As customers ourselves, we can all identify the customer engagement strategies that are most effective at improving our satisfaction, strengthening the feelings of loyalty we have for particular businesses, and perhaps most importantly, inspiring us to take action.
Bidgely’s next-gen Smart Alerts equip utilities with engagement tools that yield not only dramatically improved customer satisfaction, but also significant gains in connection with utility objectives across the board by inspiring customers to actively and enthusiastically participate in utility programs.
It Starts With the Power of Personalization
We know from experience that communications that are personalized and highly relevant to us are vastly better than communications that treat us as an undistinguished member of the generic masses. We prefer communications that arrive at the ideal time according to the channel we like best much more than those that are auto-generated and distributed according to schedules and preferences other than our own. And perhaps most importantly, we appreciate communications that help us save money, avoid hassles or otherwise make our lives better most of all.
I remember back in 2019 when I was scheduled to take a flight. I don’t make a habit of looking at the traffic before I leave for the airport, but using data from my calendar, Google knows when I have a flight to catch, and intelligently assesses traffic conditions to proactively tell me when I should leave. Most of the time, Google’s recommendations are in line with my expectations. But for that particular flight, Google alerted me to a major accident on my route. Had Google not alerted me to the traffic delay, I would have missed my flight. By providing me with an alert that was personalized, timely, delivered via my preferred email channel and able to help me overcome a challenge and make my life better, Google reinforced my satisfaction, engagement and loyalty to their brand, and made me feel good about continuing to share my data with them and participating in their services. Google helped me avert a disaster, and that made a lasting, positive impression.
Utility Customers Continue to Feel Misunderstood, Underserved or Ignored
IDC’s 2020 Utility Consumer Survey quantitatively confirmed customer expectations for utility communications are in line with those we have today for businesses in every industry. Administered in July 2020, the survey polled energy customers in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia, Sweden, the U.K., the U.A.E. and the U.S., and across the board, customers expressed increased interest in more personalized content and additional digital channel offerings. Nearly 50 percent of survey respondents indicated they do not currently receive personally relevant information at the right time, and 47 percent lamented inadequacies with current utility digital channels.
Smart Alerts Turn Utilities into Engagement Experts
To cut through the noise, utilities have to create messaging that includes four essential characteristics. We’ve already touched on three of them: personalization, preferred channel delivery and perfect timing. But the fourth requirement is equally important: make communications part of an ongoing dialogue in which both sides learn from the other along the way as part of a consistently deepening and mutually beneficial relationship.
Bidgely’s next-gen AI-powered Smart Alerts deliver personalized web- and mobile-based energy experiences at every stage in the customer journey. Leveraging our patented artificial intelligence techniques to itemize appliance-level energy usage in the home, Smart Alerts empower utilities and energy retailers to more successfully engage customers with a program of emails, SMS and mobile app messages that are tailored to each individual customer’s energy consumption patterns with unique insights, alert triggers, and delivery frequency and timing.
The sophisticated end-to-end Smart Alert customer journey promotes energy and cost savings, behavioral changes, product and service investment and more through a continuous conversation:
- Recruiting: A series of nudges to motivate as many customers as possible to enroll in a utility program and/or consent to share their energy usage data.
- On-Boarding: A series of alerts that welcome customers to a new program and provide immediate and ongoing weekly usage insights to ensure positive reinforcement while managing expectations.
- Engaging: Alerts designed to build customer relationships and provide smart energy use encouragement at pre-determined intervals during each billing cycle and in response to specific ad-hoc customer energy use event triggers such as a high bill warning.
The Springboard for Achieving 5 Essential Utility Goals… And More
Smart Alerts are integrated as a core element all Bidgely UtilityAI platform solutions because they deliver value in connection with virtually every single utility initiative, helping to achieve strategic goals such as:
- Improve Customer Satisfaction: As we alluded to above, the most obvious benefit of Smart-Alert-enhanced engagement is happier customers who feel well-served, as revealed by measurable gains in CSAT scores.
After a utility serving more than 7 million customers in the Eastern half of the United States deployed Smart Alerts, initial analysis of the program based on the distribution of ~6 million alerts showed an uplift of 11 percent in connection with “Bill and Pricing” category scores in industry-standard customer satisfaction surveys, and 92 percent positive customer reviews when asked for feedback specifically on budget-related alerts.
But CSAT improvements should be viewed as a Smart Alerts starting point, not the end game.
