Imagine being unable to reach your energy utility customers with important service updates and program promotions. That’s the reality for disengaged customers — they are essentially unreachable.

Customer disengagement can be described as the buyer’s perception that a brand can’t meet their rational or emotional needs. Once they feel this way, people stop listening to the brand, act as passive participants and sometimes even leave.

So, what causes customer disengagement and what does it cost your energy utility?

Common Causes of Disengaged Customers

New customers don’t start disengaged. They become that way over time when your energy utility fails to meet their expectations.

Here are common reasons why you may have disengaged customers:

  • They receive irrelevant information
  • Or too much information
  • Or too little information
  • They receive messages in unwanted formats
  • They feel bombarded by transactional messages that don’t provide value
  • They only hear from their utility when you want something, not when they want something

Tom Collinger of Northwestern University explains it well, saying, “No longer can companies risk annoying their customers by contacting them with too many emails, too many sales pitches, too much promotion…creates a fatigue effect that leads to disengagement. The time has come for a coordinated contact strategy. The old blanket approach doesn’t work anymore.”

To keep customers engaged, you must provide consistent value.

Graphic with text Energy utilities can earn up to $60 more per engaged household

Why Disengaged Customers Cost More

Disengaged customers aren’t reading your emails. They are not aware of program promotions and unlikely to stumble across the messages you want them to see. While they may remain a customer, they are passive participants at best.

These customers can clog call center lines with questions, and they are unlikely to be enrolled in paperless billing or energy efficiency programs. This means higher costs to serve, potentially missed payments and higher energy expenses.

Worse, disengaged customers can leave. And attracting a new customer costs five times as much as retaining one.

Disengagement is a problem whichever way you look at it. So, on the flip side, what’s the monetary return of building true customer engagement?

The Monetary Value of Engaged Customers

Energy utilities that foster engagement find that consumers are more loyal, more open to low-cost digital channels, more responsive to marketing and more willing to shift their time of use or adopt energy-efficient behaviors.

Each engaged household can add an incremental $18 to $60 annually to an energy provider’s bottom line, according to calculations from Opower.

Let’s say your energy utility has 75,000 residential customers. That’s an additional $4.5 million of potential revenue if all those households are engaged.

This added revenue comes from the cumulation of lowered service costs, reduced churn, behavioral efficiencies, increased cross-sell opportunities and program participation.

Preventing Disengaged Customers

Customer engagement carries a true return on investment. Luckily, there are many things you can do to prevent customer disengagement. A thoughtful communications strategy that includes personalized and resourceful content can help your energy utility rise above expectations and build loyal customers.

Learn how a content marketing strategy from Questline Digital can build long-term engagement with your customers.

Creating a content strategy without using performance metrics is like taking a road trip without a map — and without a destination in mind. You won’t know how to get there, and you won’t even know when you’ve arrived! Performance metrics are the roadmap that guide your content strategy and the signpost that tells you when you’ve achieved your goals. Without them, energy utility marketers would be lost.

What performance metrics should guide your content strategy? There are three major milestones that energy utility marketers should look for in their digital marketing KPIs:

  1. Popularity
  2. Engagement
  3. Effectiveness

How to measure the popularity of content

Your content won’t achieve any of its goals if your customers don’t see it. The first performance milestone assesses the popularity of content by looking at the pageviews that measure how many times an article was clicked or the video views that indicate the number of times a customer started watching a video.

It’s important to understand that popularity metrics like pageviews only measure how many times a customer clicked on a piece of content — they do not tell you if that content is engaging or effective. But pageviews indicate that your content covers the right topics (or not) and if you’re doing a good job of conveying those topics with enticing headlines or links.

Depending on your content strategy, it may also be valuable to measure the source of these pageviews: Did these clicks come from social media, a newsletter or other email, or search engine results? This will help you understand if particular topics are more popular with customers on social media, for example, or if certain headlines generate traffic from search engines.

How to measure content engagement

This is where marketers can distinguish popular content from high-quality content. If an article generates a lot of pageviews, but customers don’t stay on the page long, you might have a good topic but a bad article. Your audience is looking, but they apparently don’t like what they see.

Engagement metrics like time on page for articles and infographics and percent completion for videos tell you if customers find your content to be interesting or valuable. When the average time on page is two minutes for a 500-word article — or close to one minute for a 60-second video — it’s a strong indication that customers think your content is useful and engaging and they’re spending quality time with it.

How to measure if your content strategy is effective

The most engaging content in the world won’t help you reach your marketing destination if customers don’t take action. That’s why the final milestone is so important: It measures if your content is effective at achieving your goals.

For many energy utilities, the primary goal of their content strategy is to build long-term engagement and strong digital customer relationships. The engagement metrics mentioned above will be your primary way to measure if that strategy is effective. In addition, you can measure the open reach of eNewsletters to see what percentage of your customers engage with your content over the course of a year. You can look at pages-per-visit or return visitors metrics on your website to see if customers are engaging with multiple content assets over time.

But what if your marketing goals are more specific, such as driving program participation or marketplace sales? To determine if your content strategy is effective, you can measure click-through rate to see what percentage of customers clicked on a link or CTA and conversion rate to see how many of them completed a signup or purchase on the landing page.

