TOU Rates: How to Ensure Customer Satisfaction & Retention

image credit: Questline
Brian Lindamood's picture
Vice President, Marketing & Content Strategy Questline Digital

Brian Lindamood is Vice President of Marketing and Content Strategy at Questline Digital, a marketing and technology agency dedicated to the energy utility industry. He leads the team that...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Aug 11, 2021

As more utilities roll out time-of-use rate plans, communication efforts have largely focused on conversions: educating customers about time-of-use rates and encouraging them to sign up. While this approach is understandable when launching a new program, it overlooks the other half of the equation, which is just as important: making sure customers are satisfied with their rate plans and continue using them.


In fact, a successful launch promotion and high conversion rate won't benefit your energy utility — or your customers — if they are unhappy with the program, don't understand it, or don't take advantage of alternative rates to lower their bills.


How do you ensure success? By pairing TOU rate promotions with post-conversion customer engagement, making sure that customers benefit from the program and remain satisfied with it long after signing up.


Welcome new TOU customers with an automated campaign


In general, customers do not think much about their energy rates. A study by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) found that nearly half of residential consumers do not know what type of electric rate plan they have. Of those who are aware, nearly all of them said they have a flat-rate plan with static kWh pricing.


Your utility's time-of-use promotions will try to remedy that, educating customers as you encourage them to sign up for alternative rate options. After you pique their interest with your initial marketing campaign, however, will they remember how their new rate plan works? When the first bill arrives a month later, will they truly understand it?


Your communication plan can't stop when a customer signs up for TOU rates. In fact, it's the just the beginning.


As with other programs, a welcome campaign is the best way to onboard customers and make sure they have all the information they need to succeed on their new rate plan. A series of emails, delivered on a regular cadence — say, four messages delivered in the month before receiving their first TOU bill — is the best way to turn the customer's initial interest into lasting education.


Questline’s highest-performing digital marketing campaign is our Welcome Series for new utility customers. More than 51% of all Welcome Series emails were opened by customers last year, setting the stage for long-lasting digital relationships. In fact, customers who receive Welcome Series messages are 30% more likely to open future emails from their utility.


For TOU rate plans, a welcome campaign is an opportunity to explain in detail how the program works, make sure customers know what to expect, and provide educational content about energy efficiency and smart home technology that will help them save money.


Digital engagement continues with eNewsletters


Of course, you want customers to succeed long after the first month — and stick with their TOU plan. A monthly email newsletter maintains long-term digital engagement by providing a consistent touchpoint, regularly reminding customers that your utility is a helpful resource in their lives.


Questline has found that customers who engage with an eNewsletter stay engaged. For example, utility eNewsletter readers open promotional emails at a 16% higher rate compared to customers who don't receive an eNewsletter.


Even more important, every monthly touchpoint is an opportunity to educate customers and help them take control of their energy use. For a TOU eNewsletter, that means engaging content about energy efficiency, smart home devices, EVs and other electrification opportunities, and regular reminders about how to benefit from their rate plan.


Make sure your TOU program succeeds


Time-of-use promotions don't end when a customer signs up for a TOU rate plan. It's just the beginning of a digital relationship that helps the customer succeed and save energy for years to come.


Where TOU rates are optional, customer retention is vital. If customers aren't satisfied with their rate plan — if they don't understand it and aren't able to take advantage of it — it will be that much hard to convert them a second time. With a welcome campaign for new participants and the ongoing engagement of an eNewsletter, your utility can prevent churn and ensure that customers are happy with their new rate plan from day one.

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Ashley Baptiste's picture
Ashley Baptiste on Aug 13, 2021

So true! A confused customer never buys. Make it simple!

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Aug 25, 2021

Customer Retention isn't a phrase we hear often associated with utilities who don't compete, but it's a critical element of customer success for these special programs, like Time of Use and Demand Response, to ensure that customers remain enrolled and get value from these important programs.  Great article.

Brian Lindamood's picture
Thank Brian for the Post!
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