Surprising Customer Engagement Trends Learned Through User Testing
September 28, 2020 •Max Burke-Scoll
Energy efficiency programs deliver a host of benefits for utilities and their customers alike. Energy efficiency helps utilities manage high demand, which makes it easier to provide reliable service to customers. Energy efficiency and demand response programs also have the potential to free up in-demand energy resources in much less time and more cost effectively than other opportunities.
And for your customers? Research indicates that both residential and commercial customers believe that improving energy efficiency in their home or business is the fastest, least expensive and largest single solution for simultaneously saving both energy and money. And every customer finds benefit in saving money. What’s more, customers are actively looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, engage in sustainability, and become more educated in energy usage.
While a solution that benefits both parties seems like a no-brainer, utilities are still finding many of their programs aren’t meeting energy savings goals. Or worse, they may be struggling to engage customers in the first place. To find out why some programs perform, and others don’t, the experts at Franklin Energy embarked on a quest to learn more about those people our programs serve. Read on to find out the surprising tends in energy efficiency programs we learned from advanced user-testing.
Touchless Energy Savings
You may be surprised to learn that as many as 90% of utility customers want a hands-off energy savings option. For many customers, hands-on programs represent an extensive time commitment. They feel scheduling an appointment for direct installation or to meet with an energy advisor becomes too complex, or in this pandemic aware reality, they simply don’t feel comfortable having strangers in their homes or businesses. Many others simply don’t want to engage face-to-face with a stranger.
Utility efficiency programs need to retool and rethink to meet the need for touchless programs that perform, focus on the preferred customer journey, offer personalization, and a streamline the customer engagement process. Develop an engaging virtual energy audit platform that is personalized to the needs of the customer. It should incorporate solutions to reduce (or eliminate) the face-to-face component, a customized nurture campaign to improve participation, include digital installation resources and offer the ability to deliver the similar services as an in-home energy audit—only virtually. And to truly engage your customers, look to incorporate a product marketplace or customer engagement platform for an even smoother customer experience throughout your utility’s portfolio of offerings.
After over 25 years in the business, if there is one thing that we have learned time and time again, it’s that you need to earn your customer’s trust. And it’s not as easy as telling the customer you are trustworthy. You need to demonstrate that trust by providing “easy win” solutions that deliver both immediate and lasting savings with little time and financial investment on behalf of the customer. These “easy win” solutions are what drive customers to engage in additional energy savings programs offered by your utility.
Energy-saving programs can feel utility-centered, featuring a one-size-fits all experience that doesn’t fit the needs of the customer. Incorporate easy customer-focused tactics into your plans to encourage participation and engagement across your full portfolio of programs. Develop simple and engaging solutions that offer self- and remote-service options to nurture customers to achieve their goals. Self-directed services programs or marketplaces are examples of engaging solutions that offer self and remote service options. Focus on providing customers with educational resources in a single place, such as a customer engagement platform. Supply easy-to-consume information in plain language tailored to your customers interests. If a customer is ready to make an investment in energy efficiency, direct them to appliance or building upgrades. If a customer wants a quick win, direct them to a marketplace or self-assessment options. When executed well, these resources strengthen the utility’s relationship with customers, improve customer satisfaction scores, drive new enrollments in program offerings, and most importantly, increase program adoption and kWh savings for the utility.
Another solution could be as simple as offering energy efficiency kits. It’s been mentioned before, but energy efficiency kits are truly an opportunity to deliver cost-effective, personalized energy savings to your customers. And “easy wins” don’t come easier than this. Kits can be customized to your utility and personalized to your customer. They offer both immediate savings in the form of measure installation, and lasting savings if you choose to incorporate energy efficiency behavioral-based education along with the kit. You can offer kits as a stand-alone program, implemented through a kit portal, as a reward for completing an assessment, or in the classroom, as an education program. You can also add kits to existing programs—for example, incorporating kits into a virtual energy audit to incentivize customers to continue the energy efficiency journey.
Lastly, look to integrated marketplaces to boost customer engagement, deliver a quick win, and introduce energy-saving products and services. Imagine if your customer had the ability to purchase a much-needed water heater, redeem a rebate and enroll the water heater in a demand management program—all without leaving your website. With a well-designed integrated marketplace, this could become a reality, offering your customers a streamlined experience.
To engage customers in energy efficiency and boost participation rates, your programs and services need to evolve along with the needs of your customers and the ever-changing environment around us. Your utility needs innovative programs and engagement tools that meet your customers where they are—whether that’s in person, over a video chat, or in a self-serve environment where they don’t talk to you at all.
Our new ebook, Surprising Trends in Energy Efficiency Programs, outlines the latest customer trends and preferences. Download your copy to keep up with your customers and meet them where they are.