As solar and other renewables become more affordable, many of the electric power consumers of yesterday are now active energy consumers and producers, or energy prosumers.

These utility customers invest in and install rooftop solar panels to generate the electricity they need and feed the excess electricity they produce back to the grid in exchange for credits or reductions to their energy bills.

Many households are also looking to battery electric vehicles and home battery storage systems that can be combined with solar panels to power their homes during outages. Some utilities, like PG&E in California, offer financial incentives to customers that install battery storage systems.

As electric consumption by U.S. households continues to climb, these energy prosumers will be a growing segment of a utility’s customer base. With approximately 4% of U.S. homes generating electricity from small-scale solar arrays, they already account for nearly one-third of all solar energy produced in the U.S. The International Energy Agency estimates that approximately 100 million households will rely on rooftop solar by 2030.

What is an Energy Prosumer?

An energy prosumer is a utility customer who generates their own power. For residential customers, this typically includes rooftop solar panels and home battery storage. Business customers may use larger-scale distributed energy resources (DERs), such as wind generation, solar arrays and battery storage.

Prosumers may sell their excess power back to the grid, becoming energy producers as well as consumers.

Building Relationships with Energy Prosumers

Energy prosumers are quickly changing the way utilities do business. Now that more and more customers are engaging with power production, these active customers will play a significant role as more renewable energy flows to the grid.

Utilities will be well served by educating and empowering these essential players, working with them as allies in meeting several mutually beneficial objectives:

  • Meet renewable energy mandates. With many states now requiring utilities to generate a specific percentage of their power from renewable sources, utilities are encouraging their energy-supplying customers to help them meet their net zero goals. In those states, many utilities offer customers a solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) with rooftop solar systems for each megawatt-hour of electricity they generate. Homeowners can use these SRECs to generate income.
  • Support solar investments. To encourage the adoption of solar, some utilities offer upfront rebates for installing solar panel systems that can, on average, reduce the cost of the system by as much as 20%.
  • Build trust. Utilities are building portals that provide their most active customers with straightforward and comprehensive access to information about installing solar systems or designing microgrids, assistance connecting their systems to the grid, access to the real-time grid and market data, and more. This encourages them to rely on the utility as a trusted energy partner.
  • Offer incentives. Forward-thinking utilities like Consumers Energy offer bill credits to energy prosumers for the extra energy they produce and discounts on the electricity they purchase. Utilities can also support their prosumer partners by providing discounts on maintenance and installation of solar equipment or technical support and educational services.

Building the utility-prosumer relationship benefits everyone. Customers are happier with lower bills and a reliable power supply during outages, while utilities can make progress toward their sustainability and customer satisfaction goals.

Marketing Tools to Encourage More Energy Prosumers

With the promise of a mutually beneficial relationship, why don’t all consumers become prosumers? It comes down to awareness, education, access and cost.

Awareness and Education

Many customers still don’t know they can return energy to the grid and get paid. Or that they can store power in batteries for future use. And if they do, many need help knowing where to get started.

For example, Super Bowl ads that showcased a Ford F-150 Lightning powering a home during an outage caught the attention of many customers previously uninterested in EVs. They were introduced to the idea of bidirectional charging but were left asking questions about its feasibility.

These newly interested customers need information on equipment, installation and safety. While the idea of sending energy back and forth might sound relatively simple, it’s a complex power conversion process that requires special chargers and careful installation.

Utilities can stand out in today’s crowded landscape with content — like email promotions, landing pages, checklists, blog posts and videos — that educate customers about the benefits of becoming a producer of renewable energy and guides them on how to get started.

Access and Cost

Even if an energy customer knows they want to become a prosumer, there are still hurdles to getting started. Finding reputable installers can be intimidating and the cost can feel out of reach.

For example, the Ford Charge Station Pro carries a price tag of $1,310, not to mention the F-150 Lightning vehicle, which ranges between $55,000 and $97,000.

Solar power storage systems aren’t cheap, either. Batteries can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $22,000.

Previously mentioned portals, incentives and rebates can make all the difference. Utilities that provide easy-to-access resources, like PSEG Long Island’s contractor list or PG&E’s incentive site, allow customers to act independently. Many customers want their utility to be a knowledgeable resource but still want to make home improvements on their own.

