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Question

Do you think the utility Industry would ever offer Beyond-The-Meter Programs like auto & homeowners insurance etc?

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Special Note: This question was posed during a recent Energy Central PowerSession: Maximizing Beyond-the-Meter Revenue Opportunities

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From our perspective, Utilities have the opportunity to deliver unbiased insight and recommendations for a variety products and services for their customers.  Because the utility often gets the first call from a customer moving to a new residence, they have the opportunity to offer their customers an array of services that help solve multiple moving problems in one call, or get help from a trained advisor for some products, like insurance or security.

For a utility to offer different forms of insurance, like home owners or auto policies, would depend on the type of delivery that the utility wants to make.  A full sale of homeowners or auto policies generally requires a licensed insurance agent to manage, so an online order isn't strictly possible in most cases.  We see three levels of customer service where the category makes sense:

#1 - New Connection referrals - During the energy start call, utilities can ask customers if they would like help getting other services connected, including insurance, and connect them with an expert resource.  Setting up home owners or auto policies can be time consuming, so a trained consultant can help customers identify the proper documents and identify local vendors for these types of policies.

#2 - Online Network - Since utilities have the trust and credibility of their customers, offering an online network of researched insurance providers who can compete to provide the best rates and plans to utility consumers.  Utilities could offer local insurers the opportunity to be listed in the network, and a website would capture customer information about policy interests.  Because quality and CSAT are so important to the utility and their customers, we recommend that utilities offering these types of referrals do a follow up survey with customers to ensure quality experiences with the insurance vendor.  Any insurer who gets poor reviews or scores can be dropped from the program to maintain a high quality rating for the utility network.

#3 - Partnerships - These types of insurance products generally require licensed agents and heavy regulation, so utilities won't likely be able to offer products directly to customers themselves, but could form partnerships for direct engagement with high quality vendors and insurance brands.  We would recommend utilities consider multiple partners to be sure to have offers that cover every demographic in the customer base, which can be difficult with sole sourcing of policies or insurance types.  Not every insurer will have policies to cover every utility customer, hence the need for the utility to engage a select group for direct affinity partnerships of this type.

We think utilities have the opportunity to recommend an array of insurance policies to their customers, especially if they introduce the category to customers and have a website to make it easy for customers to find the insurance information they need when they need it.  The regulatory and licensing requirements may make it difficult for a utility to offer policies on the bill directly to customers, but that shouldn't stop a utility interested in these products from finding a helpful channel to support them.

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