Home energy assessments offer a rare opportunity for energy efficiency programs:face-to-face, individual attention from consumers who are motivated to make a change. This is one of the few times utilities are able to hear a homeowner’s specific concerns and offer unique, tailored energy efficiency upgrade options.
On the scale of customer awareness—from unaware of the problem to aware of the problem and the solutions and ready to buy—customers who have scheduled a home energy assessment are as close to “ready to buy” as they come. Assessors can help propel these bottom-of-funnel prospects over the finish line by using some of the well-researched messaging techniques outlined in the ACEEE report, “How to Talk about Home Energy Upgrades.”
These techniques are based on human psychology and behavior, and they’ve been proven to impact a homeowner’s likelihood to invest in energy efficiency upgrades.
Before we get into the specific message framing techniques, let’s take a look at some of the main drivers that motivate homeowners to pull the trigger on efficiency investments.
Motivators for investing in home energy upgrades:
Bill savings. This is the prime motivator for energy efficiency upgrades, but it may not be the best one to focus on during an in-home energy assessment. That’s because the financial argument may drive the homeowner only toward options with the lowest upfront cost, even if those aren’t the ones that can have the largest impact. Plus, focusing heavily on finances may lead to disappointment if the upgrades don’t net major savings.
Improving health and comfort. Better health and comfort are also significant drivers, and they can be a better benefit to highlight during a home energy assessment. Pointing out how upgrades can eliminate those bone-chilling winter drafts, block out street noise, remove mold, and improve allergy symptoms can go a long way in helping customers envision an upgraded quality of life.
Ecological concerns, such as preserving the environment and combatting climate change. This one doesn’t drive decisions nationwide, but in more liberal regions of the country like Vermont, Northern California, and the Puget Sound, it can be a major driver. It’s also an effective area of focus for customers who have expressed an interest in altruistic reasons for making energy efficiency upgrades.
You’ll know which talking points to emphasize by listening to the concerns of your customer and adapting your messaging accordingly.
Three proven message framing techniques
According to the ACEEE report, there are three main ways to frame messages for optimal customer engagement.
1. Get them in the mindset of committing to making necessary repairs.
Customers are more likely to invest in energy efficiency upgrades if they’re already committed to making repairs. When you present upgrade costs after convincing customers that they’re already investing money to repair their homes, they’re more likely to buy in.
2. Take the “no-brainers” off the list.
This may seem counterintuitive, but presenting the “low-hanging fruit” energy upgrades—ones that the ACEEE report terms “no-brainer” upgrades with high savings-to-investments ratios, like lighting—can backfire. It seems that when customers see these on the list of potential upgrades, they block out the “stretch” options that might be more expensive or offer less savings. Instead, try taking those no-brainers off the list and presenting them at a different time to avoid comparison shopping.
3. Mark the calendar.
Present the payback period as a specific date, rather than a period of time. When customers know the month and year of their payback—rather than just the number of months or years until their investment pays for itself—they’re more likely to commit to the upgrade.
Of course, careful listening and engaging communication are still the basis for all customer interactions. But applying these psychology-backed messaging techniques can go a long way to nudging homeowners from almost ready to invest to sign me up now!