Opportunities to Grow with Energy Prosumers

The increasingly important role that energy prosumers play creates new opportunities for utilities to add value to their services and ramp up their efforts to ensure a resilient power grid. By using digital marketing tools and educational content to communicate with customers, the beneficial segment of prosumers can continue to grow.

Learn how a customer engagement strategy from Questline Digital can help build strong relationships with energy prosumers.

Personalization can be a powerful force in helping energy providers build engaged relationships with customers. In fact, 55% of consumers believe that targeted communications create a more enjoyable experience.

By using data to personalize the customer experience, energy providers can achieve:

  • More effective marketing messages
  • Higher engagement rates
  • Increased program conversions

However, it’s important to remember privacy and security considerations when collecting and using data. Although customers expect relevant messages, they also expect their privacy to be respected and protected.

In Questline Digital’s webinar, “Data Privacy & Personalization,” our expert speakers, Brian Lindamood (Questline Digital) and Marianne Holohan (BlastPoint), shared insights into:

  • What is personalization
  • How personalization differs from segmentation
  • The benefits of personalization and segmentation for energy providers
  • Legal considerations and data privacy best practices
  • Examples of personalization in customer engagement campaigns

Personalization vs. Segmentation

“Personalization and segmentation work really well together,” Lindamood says. “Campaigns are most effective when you create segments based on the relevance of a program or the motivations those customers have, and then you personalize some piece of information for each customer within those segments.”

In the data privacy webinar, Lindamood explains that personalization is an engagement approach that treats customers as individuals. You do this by customizing the content, format or channel of messages for individual customers and you send relevant messages to customers based on:

  • Needs
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • Channel preferences

The benefits of personalization are expansive. Energy providers can achieve:

  • More effective marketing messages
  • Higher engagement rates
  • Increased program conversions
  • Build customer satisfaction through stronger digital relationships

Secure Data Analysis

“Many people think of segmentation as a one-and-done situation where you segment your customers broadly and then you use those segments over and over again to reach different objectives,” says Holohan. “However, we found that objective-driven segmentation is a much more effective personalization tool.”

Holohan shared BlastPoint’s process for secure data onboarding and analysis, including:

  • Review
  • Clean
  • Append
  • Analyze
  • Activate

She then described BlastPoint’s process. The first step is to collect and clean existing customer data. This is followed by enriching the data with external data sources and generating specific intelligence tied to the energy provider’s business goals. Last, the data and intelligence is put into action to achieve those objectives.  

Holohan also highlighted various third-party data information that can be used for personalization, such as

  • Residential demographics
  • Financial data
  • Media engagement
  • Psychographic data
Chart listing the third party data that can be used to personalize the customer experience for energy providers

Legal Considerations and Customer Expectations

When it comes to data privacy, there are a variety of legal considerations and processes for both incoming data and outgoing data.

Incoming data is defined as data that is purchased from third-party vendors. If the data is personally specific data, it’s important to ask the vendor to validate their permission to use the data. If it’s modeled or inferred data, it means the data is less accurate, so your organization shouldn’t rely too heavily on it.

Outgoing data is defined as sharing your customer data with third-party vendors. When doing this, Holohan suggests:

  • Limit the scope of the data being shared, especially if it includes personally identifiable information (PII)
  • Review vendors’ data security practices to ensure the legality (under GDPR) of transferring data.

In terms of information security, customers have high expectations for the privacy and security of their data, such as:

  • “Don’t leak my data”
  • “Don’t gather more than you need to know about me”
  • “The data you are gathering should benefit me, not annoy me”

To respect and meet these expectations, Holohan shared some best practices for using data in the data privacy webinar, including:

  • Validate third-party organizations’ security practices.
  • Use objective-driven, targeted segments for personalization instead of broad, multi-purpose segments.
  • Make data actionable with AI to ensure effective personalization practices.

Opportunities for Energy Providers to Personalize Communications

The data privacy webinar went beyond high-level definitions and shared real-world success stories. Lindamood and Holohan each shared examples for data privacy and personalization on various topics, including:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Electric vehicles
  • Payment assistance

For energy efficiency use-cases, Lindamood suggests:

  • Target users with relevant programs based on their interests
  • Segment based on past participation
  • Create messages that reflect their motivations or interests
  • Include personalized data, e.g. energy use
Examples of email marketing from energy provider using data personalization

He shared an example from a smart thermostat campaign. The utility used targeted messaging to segment and send emails to customers. One segmented message was about adopting a smart thermostat to help the environment, while the other pushed the benefits of saving money. By segmenting the messages, the utility found more success in its smart thermostat adoption program.

