Customer Engagement is not a new concept, but as of late, it has been a hot topic in every industry. The constant conversation that exists between companies and customers is becoming more and more important – and accessible – than ever. In order to keep that conversation going, brands have to listen to what consumers want. On the flip side, those same consumers have to feel compelled enough to participate in that same conversation. As you can see, this new wave of engagement requires some extra effort from both parties, but what can companies do to encourage that kind of participation from their target audience?
The answer probably seems clear: customers need to be presented with products and services so exceptional that they essentially become brand advocates for the company. That means that the customer will take it upon themselves to promote the product amongst their social circles, publicly commend the company for their services (likely via an online platform), or both. At least, that type of consumer interaction should be the goal of any brand in this day and age. We currently live in an era of technology that allows just about anyone who has internet access and even the slightest desire to share their thoughts and feelings, a voice – so yeah, just about everyone. While the goal of this concept is aimed at happy customers who love your product and want to sing your praises to anyone who will listen (or read), there is also a downside to this active engagement. If the experience a consumer has with your brand is anything less than great, you can guarantee that they will have something to say about it – to everyone. Consider yourself warned.
We are going to keep this topic on a high note, so let’s address the former scenario – your customer is thrilled with the product and/or service you have provided them. Since we are experts in the Efficiency Industry, we are going to use utilities as a model for this positive customer engagement scenario and since we are (slightly) biased, we are going to use one of our favorite engagement tactics as an example. If you’ve found this blog, you’re probably aware that we are the leaders in Cost-Effective Measure-Based Education®. Well, you can’t prove cost-effectiveness in this industry without a way to measure savings. Not only are savings good for customers, they’re also necessary for utilities to prove compliance with their various governing entities. This is where Education Programs come into the picture.
If you’re not already familiar with the concept of Education Programs, the following description will depict a somewhat simplified version of how it works. Basically, we partner with utilities to provide an Efficiency Kit to their customers. This kit comes in various configurations to work for any type of utility provider (gas, power, water, or in any combination). We often customize the kit program to be fully-aligned with the utility’s branding, then act on behalf of the utility as the program implementer. That means that we manage the customer relationship, promote program participation, and ship the kits directly to each customer. The customers then receive the kit at no cost to them on behalf of the utility partner (this is often a big PR win for utilities!) and use the included literature and kit items to learn about efficiency best practices and retrofit the fixtures in their homes that may be using more water and/or energy than they need to. Customers who have installed the items provided in the kits report their installations with a survey (included in the kit), which they return directly to us. We take the results of those self-reported surveys and use the answers (number and types of products installed) to calculate the savings that are being accumulated from the use of these new, efficient devices compared to the old, inefficient devices the customer has replaced. These savings are reported back to the utility on a per-household basis. Savings figures include both per-year and lifetime savings. Utilities can then claim and report those savings to their governing entities, and customers save real money every month on their utility bills as a result of participating. As you can see, Education Programs are an extremely beneficial tool for both utilities and their customers!
So what are the key benefits of using these programs as a tool to increase customer engagement? We’re glad you asked. Here are a few characteristics of Education Programs that can open the door to a positive customer experience (aka positive customer engagement) with your utility:
- Start the Relationship with Your Customers Out on the Right Foot. Imagine you’ve just moved to a new house and your first experience with your utility service provider is them sending you a kit full of new, efficient products. Inside that kit is a letter welcoming you to the neighborhood and thanking you for being a customer of said service provider with directions on how to install those devices in order to help you save money on your next bill. Wouldn’t that make you feel valued as a customer right from the start of your relationship with that service provider? Not only will you feel valued as a customer, but now you also have upgraded products to install in your new home that will save you money on your utility bills, all at no cost to you. That’s some top-notch customer service if we’ve ever heard of it, and we can help you become that utility.
- Increase Customer Participation with Existing Utility-Ran Efficiency Programs. All of our kits feature an expansive territory to share utility messaging. The boxes themselves can be completely customized, and when they are, the box design creates prime real-estate for you to let your customers know about other programs you are running that they could possibly benefit from. The presents a BIG opportunity to both you and your customers. Getting these kits in your customers’ hands clears the way for them to explore other programs such as rebate incentives, thermostat upgrade programs, or even appliance recycling opportunities, that they may not have otherwise known about. What you decide to put on that box is entirely up to you, and can even be changed as the program progresses. Your cross-promotion wish is our creative command, and in turn, your customer’s delight!
- Earn the Trust of Your Customers. Has anyone ever given you something that they told you was free, no strings attached, and you hesitated to take it? Sometimes it’s hard for rational people to believe that anyone would want to give them something that they would benefit from without knowing what the other person’s motive might be in doing so. When you as a company give your customers a kit full of FREE items, it has the potential to change their perspective about your motives. By providing them with a kit, you are showing your customers that you don’t just collect their money monthly for your services, but that you actually care about helping them increase their savings on the bills they are paying to you, and you care about helping the environment by increasing efficiency, one household at a time – we like to call this a win, win scenario.
Pretty great, right? Education Programs may just be the customer engagement tool you never knew your utility needed, but it’s never too late to become a partner in this type of program! If you would like more information regarding how we can work together to provide a standard or fully-customizable Education Program to customers in your service territory, schedule a meeting with one of our Education Program experts!
Kristi Longballa sets a high bar for herself and all those around her, and it is evident through the consistent quality of all she touches. As Marketing Manager, Longballa creates marketing strategies for customized client-focused efficiency education programs. She also facilitates creative staff needs and is always improving design processes. Longballa holds a bachelor of arts in journalism with an emphasis in advertising and public relations from the University of Nevada-Reno.