- Increase Energy Efficiency: Smart Alerts build consumer excitement about making smarter energy decisions, with practical, simple and personally relevant steps they can take to lower their carbon footprint and energy costs, leading to an average of up to three percent energy savings. More than just improving DSM program participation, Smart Alerts can help drive customers to obtain essential smart home devices, appliance upgrades and appliance repairs through a Smart Shop utility marketplace — which allows utilities to facilitate new revenue generation while they cut energy demand.
Hydro One is employing Smart Alerts as part of its multi-channel online marketplace, delivering hyper-personalized recommendations for energy-related products and services based on each customer’s unique energy usage and energy-related goals. By customizing and improving each individual’s energy-related shopping experience, Hydro One is able to facilitate better overall customer engagement based on a positive, ongoing and deepening dialogue. This meaningful engagement then serves as a means to increase customer satisfaction, better retain/grow load on the system, protect against load defection, promote electrification and generate sufficient revenue to offset the cost of providing the service.
- Advance Beneficial Electrification: The adoption of electric vehicles provides a game-changing, multi-faceted opportunity for utilities to establish energy advisory relationships, realize new revenue and diversify infrastructure with charging stations. As such, advancing EV ownership by encouraging new buyers and helping existing owners optimize their experience is in utilities best interest.
Using Bidgely’s algorithms to accurately identify all EV customers and when and how they charge, utilities can open the door for upselling EV chargers, designing and suggesting EV rates, as well as engaging EV customers with personalized insights to take important actions, such as moving from on- to off-peak charging. Targeting can also identify those customers with a higher propensity to buy an EV — such as solar customers and customers living in neighborhoods with high EV penetration — opening up opportunities for utilities to accelerate and improve the purchasing process as an energy advisor.
A utility serving 300,000 customers on the East Coast of the United States sought to better serve its customers and encourage EV adoption by designing new EV rate options and EV programs tailored to meet the needs of EV owners. The utility relied on Bidgely’s disaggregation technology to pinpoint the number and location of EVs throughout its territory, determine the size of all EV chargers in use, and identify the time every EV owner charges his or her vehicle. These analytics informed a new rate structure and a range of EV ownership programs, and Smart Alerts promoted the new offerings to hyper-targeted customers as part of a personalized, one-to-one dialogue. As a result, the utility was able to streamline marketing dollars, increase energy efficiency and deepen customer engagement.
- Deploy More Renewable Energy: More than 70% of utilities have aggressive net zero goals, and generation adjustments alone won’t be enough to achieve them. Renewable energy generation through resources like solar and wind are two of the largest mainstream components needed to eliminate fossil fuel dependency, but there is no natural trigger for adopting solar. Smart Alerts equip utilities with solar triggers.
Solar-related Smart Alerts are targeted to only those customers who have the greatest propensity for renewable energy adoption — such as those who own an electric vehicle or customers who could benefit from reducing mid-day power consumption to avoid a time of use rate — as part of an ongoing customer dialogue that establishes the personal benefits they would realize by going solar, dramatically improving uptake.
- Improve LMI Outcomes: Historically, high program implementation costs have precluded LMI customers from being included in HER and other programs that would help them better manage their energy usage and costs. Smart Alerts provide equitable access to all consumption tiers, engaging middle and low consumption and income customers without added program costs. The result is an important win-win for both the utility and the customer, with utilities realizing greater overall energy savings and LMI customers better able to find beneficial rate plans, avoid high bills and make informed changes to their energy usage.
SoCalGas leveraged Smart Alerts as part of its HER 2.0 program to realize therms savings from medium consumption customers. The program included a regular cadence of personalized Smart Alert recommendations to 405,000 LMI customers. The utility exceeded the program’s annual energy efficiency goals in only three months, with 286,540 therms saved, and generated 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.
A #FutureReady Foundation for Utility Success
Customer engagement is the foundation for program success across utility operational areas, and Smart Alerts foster full-scope engagement more meaningfully than any legacy approach. With Smart Alerts, your customers hear from you on a regular one-to-one cadence with hyper-targeted, timely insights and recommendations that make their lives better and inspire them to become active participants in their energy use journey. With this approach, Smart Alerts foster a new era of customer relationships that deliver substantial benefits for both parties immediately and long into the future as utility priorities evolve.
To learn more about Bidgely’s AI-powered Smart Alerts, download the solution brief and explore our 30-minute product tour, where you can see how personalized engagement drives outcomes across the utility.