August 14, 2017 | Blog
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.
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.
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