When it comes to achieving the full range of #FutureReady goals — from decarbonization to diversification and more — utilities must first establish a solid base of customer engagement, satisfaction and trust. This means empowering people with the right tools to take action using the most efficient means, and offering support and solutions that not only bolster CSAT scores, but also serve as an unshakable foundation for enduring, evolving and loyal relationships built on trust.
One of the most effective tools to build such a steadfast foundation is the next-generation Home Energy Report (HERs).
Long regarded exclusively as a means to achieve Behavioral Energy Efficiency outcomes, next-generation, digital HERs are actually proving to have much greater value.
Digital HERs enable multiple touchpoints and hyper-personalized communications that deliver bite-sized, customer-specific alerts at regular intervals during the billing cycle. They foster an ongoing two-way dialogue between customer and utility that few other tools can match. Customers appreciate receiving relevant, actionable and easy-to-digest information and recommendations that make it easier to understand their energy usage and more appealing to take energy-savings actions. Bidgely surveys reveal 97 percent of customers want their digital HERs to continue, and email open rates far exceed industry averages.
So how can utilities implement a HER 2.0 program that delivers this utility-wide #FutureReady potential? There are five essential elements that make it possible.
1.) HARNESS THE POWER OF HYPER-PERSONALIZATION
The most effective HERs are crafted as a one-to-one communication, featuring customized energy efficiency journeys for every customer that yield greater participation in the programs and services they advocate. While the concept of segmentation is useful, the real goal is to treat each customer as a segment of one. Rarely do customers fall neatly into a distinct segment. An eco-conscious customer may also be tech-savvy. With a next-gen HER program, even those customers who belong to the same segment receive unique messages based on their individual energy use. For example, two customers might be eco-conscious. However, one has an opportunity to reduce their always-on usage through smart plugs while the other has an opportunity to shift their usage within a TOU plan.
2.) EMPOWER RATHER THAN SHAME
First generation HERs relied on “comparison shaming” to motivate users to take action. However, studies have shown that people typically respond better to affirmative feedback than to negative feedback, and that customers prefer to compete with their own past performance rather than the performance of their peers. Creating a positive, enduring relationship that benefits programs-utility wide requires understanding of this psychological reality. That’s why in place of antiquated blanket home-to-home neighbor comparisons, Bidgely’s next-gen paper and digital HERs empower customers with appliance-specific, hyper-personalized recommendations that allow them to take meaningful and immediate action and feel good about doing so.
3.) EXPAND PAPER-ONLY TO PAPER + EMAIL
Bidgely’s hybrid paper + email HER programs generate greater customer engagement, achieving 80% higher savings than paper-only groups as measured by M&V. Of course, ultimately digital-first HERs offer the greatest opportunity for customer engagement at a lower program cost, Bidgely’s reimagined paper HERs incorporate multiple ways to motivate customers to seamlessly move from a paper channel to digital channels where they can benefit from ongoing alerts and other online tools.
4.) KEEP COMMUNICATIONS FRESH & ALWAYS RELEVANT
Maintaining an ongoing two-way dialogue is key to enduring customer engagement and trust. With that in mind, Bidgely has replaced one-size-fits-every-season reporting with an evolving series of HERs designed to deliver the most pertinent information and recommendations at optimal times. Our paper and digital HERs enable a continuously unfolding customer journey that consistently engages customers with fresh, actionable content all year long. This approach also allows reporting to leverage the latest design techniques and preferences to always appear timely and relevant.
5.) BROADEN ACCESS TO ALL CONSUMPTION TIERS
Remaining #FutureReady requires engagement with every customer, not only select customer segments. Bidgely’s next-gen HERs expand the customer-relationship-building benefit of traditional HER programs beyond the highest quartile customers by using digital HERs to equitably engage middle and low consumption and income customers who are not typically treated with HER programs, without added program costs.
Global utility deployments of the UtilityAI HER program demonstrate the potential for #FutureReady gains.
Rocky Mountain Power began offering first generation paper Home Energy Reports (HERs) in 2012. By 2018, the utility was eager to build on its program foundation and take it to the next level, harnessing the next wave of customer engagement as a means to drive customers toward a digital, two-way dialogue.
Rocky Mountain Power selected UtilityAI to replace its legacy HER program with its advanced HER 2.0 solution to deliver:
- Inclusion – Democratizing and expanding its HER program to a greater number and broader cross-section of customers — including those most often underserved — by reducing program costs, serving non-smart meter customers and leveraging digital channels.
- Interactivity – Improving and modernizing the customer experience with digital tools designed to facilitate more frequent two-way communication, invite immediate feedback, provide 24/7 access to information and allow customers to personalize and prioritize the information they want to receive on the timeline that works best for them.
- Itemization – Simplifying and facilitating customers’ efforts to reduce electricity consumption and maximize savings by moving beyond conventional methods of general peer comparison reporting to reporting that delivers a wider variety of more personalized appliance-level energy use information and specific conservation recommendations.
- Intelligence – Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to more efficiently and accurately detect, anticipate, personalize and enrich a customer’s energy use experience to improve both customer savings and satisfaction.
The Rocky Mountain Power migration to UtilityAI and HER 2.0 platform was successfully completed in less than six months, and provided a frictionless transition for legacy HER program participants to the new platform.
More than a superior HER program, the implementation of UtilityAI also allowed the utility to realize measurable gains in its customer satisfaction and engagement programs. Over the course of millions of emails disseminated to Rocky Mountain Power customers, email open rates averaged 38 percent — nearly double the utility industry norm. Email recipients also gave the email communications they received 80 percent “likes” via thumbs up and thumbs down voting buttons included with every message. Customers also responded very favorably to the availability of the new web portal, resulting in a 26 percent increase in traffic to the Rocky Mountain Power website.