Holohan shared an example of BlastPoint’s process of working with a utility to increase engagement in its energy efficiency messaging. By acknowledging the utility’s goals of providing relevant programs and identifying income-eligible households, BlastPoint was able to gather and analyze data to assist in achieving these goals. They reviewed:

  • Internal residential data
  • Psychographic data
  • Demographic data

The data analysis led them to develop customer segments around energy efficiency, including income-eligible segments, and identify a target segment that had a high propensity to adopt efficiency measures. Using this technique and secure data access, the utility had 47% more income-eligible customers engaging in energy efficiency.

The Power of Data and Personalization

When done correctly, data-driven personalization can lead energy providers to achieving increased engagement and satisfaction among customers. The data privacy webinar highlighted the many impacts of data privacy and personalization.

Learn more about how Questline Digital can help your utility with targeted customer communications.

Key Account Managers (KAMs) have a unique role within the utility industry, working to develop and nurture relationships with business customers. Key accounts are often large and complex, with a wide range of energy and education needs.

However, it’s up to KAMs to support their key account customers with information and advice on renewable energy advancements, energy-efficient technologies, demand response programs and more. KAMs must help business customers lower costs, increase energy efficiency and improve sustainability — regardless of challenges.

“If you’re building those trusted relationships with your customers, they are going to look to you — they are going to lean on the Key Account Managers to make them aware of things they might not have been aware of,” says Angela Koker, Regional Account Executive with Avista Utilities.

However, building engagement with these customers takes time and effort. They are busy running offices, warehouses and manufacturing facilities, after all. But busy schedules are just one of the hurdles for engagement. There are a multitude of utility key account management challenges that KAMs can encounter when trying to engage with these customers. Luckily, there are also tools to overcome these barriers.

Chart listing the challenges faced by utility key accounts managers

Key account engagement challenges:

  1. Lack of time and bandwidth
  2. Turnover within utilities
  3. Technological challenges
  4. Changing customer needs and complexity
  5. Losing a key contact in an account
  6. Reactive communication

Key Account Engagement Challenges

Common utility key account management challenges span from internal capacity issues to technology, or lack thereof. Today’s energy professionals face a complex environment. Do any of the following hurdles sound familiar?

Lack of time and bandwidth

Time constraint tends to be a common utility key account management challenge. There are just never enough hours in a day or enough people to accomplish all that needs to be done. The role of a Key Account Manager is multifaceted, meaning KAMs must switch gears continuously throughout the day and week.

One day, a Key Account Manager may focus on researching a customer’s latest electrification goals. On another day, they might be meeting with customers on how to strategize their renewable power for the year. The next day, they may need to determine how the grid can support new fast charging stations.

No matter the project, KAMs are responsible for educating customers, coordinating paperwork and facilitating large efficiency upgrades. This makes it difficult to provide all accounts with the attention they deserve. With many key account departments being scarce on manpower, setting multifaceted plans in motion can be difficult.

Turnover within utilities

A new utility key account management challenge is talent turnover. Many long-term Key Account Managers are preparing to retire, while fresh faces are entering the industry. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25% of the utility workforce is expected to retire by the end of this year. 

KAMs who are retiring will no longer be able to pass on historical knowledge or train new employees. And with new KAMs entering, there is a lack of industry experience. These gaps make it difficult to provide end-use energy customers with the hands-on assistance they require.

“There’s a whole shift of new Key Account Managers,” says Kathleen Collins, Questline Digital Account Manager. “If you’re already a seasoned person, how do you keep up to date with what’s new and happening? If you’re new, how do you start the education process to make sure what you’re communicating is relevant and accurate?”

Education will be key to filling this knowledge gap. Everything from job aids to playbooks or webinars and formal classes will be essential. Utilities are hiring internal training managers and leveraging third-party tools to launch these education programs quickly and affordably.

Technological challenges

A rarely mentioned utility key account management challenge faced is the use of technology, or lack thereof. Instead of having a designated CRM system for organizing and monitoring client contacts, many KAMs simply use a Microsoft Word or Excel doc. This can be time-consuming and allows for errors when adding or updating information.

