FREE CFL’s! Scratch that. FREE LED’s! Scratch that. FREE...smart thermostats? Etc., etc., etc. Engage the customer with enticing free energy efficiency products, reminding them that they will SAVE ENERGY and SAVE MONEY. Boom. Your job is done, right? Enter smart grid optimization. Enter a new world where customers are becoming part of the process, not just as benefactors but rather engaged decision makers.
Typically, when I hear the words grid optimization, my eyes start to glaze over and I imagine someone is going to talk over my head in algorithms and theories on infrastructure reduction and battery storage. The interesting thing is, while grid optimization is all of that mind-fogging infrastructure reduction, it is also a new world where engaging customers in the process is a necessity to effectively educate them to produce a change in behavior.
So no, this is not another article on the definition of grid optimization. No, I wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t be the one to write that piece. No, this is grid optimization through the eyes of marketing – through the eyes of the customer and what it means for them.
Let’s talk in terms of food – my favorite topic. Grid optimization is the whole enchilada: it’s light bulbs, demand response programs, behavior reports, smart home networks, energy storage, and smart meters that provide real-time monitoring and efficiency to help control the undulating highs and lows of demand – it is how we stop serving a la carte and instead provide the customer with a four-course meal.
So, we move two steps forward and three steps back when we start to consider the question, How does that effect how we market to our customers? We put an end to the siloed (a la carte) marketing within energy efficiency and demand response programs. Whether a utility has one vendor or 50 vendors working to promote their programs regardless of whether they are EE/DR/grid optimization, they are still communicating to the same customers with multiple messages – we need to find the common ground, educating customers from the ground-up using smart platforms that provide a choose-your-own adventure line-up of all programs available.
Enter technology like Franklin Energy’s NGAGE that allows the utility to pick and choose what is offered to the customer by using customizable widgets and pulling in participation data for each customer. This means offerings can be quickly tailored to personalize the experience to complement their journey step-by-step.
The cross-promotion offered via NGAGE is just the beginning of opportunities to engage the customer in multiple offerings. Using incentives to engage further participation can be done right from the platform, offering gift cards based on levels of engagement or even levels of savings. Teach your customers that the more they participate, the more they save. Insurance companies are already doing this across the country – “Receive $200 in your Health Savings Account if you attend a quit smoking course,” “Receive $100 in your HSA if you get a yearly physical.” Why not apply this same process to grid optimization programs? "Opt in to a smart meter program and receive a free smart Wi-Fi thermostat," "Apply for three rebates, receive an extra $50 off," etc. The micro-incentives can be small or vast, depending on your goal for engagement.
So, now that we’ve worked on motivating the customers to adventure deeper into their energy journey using updated technology, we’re done, right? Wrong. We can talk tech and digital revolution until we must run to plug in our charger, but the customer journey is not just the digital experience of signing up, incentivizing the continued participation. It is also the personal interaction at the technician level. What happens during that interaction can either fuel the customer’s desire to continue their journey or stop them in their tracks. To continue my food metaphor, how often does a bad waiter ruin your food experience at a restaurant you love? That “bad taste” left from a rotten service experience tends to linger. The customer journey must include energy advisors that are not only knowledgeable about the service they are performing, but are also cross-trained on all the utility offerings. They get to hear the customer’s fears and worries firsthand, and if we educate the advisors in all that the utility has to offer, regardless of what belongs to their specific program, that customer is going to move forward in their journey if they are offered a solution in that moment.
Joining forces starts with the utility and each of its vendors. This can happen in a variety of ways, including cross-training sessions, educational leave-behinds that cover the entire spectrum the utility has to offer, and shared customer experience sessions that allow technicians to share customers’ questions and requests directly with the utility. The less aware we make the customer of the multiple layers, vendors, and processes that exist, the simpler we make their path to deeper engagement.
Bringing customers into the grid optimization world means providing choices on their terms, with one platform, a network of vendors that are knowledgeable across programs, and incentivizing that participation based on offerings tailored to each customer. Now that’s a recipe worth trying. Bon Appetit!
To learn more about how Franklin Energy's NGAGE can transform the way customers interact with your utility, schedule a demo with our experts.
Liz Mckinley leverages her unique blend of tactical and creative skills to provide a consistent level of excellence in all she does. She is responsible for designing, editing, and publishing marketing collateral for utility companies and planning and implementing yearly marketing strategies for each utility she serves. Liz also works with a variety of teams and local non-profit organizations to ensure annual marketing plans are executed accurately and according to budget. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Marian University.