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A Look at How the Utility-Customer Relationship Has Changed

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Nov 30, 2022
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In the not-so-distant past, the relationship between an electric utility and its customers was a simple one: The utility provided power, and the customers used that power and paid their bills.

Those were the days.

The relationship is much more complex in 2022. Utilities now have programs tied to appliance replacement for energy efficiency, as well as home energy audits.

Then there are some states where electrical provider choice is a possibility. The “home” utility provides the power and billing but acts as a clearinghouse of sorts for a whole host of new providers.

And with the advent of smart meters, some utilities now offer weekly and monthly energy usage reports per customer.

Certainly, there is more to come – and programs I’m forgetting.

I recently considered my relationship with PECO, my local provider, and realized that it’s more involved than I imagined.

After a couple of years of participating in Pennsylvania’s power switch programs for both electric and gas, I gave up on it, returning both kinds of service to PECO. Ideally, power switch programs save customers money. In reality, it’s kind of a headache to be regularly trying to find the best deal (and then remember when the promo deals end); and my experience was that I wasn’t saving much, if any, money.

In a busy world, sticking with a trusted provider is worth it.

Then there are the weekly and monthly energy updates PECO began sending a few weeks back. I always take a look to see how my energy usage compares with comparable neighboring homes and to see weekly fluctuations in energy use – I was astonished to see my 625% increase in gas usage last week until I realized it was because I finally broke down and turned on my heat.

My refrigerator, washer, dryer and dishwasher are all working well, so I haven’t had to replace them in recent years, but that’s another future point of contact with PECO as it relates to rebate programs.

The point of all this is that the relationship between customer and utility is potentially complex.

And the resulting question is whether your utility is doing enough to foster those relationships. It seems imperative in an era of choice, not to mention the rise of social media, that utilities do what they can to widen customer interaction.

Discussions
Christopher Neely's picture
Christopher Neely on Dec 1, 2022

In the modern age, not only do customers want to see more rebates and power-saving programs from their utility, but we are in an era of data. The more information and transparency a utility can provide to its customers, whether about billing or their power usage, the better relationship a utility is going to have with its customers. 

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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