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Use Lunch & Learns to Educate, Inform, and Inspire Customers

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Freelance Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has nearly 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked...

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A Lunch & Learn is simply an educational session that takes place during the lunch hour. The entity hosting the event can provide lunch or invite participants to bring their own. Many companies and organizations use such meetings to relay important information to customers, employees, or any other group they want to reach out to.

Utilities can use Lunch & Learns as part of the all-important task of keeping customers engaged. Tracey Hewson, Customer Relations Manager and Public Information Officer at Loveland Water and Power notes that regular Lunch & Learns are a part of her utility’s robust customer relations strategy.

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Here are some ideas for launching (or continuing) your own successful Lunch & Learn program.

Getting Started

Sketch out the high-level details of the program, and put it in writing to share with others who will be involved.

Meeting Frequency

Choose a frequency that’s workable for both customers and employees. Once a month is a good starting point, and you can adjust to more or less frequent sessions depending on initial feedback.

Meeting Location

The location will need to have the equipment you need for a successful presentation, such as a projector for a slide show. The place should also to be easy for customers to get to. Additionally, remember that participants will need somewhere to put their lunch, so a location with tables is probably best. Note that you can choose to present the information entirely by phone or online; offer a livestream, webinar, or call and have customers log or dial in. Consider capturing in-person events on video to make available to customers not able to attend. 

Presenters

Choose people who are both experts on their topics and good, engaging speakers. It can be the same person for each session, or someone different each time depending on what topics you want to cover and who can be available.

Session Structure

Since people will be attending during their lunch hour, try to limit time taken up with announcements, networking, and various components typical of other meetings. Instead, start and end on time, and get right into the topic, leaving a few minutes for questions. Provide handouts that list sources of additional information or contact information for those participants can call with questions after the event.

Promotion

Spread the word using media you already have in place, such as your Facebook page, or newsletter. Tell customers this will be an ongoing series, and let them know the upcoming dates as far in advance as possible.

Choosing Topics

Your topics will depend on your customers and what they want to know, so take into consideration feedback you’ve gotten from them in the past, as well as issues critical to your area. The following are possible topics that some customers may be interested in:

  • Smart home operation. Customers may be excited about smart home innovations, but unsure of how to use them to their best advantage. Utilities can help by serving as an energy advisor.
  • How to use the utility’s app. More utilities are using apps to meet expectations of customers who are used to them from other entities they do business with. Be sure customers know how to use yours.
  • How to lower energy bills. Mailings and Facebook posts are great, but use the presentation format to dive even deeper into this critical topic.
  • Where to find help to pay energy bills. Some customers behind on their bills may not know there are organizations that can help.
  • How to avoid utility scams. Help customers understand the real process they could expect if they truly had an unpaid bill.
  • Time-of-day pricing. Make sure customers know that small changes in their habits can make a big difference in their energy bills.
  • How to get rebates on energy-saving appliances. Educate customers to look into such programs whenever they start considering a new appliance purchase.
  • Community solar projects. If your community has initiated a community solar project, give customers an overview of what it is, and how it can benefit them.
  • Safety issues. Be sure customers understand how to survive power outages, how to landscape safely, and why they need to “call before they dig.”

As your program progresses, you can elicit ideas from customers about what future topics they’d like to hear about.

Maintain momentum for your Lunch & Learn program by getting feedback on each presentation so you can improve. And don’t forget to track the benefits you begin to see, such as lowered energy bills, greater participation, and improved customer satisfaction.

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