July 20, 2018 | Blog
On a recent Apogee Institute webinar, Andrew Heath, PhD, and senior director of utilities practice at J.D. Power presented the findings from his inaugural 2018 Utility Digital Experience Study. The topic resonated with more than 100 utility professionals who registered for the event indicating that digital engagement is a significant concern.
Working in conjunction with Centric Digital DIMENSIONS™, a company that specializes in measuring digital engagement, the JD Power study found that utilities are among the lowest-performing industries. When benchmarked against other industries utilities deliver the worst digital experiences. JD Power’s 1000-point scale showed the utility industry scores 571 while the retail sector scores 771.
However, Heath revealed a few high-performing utilities leading the way in the digital arena. Alabama Power, an Apogee client, was the top-ranking utility scoring 879 among the 67 utilities studied.
The study revealed room for improved customer satisfaction for utilities using digital channels to communicate energy savings information and helping customers understand their energy use. The presentation highlighted how even top utility performers can use improvement in communicating energy information. Apogee has confirmed this over the past 3 years with multiple pilots proving the effectiveness of outbound digital communications. In some instances, increasing customer satisfaction as much as 16% (~100 points in the JD Power Rankings) in a treatment group receiving summary reports and a control group of non-recipients. We have also see across the board sustained digital engagement measured by open rates approaching 50% and click-through rates nearing 40% (20x industry benchmarks) recorded by those customers receiving personalized video bill explanations. These results, combined with the astonishing cost-effectiveness of these digital communication techniques, make a compelling case for their further use.
In the presentation, Heath pointed out the industry is struggling with communicating complicated issues such as time-of-use and demand rate structures, and for instance, how appliance use impacts kWh consumption. Suggesting that utilities should show not just distribute high bill information but explain to customers why the bill is high and specifically what they can do about it. (Which is exactly what Apogee’s toolkit does for utilities and customers.) Heath continued emphasizing the importance of helping customers understand exactly what they are paying for and putting them in control of how they spend money on electricity.
In conclusion, the challenge for all utilities is finding better ways of using digital channels. Most industries have long embraced this practice and customers have come to expect digital outbound communications from the companies they do business with. Utilities must extend their digital channels beyond just the website and billing portal and extend their reach with outbound messaging through email, text, chat, and social media.
Utilities offering customers multiple digital channels, who engage with and interact with customers through these channels see an immediate improvement in customer satisfaction proving what Apogee has seen across the board while working to enhance and improve the way utilities communicate with their customers.
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