Performance metrics are critical to a successful content strategy

Don’t get lost on your marketing journey! Let performance metrics be your guide to a successful content strategy. By identifying popular topics and engaging content, and making sure that content supports your marketing goals, the right performance metrics will help you measure and optimize your energy utility’s content strategy.

Download the Energy Utility Benchmarks Report to see how your content strategy compares to industry performance metrics.

Electric cars and trucks are nothing new. In fact, William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa, built a six-passenger electric-powered wagon in 1891. Jumping ahead to just a few years later, of the 4,192 cars produced in the U.S. in 1900, 28% were electric. But electric vehicles (EVs) had disappeared by 1935 due to the discovery of Texas crude oil, the invention of the electric starter and mass production introduced by Henry Ford.

One of the main goals of EVs today is to replace petroleum, but reducing the cost of operation is an extra benefit. Burning petroleum consumes a finite resource and pollutes the atmosphere. While site emissions for electric vehicles is technically zero, the source emissions are still 30% less than gasoline combustion even considering 100% coal use for producing electricity from a power plant. Use of renewable solar or wind power reduces source emission by 100%.

Navigating barriers to EV adoption

What are the present barriers to EV adoption?

For starters, a price premium still exists averaging around $12,000 per electric vehicle. While fuel savings (electricity versus gasoline) will offset over $1,000 of that premium and a federal tax credit up to $7,500 could apply, it still takes about five years (70,000 miles) to obtain a simple financial payback.

The cost of batteries represents 30% to 40% of the total cost of EV production. Fortunately, that cost is steadily decreasing, now around $137/kWh of capacity. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts EV battery prices to drop to $100/kWh in 2024 and $75/kWh by 2030, which would equal full parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
To combat this pricing barrier, roughly 35 states offer EV incentives of different types:

  • $1,000 to $5,000 straight rebate (regardless of vehicle price)
  • 50% to 80% of incremental cost (price premium) over non-EV
  • 20% to 35% of the vehicle purchase price (cap limited)
  • Exempt from state sales and use tax

The low cost of gasoline did not restrict EV sales much early on, especially for early adopters, but low fuel costs will affect the next group of buyers (early majority stage of technology adoption). In addition, states are reacting to the loss of fuel pump tax revenues by sending tax bills to EV owners based on the average miles travelled by ICE vehicles. While this is not unexpected, it could prove to be another deterrent to those seeking out EVs.

Perceived range anxiety is more fiction than fact. Many EVs today can go over 100 miles on a single charge while 50% of Americans travel less than 26 miles per day. In two years, the number of EV charging stations in the U.S. has doubled to 40,844 (offering 98,674 charging outlets). On-site charging stations are also very common for passenger cars and commercial fleet vehicles.

Faster charging speed and extended mileage is being enabled by technology such as silicon-carbide MOSFETs. Nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion batteries (used in about half of all EVs) provide the greatest capacity and power response but are prone to overheating. However, all electric vehicles incorporate a battery safety vent, current interrupter, and battery management system to minimize this risk.

The biggest barrier to EV adoption, however, is lack of public education. In an article from CleanTechnica, Steve Hanley observes, “Most dealers are doing a rotten job of promoting electric cars.” Although car manufacturers are equally to blame, he is steadfast that “there is no power on Earth that can force customers to buy an electric car until all of their questions have been answered.”

Answering questions about EVs is a role that utilities can play, especially in partnership with car dealerships, local governments, non-profit groups and car manufacturers. Energy utilities can work toward instant notification for permitting from the dealer, help governments streamline permitting and inspection processes for charging stations, offer financial or non-financial incentives and help emergency responders understand and address new safety concerns. Further guidance is available from the Clean Cities Community Electric Vehicle Readiness Projects.

EV market penetration is picking up speed

Despite these barriers, real or perceived, EVs are gaining a foothold. Close to 700,000 hybrid, plug-in and battery EVs were sold in each of the last three years in the U.S., with California among states and the Tesla brand among automobile manufacturers clearly dominating the market. Tesla alone sold nearly 200,000 Tesla 3, Y and X version battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in 2020, according to CleanTechnica. That is over 70% of all BEVs sold last year!

While there are only a dozen and a half passenger BEVs commercially available in the U.S. today, another dozen will be introduced this year or early next year, including large pickup trucks. The number of manufacturers offering medium- and heavy-duty commercial electric vehicles in the U.S. are increasing as well, including:

  • Electric transit buses (5)
  • Step-vans (3)
  • Utility trucks (5)
  • School buses (2)
  • Waste management trucks (5)
  • Long-haul and day-haul tractor trailers (5)

The future of EV adoption

What does the future hold for EV adoption? The major oil companies are rapidly displacing oil by adding renewable energy to their portfolios. Boston Consulting Group predicts the U.S. market will be driven by mild hybrid electric vehicles through 2025 and BEV volume through 2030, snagging 50% of all vehicle sales by 2030. Wood Mackenzie, however, predicts much lower EV sales per year for the U.S. (2.8 million), compared to China (5.3 million) and Europe (3.7 million), by 2030.

