Engaging the Next Generation of Energy Customers

December 6, 2017 | Blog

How can we work to be engaging the next generation of our consumers?

During a recent American Public Power Association (APPA) webinar, “Using Online Customer Engagement Strategies to Improve Satisfaction and Program Participation,” Derek Fast, Senior Rate Analyst for Columbia Water & Light, presented his utility’s customer engagement strategy.

Columbia Water & Light (CW&L) in Columbia, MO faced a daunting challenge, how do you engage your customers when your service area includes 3 colleges and 54% of your 50,000 electric and 48,000 water customers fall in the 18-34-year age range? This group expects digital customer service options…

The strategic goals were to:

  • Reduce call volume,
  • Provide digital service options, and
  • To increase participation in their energy efficiency (ee) programs.

The first step was to reduce the cost and pressure of handling thousands of work orders related to service changes caused by students moving every May and August. It was common to have 7,000 work orders in a single week. You can imagine the pressure this volume of work orders placed on CSRs, billing staff, and field personnel.

To address this need, CW&L implemented a new online service request in 2012 and received 3,834 applications. By 2016, this number jumped to 14,641. Costs of new service account creation and call volumes dropped dramatically as people took advantage of 24/7 self-service.

With the first piece of their online service offering in place, CW&L turned their attention to more digital engagement tools recognizing that traditional communication efforts were inadequate for Millennials, Generation Z, and customers.

CW&L selected Apogee’s Envoy outbound communications package because it:

  • Easily integrated with their billing data (they presently have no AMI)
  • Gave customers the ability to self-analyze energy use,
  • Allowed opportunities for program promotion, and
  • Provided an easy to use interface that was mobile friendly

Customers can access the tools through the CW&L billing system’s portal, Link. Billing and weather data are combined, to provide customers with a detailed analysis of what is affecting their bill, again, reducing the need to contact CW&L.

Customers also receive tips for short and long-term energy savings as part of the analysis and relevant CW&L programs are also suggested. This puts them in control and studies show that when customers feel they are in control, their satisfaction with their utility increases.

CW&L will also send personalized video bill analysis emails to customers when their bill is higher than usual these videos will explain the reasons why the bill has changed.  In situations where a CSR needs to become involved, the data is consistent whether viewed by the customer online, in a video, or with a CSR on the phone.

CW&L will introduce the new tools with a mix of social media and traditional channels to make sure all customers learn of and take advantage of the new options.

The second phase of this strategy will roll out early in 2018. Stay tuned, we’ll share more results in months to come.

To learn more about digital strategies contact Apogee 678-684-6801 or info@apogee.net.


About The Author

Karen Morris, Marketing Manager, Apogee Interactive, Inc.

Karen manages Apogee’s marketing resources service as well as Apogee’s own corporate marketing efforts. For the past 17 years, she’s worked closely with utilities across the country to help them better market their energy efficiency programs through online initiatives. She brings timely and informative webinars to energy professionals through Apogee Institute as well as directs Apogee’s user groups.

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