Major Utility Conducts Federal Research Trial

Energy Conservation Customer Education

  • Headquarters: Michigan
  • Industry: Utilities
  • Product/Service: Power and Gas
  • Size: Over 1.2 million customers
  • General customer ambivalence nationwide with energy efficiency behaviors
  • Federal mandates on utilities to achieve customer energy efficiency goals
  • Little or no evidence that customers were retaining information sent by the utility
  • Low volume and frequency of engagement with emailed newsletters
  • Deliver a motivating format that captures customer attention
  • Conduct a randomized controlled trial under Federal grant
  • Provide evidence of awareness and recall of information sent by utility
  • Deliver significant multiples of previous volume and frequency of communications
  • Loss of recall on the subject matter was reduced by 65%
  • Achieved 108% information retention score (100% retention + 8% increase)
  • The utility engaged with its customers 97 times in eight weeks
  • Achieved range of 6x – 10x the number of engagements over opened emails and utility website visits from same user group
  • Documented evidence that customers changed behavior

Energy Conservation Customer Education

A Federal grant funded formal research, using a randomized controlled trial format, on how to better engage and educate utility customers to meet conservation goals.

Challenges

The utility/customer relationship is not often a positive one. Customer ambivalence about utility-distributed information is a problem nationwide. Federal mandates have been put in place to incentivize and also pressure utilities to achieve energy efficiency and conservation goals. However, one of the most challenging riddles is how to induce customers to adapt their energy use behaviors. Engagement levels were traditionally low; and there was very limited data available on customer awareness and attitudes around efficiency behaviors. For example, when email newsletters were sent out and recipients were surveyed later, there seemed to be little or no recall of the information sent.

Requirements

The utility engaged Ringorang along with the print, email, IVR, and SMS components that made up a customer engagement program called “Play-Learn-Win: Learn a Little, Save a Lot.” This program had been developed by Ringorang in partnership with multi-media developers and another leading utility under a similar grant from the US Department of Energy. The utility’s goals were as follows:

  1. Engage the repeated attention of customers toward efficiency and conservation information
  2. Improve on engagement rates over traditional communications (emails and website visits)
  3. Evidence of subject-matter recall and behavior change

Solutions

Research had shown that customers were motivated most by the opportunity to save money. A comprehensive curriculum was developed and formatted with utility subject-matter experts to include 13 subjects that would empower the customer to take simple money-saving steps in their homes. Monthly print pieces were mailed, weekly emails provided tips, and even a deck of playing cards was designed and sent to users depicting 52 energy saving actions that can save money on the energy bill. Additionally, Ringorang questions were delivered, approximately 10 per week, via themed contests branded “Play-Learn-Win.” The Ringorang contests were incentivized with prizing contributed by the local business community.

Benefits

Ringorang brought to the utility unprecedented levels of engagement from enrolled trial participants. Where previously a monthly email and bill stuffer were the most widely used modes of communication and customer education, the utility now saw an average of 11 interactive engagements per month across all trial participants, resulting in captured data on user’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes about efficiency and conservation behavior. Following are some of the key benefits derived:

  • Loss of recall on the subject matter was reduced by 65%
  • Achieved 108% information retention score (100% retention + 8% increase)
  • The utility engaged with its customers a total of 97 times in eight weeks
  • Achieved 6x – 10x the number of engagements of opened emails and utility website visits
  • Documented evidence that customers changed behavior

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