Your customers want to save energy; they just might not know it yet. By educating customers about energy waste and showing them how they can save, your energy utility can guide customers toward purchasing efficient products or signing up for programs. Read on for proven ways to increase customer interest in energy efficiency and help them take action.
Educating customers about energy efficiency
The first step to converting customers is educating them. Think about who you are trying to reach and what their interests and needs are. For example, residential and business customers are very different. What resonates with one doesn’t necessarily mean it will resonate with the other. Consider segmenting your customer communications so you can reach different customers with different messages.
You should also consider the customer’s buying journey. There are three key stages of a typical purchasing process:
When customers become aware of a need, they become interested in finding a solution. They evaluate and consider which products are right for them, which hopefully leads them to decide to make a purchase. However, sometimes a customer may back-pedal — they evaluate solutions, but then decide they actually don’t need to make a purchase or that their need isn’t very urgent after all.
Importantly, the buying journey will never get started if a customer isn’t aware of a need that can be addressed. Your utility’s educational efforts need to make customers aware that wasted energy is a problem, and show them they can take action (and save!) by purchasing energy-efficient products or participating in a program.
For example, Duke Energy offers free home energy assessments where an energy professional will visit a home and perform a walk-through. They will then give the customer a detailed report showcasing how their home could be more energy efficient and ways they can lower their energy bill.
PSEG Long Island offers an online home energy analyzer that is free for customers to use. It’s similar to a home walk-through, but instead customers can input information about their home themselves and have their energy efficiency calculated immediately. They can also reuse the analyzer multiple times to test changes to their home and see the results. At the end, customers are made much more aware of the impact on their energy bills.
In addition, PSEG Long Island promotes energy-saving opportunities according to the season. For example, in the summer, the utility developed an email campaign that promoted chargeable, energy efficient lawn equipment. They also promote “National Cut Your Energy Cost Day” on social media by sharing efficiency tips and advice for cutting energy costs. It’s important to stay a few steps ahead of your customers in anticipating their needs, before they may even realize it themselves.
There’s no place like an energy-efficient home
When it comes to energy efficiency, residential customers tend to be more open to receiving advice or promotions, simply because they have the time. In comparison, business customers often see these conversations as wasted time in their day. As the Association of Energy Services Professionals observed, “Owners and other decision-makers are busy trying to keep their business running, usually getting their hands dirty right alongside their employees. And as energy efficiency program implementers, here we come, knocking on their doors out of the blue, wanting an hour of their precious time to conduct an energy audit.”
When communicating to residential customers about the benefits of energy efficiency, there are a few topics that resonate most:
- Control: Customers want the ability to take control of their energy bill. By sharing tips and recommending things they can do themselves, such as replacing traditional lightbulbs with LEDs or adding energy efficient appliances to their kitchen, they are more responsive to making these changes.
- Money: A big motivation for turning to energy-efficient products is the cost savings. Help residential customers crunch the numbers with an energy analyzer tool or calculator that shows exactly what their bill would be if they made these adjustments.
- Property value: The more energy efficient a home is, the higher its property value, which means more money for customers. In fact, according to The Guardian and an Energy Saving Trust survey, 70% of people would consider negotiating the cost of a property if it was inefficient.
Even though homeowners are often the ones who can make large investments in energy efficiency, your energy utility shouldn’t forget about renters as well. This customer segment is just as concerned about lowering their energy costs as homeowners, if not more. Ensure you have a strategy in place that shares ways they can become more energy efficient, even in rented properties.
How peer pressure creates customer interest in energy efficiency
Another way to reach your residential customers is actually through friendly neighborhood competition. We’re serious — social norms are a stronger behavioral motivator than even your best promotional message.
According to research by the Harvard Business Review, people often use less energy when they think their neighbors care about the environment. When residential customers were told both how much energy they consumed and how much energy their neighbors used, customers reduced their energy use by 1% to 2% per year.
“Surprisingly, what matters more than one’s own attitudes and beliefs — how concerned we are with our own energy use and the environment — is whether we believe our neighbors view saving energy as important to saving the environment,” the report found. So rather than always pushing “go green” messages directly on customers, consider taking an indirect route and sharing how their neighbors are making changes instead.
Business is booming for energy efficiency
Compared to residential outreach, communicating to business customers about energy efficiency needs to be much more succinct and focused on two benefits: money and brand reputation.
Like residential customers, money is a top concern for business customers. However, this audience sees savings in a different light. Instead of simple lightbulb exchanges, business customers want to know how to save the “big bucks.”
Share rebate programs on equipment these customers may often use or need to purchase, or share side-by-side comparisons of the energy performance (and savings) of key products. For example, illustrate the cost-savings of an electric forklift versus a conventional forklift for warehouse facilities, or electric fleets versus gas-powered fleets for delivery vehicles. By focusing on the equipment that actually matters to business customers, you can pique their interest.
When it comes to brand reputation, we all know that simple reviews or bad comments can make or break a business in the digital age. Creating a positive image is imperative, especially when it comes to sustainability and energy efficiency. In fact, according to a study by IBM and the National Retail Federation, “Nearly 70% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada think it is important that a brand is sustainable or eco-friendly.”
Business customers need to realize that their public image is just as important as their product. By implementing energy-saving procedures or switching to efficient equipment, they could not only reduce operating expenses but increase revenue through customer appreciation and an eco-friendly reputation.
Guide your customers to energy savings
To build awareness and customer interest in energy efficiency, it comes down to what your customers need. That’s why segmentation is so important. Every customer has different needs and interests; it’s up to your energy utility to identify those needs and provide relevant solutions.
Customers are interested in saving energy and willing to make the switch, but your energy utility needs to educate them and guide them to efficient product and services.