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Talking to Energy Customers About High Energy Bills

Posted to Questline Digital in the Customer Care Group
image credit: Questline - AdobeStock_210638434
Bethany Farchione's picture
Marketing Director, Questline Inc.

Marketing Director at Questline Digital, a marketing and technology agency that builds engaging experiences throughout the utility customer journey, boosting program participation and overall...

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  • Dec 7, 2022
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Twenty million American households — one out of six homes — are now behind on their utility bills, by an average of $788. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there is no relief in sight. Electricity prices are expected to continue rising this year and next.

Initial overdue balances could be blamed on COVID-19 and shutoff moratoriums, which have since snowballed with the skyrocketing cost of natural gas. American consumers are now heading towards a period of potentially unaffordable energy prices.

How can utilities help customers deal with rising rates?

Unfortunately, most customers don’t seek financial help from their utility or even know it’s available. Worse, many find the promises of payment assistance programs too good to be true. And others are just plain angry that costs are rising.

To mitigate unhappy customers and dispel misconceptions, Questline Digital recommends a proactive and transparent communication strategy for energy utilities.

  • Increase education.
    It’s common for customers to blame their utility for rising rates, even when it’s not the utility’s fault. Help customers understand why costs are rising. With more knowledge comes less frustration. Use video content to make complex topics easy to understand. Create and share short clips — 30 seconds or less — that illustrate the forces at play.
  • Don’t rely on efficiency advice alone.
    It’s frustrating for customers who can’t pay their bills to be told they just need to use less energy. While energy-efficient products and behaviors can certainly help, utilities shouldn’t rely on efficiency messaging alone.
  • Share program information before customers need it.
    Utility-specific payment programs and federal assistance like LIHEAP and WAP are often only shared with customers who have fallen behind on payments or who have qualified in the past. While audience targeting is highly effective, current market conditions require that more customers are made aware, including customers who may be eligible for the first time. Share assistance programs widely and proactively.
  • Include testimonials.
    Financial aid can often feel too good to be true. Dispel skepticism by sharing peer experiences. Ask customers who have made efficiency upgrades or enrolled in programs if they would be willing to share their stories through testimonial videos.
  • Don’t leave it to PR.
    While media relations is an incredible tool for sharing news with the community, it shouldn’t be the sole tool in your arsenal. If your customers only hear about available financial aid from their local news, they aren’t going to think highly of their utility.

Help Customers with Rising Energy Costs

Overdue balances and rising rates will continue into 2023. Get ahead of customer misconceptions and pain points with proactive communication that focuses on education, peer validation and wide-spread awareness.

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Questline Digital
Questline Digital is a marketing and technology agency that builds engaging experiences throughout the utility customer journey, boosting program participation and overall satisfaction.
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Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Dec 8, 2022

I would think a free energy audit would help these customers. They may not know what biggest energy use is. They may need ideas on how to save with more insulation and other basic low cost ways to save. There may even been programs to get these changes out in place. 

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Dec 16, 2022

Good advice across the board. Customers, and really just people in general, want to know that their problems and frustrations are understood. 

Bethany Farchione's picture
Thank Bethany for the Post!
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