to residential consumers, clicks on information regarding certain recommended building upgrades were tracked to reveal that the most infrequently recommended services often had some of the highest conversion rates. This indicates that utilities are likely to get the highest relative customer engagement on relatively “niche” topics; and conversely, attempting to engage customers on common or overly broad topics does not guarantee broad engagement or high conversion rates.
Conversion rates tend to increase for products and services that are recommended to fewer people. Products like attic insulation were recommended for more than 12 percent of a population, but only achieved conversion rates of less than 2 percent. Conversely, more specific improvement recommendations like tankless water heaters were recommended for less than 3 percent of a population, but achieved conversion rates of up to 5 percent.
Figure 6. Congruance of Recommendation and Conversion Rates for Energy Efficient Building Retrofits
Note: Conversion rates tend to increase for products and services that are recommended to fewer people. Products like attic insulation were recommended for more than 12 percent of a population, but only achieved conversion rates of less than 2 percent. Conversely, more specific improvement recommendations like tankless water heaters were recommended for less than 3 percent of a population, but achieved conversion rates of up to 5 percent.
Source: Source: EnergyX Solutions Inc., sample size = 75k
Digital communication strategies offer a host of information about customers that savvy organizations use to improve their service offerings, including the percentage of customers engaging via mobile devices, open and read rates for utility communications and conversion rates for utility services and programs. Building information provides deeper insights into building performance and predicted consumption patterns and can be a strong indicator of customer sentiment, engagement and action.
In conversation with utility executives and directors, it is apparent that gaining access to customer information is becoming a top business concern – and it is easy to see why. Customer service strategies, marketing decisions, program planning and even CapEx and OpEx planning are all influenced by our understanding of the customer base. As utility executives realize the growing importance of customer information as a planning resource, safeguarding and leveraging the customer resource is of increasing importance.
Modern digital communication strategies provide a number of mechanisms (e.g., email reporting, web analytics, digital ad stats, etc.) for utilities to collect customer feedback and create conversations with customers. Furthermore, the available options for digital communication channels continue expanding through the popularization of chatbots, artificial intelligence, tracking pixels and advanced customer profiling. As the cutting-edge advances, the utility’s objectives in building out new digital strategies and communication channels to improve personalization in a historically impersonal industry have never been more achievable. And, if all that wasn’t enough, customers simply want a more personal, accessible experience with their utility.
In a time of unprecedented change, where we see consumer choice growing exponentially as new technologies come to market with increasing speed, utility executives have already started asking whether they can afford NOT to make the transition to a more accessible and personal relationship with their customers. With this outlook, the quest to better understand and communicate with the customer becomes an important part of every utility’s near- and long-term planning.
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.
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.
Pre-heating season video,
Personal video bill explanation,
Personalized annual summary report video, and
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.
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.
* 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.
The world is a really noisy place. It can be incredibly challenging to deliver messaging to your customers that gets their attention and gets results. Your best chance is to personalize your communication and engage customers at the individual level at every touch point. The right approach to personalization is good for both you AND your customer, helping you become a trusted purveyor of useful, relevant content. While email is one of the most impactful and cost-effective channels for personalizing your messaging to customers, the same level of personalization can be applied across all channels and initiatives. This is great news, because now more than ever, utilities need to connect with customers on a more meaningful level. Personalization is a strategic imperative.
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.
I noticed the people I met during my Fourth of July week on vacation in Minneapolis were surprised by my answer to “What brings you to town?” First there would be a long pause…followed by a laugh and a question like, “Really, you came here on vacation?”
Yes, really! I’d heard this is the time of year to come, what is referred to as the “Week of Summer” by my Minneapolis friends. The primary reason for picking Minneapolis for vacation was my 20 year old son has always wanted to participate in a fund raiser for Doctors Without Borders that raises money through a video gaming marathon. Volunteers speed-run the games and viewers make donations to this worthy charity.
Not being a gamer, I took a tour of the Twin Cities then lost myself for days at the Mall of America, the largest mall in North America and 12th largest in the world. While it was hard to grasp the enormity of the space and the number of stores, what struck me most as I shopped and dined there was the commitment the retailers had for gaining my e-mail address and enrolling me in their loyalty program. Every transaction I had included the clerk asking, “what is your e-mail address?” If I hesitated to give it or questioned their need for it, I was offered some logical reason for giving it, like, “We’ll send you a tracking number so you can…” or “You will receive a coupon for $25 off your next…” or we’ll e-mail you the receipt and warranty information.
In some stores, they offered a discount off my entire purchase in exchange for my contact information, others offered a $5 or $10 reduction in my purchase. Then there were the loyalty cards and key chain hangers with bar codes for identification and repeat use. Immediately my e-mail box began filling with offers to engage and sign up for other services. The ones I opened were the ones personalized to me and obviously relevant to something I cared about and related to what I had purchased at that store.
