This special interest group is where customer care professionals share tactics on how utilities are improving interactions with their customers. 


How to Communicate With Customers About Energy Efficiency

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Freelance Energy and Technology Researcher and Writer, Final Draft Communications, LLC

Karen Marcus has 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked with well-known companies, providing direction, research, writing, and...

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  • Oct 25, 2019

This item is part of the Energy Efficiency - Fall 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Energy efficiency (EE) is a key part of many utilities’ programs for reducing energy demand, saving customers money, enhancing grid stability, and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. These programs require customer participation and, therefore, customer communication. It’s not easy to get people to change their habits but the way you ask them to do it can make a big difference. Here are a few tips for getting the message across in a productive way.

Explain how it benefits them. Naturally, people are more willing to do things that benefit them. Cost savings is a big motivator. You can also let customers know how they’re helping to reduce costs for everyone by reducing load, especially during peak usage times. Let them know they’re also contributing to global climate improvement goals, that everyone’s effort counts.

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Use all your communication tools. Each customer may need to hear or see the message multiple times before they act. So, increase the chances of connecting by communicating via bill inserts, social media, email, text message, app alerts, billboards and public transportation ads, radio and TV ads, sponsorships, presence at community events, and postcards. Train your customer care team to mention EE during every interaction. 

Be a resource. As customers learn more about EE, provide information that can help them make important decisions. For example, offer a calculator or chart to show how big-ticket EE home improvements are investments that deliver returns over time.

Make specific suggestions. Help customers understand the actions they can take, such as using appliances at off-peak times, installing an EE furnace that uses less energy, or installing EE light bulbs.

Create a program. Have a specific EE program that customers can sign up for. Use it to help them set goals, issue reminders, and inform them of their progress. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) notes that “relatively few US utilities have programs that fully integrate energy efficiency and demand response,” so bonus points if you include DR as part of your program.

Offer help. EE isn’t a once-and-done activity. Each household can add additional strategies over time. Make it easy for customers to do so by offering rebates for things like EE appliances, giving assistance in using new technologies (such as smart thermostats), and having products and technologies available for purchase (through your own storefront or in partnership with a third-party source).

Personalize communications. As with all customer communications, the more personalized it can be, the better. For example, if you’re sending out an email blast about how a new furnace can contribute to EE, but some customers on the list have just purchased a new furnace, that information isn’t relevant to them. Wherever possible, use technology tools to specify which customers should receive which communications.

Thank them. Periodically, send out a thank you note along with information about how much money and energy has been saved as a result of customers’ efforts!

EE is an important part of creating a better energy system for everyone involved, including utilities and customers. Energy consumers may not be aware of some of the actions they can take to participate, so it’s up to utilities to educate them. The way you go about it can have a big impact on whether and how much they participate.

How does your utility communicate with customers about EE? Please share in the comments.


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