Serving 29 million customers throughout Japan, TEPCO Energy Partners sought a multi-faceted solution that could simultaneously reduce its customer churn rate, improve customer satisfaction and facilitate an enterprise-wide digital transformation. The energy retailer recognized that their goals could be most efficiently achieved with programs built upon individualized customer insights and personalized customer interactions, which they say provide “a unique opportunity to further actively engage with our customers and differentiate ourselves around additional valuable services for them to better manage energy usage and spending.” Beyond the industry’s most advanced AI technology and communications tools, they also needed a platform that could deliver at 29M scale. Bidgely’s UtilityAI was the only platform capable of delivering on all fronts.
UtilityAI enabled TEPCO to provide annual energy reports to a subset of TEPCO customers that provide a breakdown of home energy consumption by appliance category for the first time in Japan. The reports also include rate plan and other TEPCO-provided program and service recommendations specific to an individual home based on advanced analysis of customer smart meter and other data.
Outcome data collection is ongoing, however, initial reports have demonstrated that 91 percent of TEPCO customers find Bidgely reports useful or very useful and 66 percent have followed Bidgely’s rate plan recommendations, reinforcing deeper customer engagement.
Looking forward, TEPCO plans to leverage UtilityAI’s analytics as part of a corporate-wide digital transformation to include paper-to-digital conversion and data monetization.
Deployments of UtilityAI HER 2.0 with gas utilities have yielded similar results, based on machine learning from more than 50 billion AMI gas meter reads and disaggregated gas appliance-level insights for all customers.
SoCalGas serves 21.8 million consumers in California and has successfully deployed 5.9 million AMI meters to 100 percent of its customers. The utility sought to harness the power of AI and data to build on its legacy HER program and expand it to the next level. They sought a solution that delivered:
- Inclusion – democratizing and expanding its HER program to a greater number and broader cross-section of customers — including medium consumption customers
- Cost Effectiveness – prioritizing digital engagement to allow the engagement of greater numbers of customers without the high additional cost of paper reports.
- Gas Disaggregation – simplifying and facilitating customers’ efforts to reduce gas consumption and maximize savings by moving beyond conventional methods of general peer comparison reporting to reporting that delivers a wider variety of more personalized appliance-level energy use information and specific conservation recommendations
- Speed to Innovation – leveraging AMI data to deliver next level insights to customers while also being flexible and nimble with a pay-for-performance approach that would yield savings in less than 3 ½ months.
The utility selected UtilityAI’s HER 2.0 solution to deliver therms savings among medium consumption customers via digital alerts.
UtilityAI’s HER 2.0 program delivered outbound monthly itemized home energy reports and similar home comparison reports with personalized recommendations to 405,000 customers. The program was set to run for 12 months to cover both the winter season as well as measure a full year’s savings. The new HER 2.0 digital communications featured greater and more helpful detail than the legacy paper reports, as well as positive, proactive messaging to better inspire and empower customers to save energy.
SoCalGas successfully deployed UtilityAI in less than three-and-a-half months and immediately exceeded the program’s energy efficiency goals, with 286,540 therms saved between December 2019 and February 2020. Beyond demonstrating measurable gains in program participation, HER 2.0 yielded an overall boost to customer satisfaction and engagement.
Over the course of thousands of emails disseminated to the utility’s gas customers, email open rates averaged 50 percent — double the utility industry norm. Email recipients also gave the email communications they received 81 percent “likes” via thumbs up and thumbs down voting buttons included with every message.
Columbia Gas of Ohio (NiSource) wanted to replace its first generation paper-only Oracle Home Energy Reports program through which they had been treating approximately 450,000 high consumption customers with a more engaging next-generation HER approach.
Beyond wanting to improve upon their Oracle experience, Columbia Gas of Ohio (NiSource) sought an HER solution that enabled greater, ongoing meaningful interaction with a wider range of its customers. It also needed the ability to offer appliance-level insights without having to deploy smart meters. Recognizing the rapidly evolving environment in which all utilities now do business, it also sought a more nimble HER solution that could pivot quickly to be responsive to changing customer demands and technology advancements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
By upgrading to Bidgely’s UtilityAI HER 2.0 program, the utility was able to reinvigorate the existing paper reports program, layer on digital HERs for those paper report customers for whom the utility had email addresses, and also treat an additional 250,000 customers with digital-only alerts — extending and democratizing the program to also serve low to medium consumption customers who were also potentially low to medium income.
Though the utility engaged Bidgely to provide a next generation HER program and enhanced online engagement tools, the ancillary benefits of the UtilityAI platform have further benefited operations organization-wide and delivered a far greater and lasting ROI than a typical HER program investment. The utility reports stronger relationships with customers and increased CSAT, including a 93.4% positive thumbs up like rating on HER communications. In addition, our AI-powered disaggregated appliance-level data has revealed deeper insights that have informed strategic planning and grid optimization efforts, including an in-depth understanding of cooking, water heater and space heating consumption patterns and trends at customer, regional and service-territory-wide levels.
The program continues to advance with a focus on optimizing rebates, more accurate and personalized customer program targeting and recruiting, and AI-powered marketplace capabilities.
If you’re ready to explore how Bidgely’s HER 2.0 platform can help your utility remain #FutureReady and achieve a wide range of strategic goals, please connect with our team. Learn more at www.bidgely.com/solutions/home-energy-reports-her-2-0