As I watched the news in the airport on the way home, I heard that Sears and K-Mart have announced more store closings and according to Fortune, even the high end stores like Neiman Marcus are in big trouble trying to compete with online shopping. Seems like the ones still in the game, certainly the ones at the Mall of America, are banking on customer engagement and loyalty to stem the tide and keep their registers ringing.
The challenge is familiar to us here at Apogee where for 25 years now, we have been helping utilities better serve and educate their customers. My natural gas provider here in Georgia where gas is deregulated and the marketplace highly competitive, highlights the line item on my bill each month showing what I have earned as a credit for being a loyal customer. It’s not a lot of money, but it reminds me each billing cycle that they know I have been with them for many years and that they appreciate my business and loyalty.
If you’d like to know more about how other utilities are successfully accumulating contact information and building digital engagement, visit www.apogee.net to learn more or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Author
Susan Gilbert, CEO, Apogee Interactive, Inc.
Susan Gilbert is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of APOGEE Interactive, Inc. Susan's life-long interest and passion is to educate consumers about energy and energy efficiency -- through utility and educational channels.
Her career is a natural progression of this passion, beginning as a high school physics teacher in Atlanta. She moved on to work for an energy-engineering firm, A&C Enercom, where she helped launch energy audits for businesses across Georgia under a new State Energy Office initiative. Over the next 17 years, she lead A&C Enercom’s sales and marketing operations, building the business from a staff of five in Atlanta to more than 600 employees across the country.
In the early '90s, Susan founded Apogee Interactive with the vision of leveraging technology to more effectively deliver energy information. Today, she leads the company in delivering best-in-class Web-based energy analysis and data presentment applications including Energy Advisor Enterprise, Envoy Outbound Communication, Field Audit Tools, Eco-Stewards, Energy Libraries and a Kid's Korner energy education website, and an eLearning portal for utilities known as Study-Center.com. Through her leadership, the firm, its people and its products, have achieved national recognition for analytical superiority, cutting-edge innovation, and excellence in performance and customer service. In 2017, Susan began a 5-year term as Trustees of Georgia's Developmental Disabilities Ministries (DDM), a nonprofit, charitable corporation serving adults with developmental disabilities and their families.
Susan earned her bachelor’s of science with a major in physics and a minor in mathematics at the University of Kentucky and also her masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of Kentucky. She serves on the board of Smoke Rise Country Club LLC and is active in Smoke Rise Baptist Church as a deacon.
New “EPIC” Suite of Digital Products Unlocks Engagement, Cost Savings
ATLANTA, GA – August 9, 2017– Apogee Interactive announced the launch of EPIC, the Energy Platform for Information & Communication (EPIC) that provides a compelling suite of cutting-edge digital customer engagement tools specifically targeted to low-income consumers, renters, and residents of multi-family buildings.It shows them realistic ways to save energy and money that builds trust and customer satisfaction in this crucial (and growing) market segment.
EPIC communicates energy information targeted to customers who lack the ability to make significant home energy efficiency investments. It emphasizes how they can realistically control their energy costs and gives them meaningful insights into how small changes in behavior can add up to substantial savings. The platform is based on a customized edition of Apogee’s flagship Energy Advisor analysis application that provides customers insight into their energy use, habits, and trends. EPIC leverages email and texting to supply on-the-go energy efficiency guidance enabling families to take charge of their spend. Tips are tailored to a consumers’ household profile and can often be implemented right away with no outside assistance and at little or no cost.
EPIC’s capabilities begin with targeting the right customers for relevant program participation, then recruits and enrolls them.Not stopping there, it continues with personalized progress reporting to keep customers engaged and motivated.In addition, the platform includes Apogee’s most popular Special Purpose Calculators that give customers a unique look at the energy footprint of their household electronics and appliances. Optional engagement enhancements to the base EPIC offering include video messaging, alerts, bill explanations, and energy summary reports.
“Apogee’s Energy Platform for Information & Communication produces truly epic results for utilities and customers alike,” says Apogee CEO, Susan Gilbert. “While customers enjoy personal messaging with guidance about savings, utilities achieve increased customer satisfaction rates and lower operating costs from reduced call volume, improved cash flow, and less bad debt.”
For more information about EPIC’s advantages and how it could help you support your hard-to-serve customers, contact Apogee.
About Apogee Interactive, Inc.
Apogee Interactive is nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. A partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers on-line and outbound proactive, personalized communication to consumers nationwide. The company’s digital reach extends through more than 600 utilities to 48% of US households and businesses, increasing utility customer satisfaction and slashing costs. Apogee’s cloud-based, SaaS platform enables more meaningful customer engagement, proven sustainable energy results, and improved program performance for utilities. For more information visit www.apogee.net or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/99046/