We do not know which prediction is more accurate, but we do believe that electric vehicles are here to stay. Ready to join the ride?

You can drive EV adoption for your utility customers with a content marketing strategy from Questline Digital.

A successful content marketing strategy usually hinges on two factors: understanding your customers, and producing relevant content to connect with them. The secret is to make sure that both sides of this equation are in balance. Once your content is aligned with your audience’s needs and interests, the results will show.

But how do you actually measure the results of your content strategy? The reality is that while successful content marketing will increase customer engagement and lead to measurable outcomes such as program signups, the key performance indicators go way beyond simple conversion rates.

Is your content strategy working?

Content marketing is a long-term approach to customer engagement that positions your energy utility as a helpful resource in customers’ lives. When your content answers their questions and offers useful advice, customers will not only be more satisfied with their energy provider, they will be more likely to participate in your programs.

Engagement metrics will help you understand how this content is performing. For example, the number pageviews indicate how popular a piece of content is. If a page hosting your utility’s most recent energy efficiency infographic is racking up a lot of pageviews, it means your customers find it helpful or interesting.

If a piece of content is lacking in pageviews, however, it could mean that it isn’t providing value to customers. The popularity of your content (measured in pageviews) will help you understand topics and formats resonate with your customers.

Average time on page is also important for understanding the value of your energy utility’s content. When combined with pageviews, the results show just how engaging a piece of content is — that is, the content isn’t just popular, customers are spending time with it.

For example, what happens if your energy efficiency infographic is receiving a lot of pageviews but customers are only spending a few second with it? This could mean that your headline or link is piquing customer interest — they click to the page — but when they get there they find the infographic is not valuable or interesting so they quickly leave. So, the infographic appears to be popular but it’s not effective. That’s why it’s important to review all performance metrics in context when evaluating your content strategy.

If your content includes a CTA linking to a program page or other promotion, it’s also valuable to review the number of clicks it receives. Try testing different CTA options, such as “Learn More,” “Sign Up” or “Get Started” to see what connects with your customers and improves the click-through rate. These metrics indicate if customers find the content relevant and valuable enough to click through to the program or other information.

Drive results with content performance metrics

When it comes to content strategy success, the performance metrics are just as important as the quality of the content itself. This insight will show your energy utility what content is working and what isn’t, so that can optimize engagement and drive program results. Remember to review metrics in content, rather than separately, to get the complete picture of how customers interact with your content. As you develop your content marketing strategy, understanding your data will help set up your energy utility for success.

Boost customer engagement and drive program results with a Content Marketing solution from Questline Digital.

Segmentation is a critical tool for energy utilities to effectively reach customers, especially small business customers. SMB customers are often hard to reach for numerous reasons, including lack of time and lack of interest in information they think is not relevant to their needs.

In this webinar, Kurt Hansen, Questline Digital AVP of products and partnerships, discusses how to use segmentation and content marketing to not only reach business customers, but create long-lasting relationships with them as well.

Business is booming with content marketing

Content marketing is all about finding the overlap between customers’ needs and your energy utility’s goals. Your strategy should focus on sharing valuable and relevant content with customers. This requires much more than an individual promotion or email — rather, it’s a way to create trust through ongoing and targeted communications.

The first step in creating content that benefits your energy utility’s business customers is research. According to Hansen, when it comes to effective content, “It’s not just about does it look good? Does it sound good? Does it tell the story? It’s also about is that story the right level of technical depth?” Different customers require different levels of technical expertise. C&I customers, for example, are going to be at a much higher technical level than residential customers.

How do you segment small business customers?

Segmentation can be a challenge, especially if your energy utility doesn’t have sufficient data to categorize customers.  For example, it’s often difficult to identify the best industry segment for small business customers.

To start the segmentation process, you should see what data you currently have and what data your systems team might be able to get. Your existing information can then be supplemented with self-segmentation.

With a self-segmentation tool, business customers can visit individual pages your energy utility has created for them with targeted industry content. We encourage energy utilities to personalize these pages, with content and program information, to drive participation with your local services.   

“The idea is you’re giving that industry a designated page to turn toward for updated content specifically for them and information that drives them back to your energy utility’s website to convert them to other programs,” Hansen says. Your energy utility would then have that customer’s account captured into their specific industry and interests. This creates an opportunity to start a dialog with these customers.

Self-segmentation strategy for small business

A segmentation strategy and a content marketing strategy should join forces for maximum impact. These strategies should act as the backbone of your energy utility’s digital communications strategy with customers.   

“It isn’t just an individual email or promotion,” Hansen says, “it is building an overall strategy of how you want to engage with customers on a consistent, systematic and strategic level and having the content and strategy behind it to do it.”

When it comes to segmentation for small business, let your customers help do it for you. Self-segmentation is a great option when your energy utility doesn’t have the information to accurately identify which industries your SMB customers are in. Combining content marketing and segmentation, your energy utility will move in the right direction to create long-lasting customer relationships.

Learn how Questline Digital can segment and target your small business customers to increase engagement and build stronger digital relationships.