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Illustration of energy utility customer using paperless billing on laptop

Best Practices: Paperless Billing Campaigns for Energy Utilities

The benefits of paperless billing go way beyond saving a stamp. For energy utilities, converting customers to electronic billing reduces call center volume, lowers service costs and drives substantial long-term savings on printing and postage.

Energy utility customers benefit too. Paperless billing is more convenient than snail mail, helping them save time and money. It also has a positive impact on the environment.

But customers may not understand these benefits, or they may not be properly incentivized to give up paper bills and make the switch. Follow these best practices to improve your energy utility’s e-bill marketing and boost conversion rates.

Focus on personal benefits for customers

Your messaging should help customers understand the benefits of paperless billing and overcome potential barriers that might stand in the way of adoption. The most successful messages speak directly to the customer, use personal language (“you”) and address the ways that paperless billing makes everyday life easier.

In Questline’s experience creating paperless conversion campaigns for energy utilities, the benefits that most appeal to customers are: 

  • Simple; easy to manage and pay from anywhere
  • Affordable; no need to buy stamps or worry about late fees
  • Convenient; saves time and fits into your on-the-go lifestyle
  • Eco-friendly; reduce your environmental footprint by using less paper
  • Reliable; never forget or lose track of a bill again
  • Secure; safely manage statements and payments online

Drive opens with effective subject lines

The best email subject lines are upbeat, active and strike a personal tone while encouraging the customer to open the message. Short subject lines are best for capturing the attention of residential customers.

According to performance metrics data from the many paperless billing campaigns Questline has deployed for energy utilities, the top-performing subject line was, “We’ll Pay Your Bill!” This campaign achieved a 27% open rate, compared to 21% for the average campaign.

Attract attention with compelling incentives

Incentives pay off in paperless billing campaigns, enticing customers with the promise of a contest prize or financial benefit. Not only do incentives boost email open rates, they increase conversions as well. The most successful incentives are small giveaways awarded to everyone who signs up for paperless billing (including LED lightbulbs and $5 gift cards). Contest entries that award a single large prize (such as $1,000 cash or major league sports tickets) have been less successful.

Offering an incentive pays off with higher conversion rates (and by reaching participation goals more quickly). Paperless billing campaigns that award an incentive achieve a 34% conversion rate on average. In comparison, campaigns with no incentive achieve a 23% conversion rate on average.

The beginning of a digital customer relationship

Paperless billing conversions create an opportunity for long-term engagement by cementing the customer’s digital relationship with their energy provider. Once converted, paperless billing subscribers are more engaged with email communications and less likely to unsubscribe compared to customers who receive paper bills.

Before converting to paperless, energy utility customers have an average email open rate of 25%, according to Questline performance metrics. After converting, paperless billing customers have an average open rate of 33%.

This higher engagement rate is an opportunity to connect with customers beyond their monthly e-bill — sharing program promotions, energy efficiency advice and other educational content. By following these paperless billing best practices and boosting conversion rates, you can reduce operational costs and build long-lasting relationships between your energy utility and its customers.

Download Questline’s digital marketing tip sheet, “Best Practices: Paperless Billing for Campaigns for Energy Utilities.”