Other times, Key Account Managers have a system in place but haven’t had the proper education on how to use it. Thus, their comfort level in leveraging the technology isn’t where it should be.

Key Account Managers also face situations where a system or software is so highly policed within the organization that they must go through multiple layers of approvals before using the system. Or perhaps it’s challenging to gain access to and analyze data to see customers’ energy usage. Without access to accurate data, KAMs often have difficulty implementing energy management solutions.

Each of these scenarios makes it difficult for Key Account Managers to do their jobs and do them well. Many must rely on the basics.

“If you don’t have any other tool, send an email,” says Maureen Huss, Questline Digital Group Accounts Director. “Although CRM systems are valuable for organization and list management, and face-to-face time can gain much-needed exposure, use the tools in front of you. If that’s an Outlook email, use it to your advantage.”

Changing customer needs and complexity

As new energy technologies progress or new federal and state laws take motion, commercial and industrial customers need help understanding how they can personally benefit. How can they take advantage of the new technology? How will the impending energy efficiency laws affect them? How should they respond?

It’s up to KAMs to answer these questions for customers and provide further insights and information.

“We really try to be that resource for our customers for their specific questions or if there are other things going on in the states we serve related to energy,” says Koker. “We try to be that single point of contact for them. If I don’t know the answer, I try to connect them to that person who does.”

At the end of the day, the goal of a Key Account Manager is to help customers achieve their energy-related goals. Achieving this includes providing each customer with a personalized experience that shifts to meet multiple demands.

“I think that at the forefront of the key account representative responsibility is to form those relationships,” sales Dale Odom, Supervisor of Retail Energy Services for ElectriCities of North Carolina. “I think from each key account representative and each utility, that’s going to look different. There’s not a cookie-cutter approach to it. But I think at the core of every key account representative, their responsibility and primary duty is to be the point of contact for their customer.”

Losing a key contact in an account

Just like turnover within utilities, there are often employee shifts at accounts. Job roles are fluid nowadays — one day a person is there, the next they’ve moved on to something new. Whether a key contact has moved to a different role, exited from the company, or role restructuring, it’s never easy to start a new relationship from the ground up.

Despite the inconvenience, it can also present numerous opportunities. The new contact may be eager to learn and kickstart new communications or programs, making it an exciting time for a Key Account Manager.

If nothing else, it means the Key Account Manager can offer new ideas, or old ideas that never manifested, to the new contact and build another trusted relationship within the company. This utility key account management challenge can be a blessing in disguise. The new contact may have contacts that can provide substantial help in achieving key deliverables throughout the relationship.

Reactive communication

Reactive communication is a classic utility key account management challenge. Often too busy to provide a long list of clients with personalized communications, KAMs only have time to respond to incoming requests.

Unfortunately, the account-client relationship suffers without proactive communication, and program goals are harder to meet. KAMs must educate commercial and industrial customers. Most don’t know what their electrification or sustainability journey looks like or where to start. Only responding to inquiries leaves a lot of untapped potential on the table.

“The other thing with only sending reactive communications is that you’re not building a trusted relationship with a client,” says Huss. “You have to make a point of meeting with them on a regular scheduled basis or picking up the phone and calling them. If all they hear from you is when there’s something going on, then that doesn’t always go well — you’re not paying your relationship forward.”

How to Overcome Engagement Barriers

Despite the common utility key account management challenges to engagement, there are a number of tools and resources to overcome them.

A new report shows that customers rank their KAMs on traits like acumen, proactiveness and serviceability.

Develop a plan

First and foremost, Desiree Enoch, Questline Digital Account Manager, encourages Key Account Managers to develop a plan.

“Overcoming these barriers starts with a plan for how KAMs want to engage with customers or what they want to deliver to them,” says Enoch. “Whether it’s how they’re going to market, how they’re going to keep making sure they’re the expert in XYZ, how they’re going to ensure they’re trusted by the customer, having a plan will help overcome a lot of these obstacles and guide them to a more successful relationship.”

As you set up a plan, consider your goals and potential ROI. What do you want to track? What metrics would show success? Then strategize to achieve those goals.

If your utility is looking to expand EV charging ports at businesses, for example, consider your audience. Analyze your target customers to decide what they would see as the pros and cons of such an investment. Then develop a marketing campaign that highlights the benefits. Segment the campaign to reach those customers who would already be on board with the installations versus those who might need more convincing. Decide on what goals and metrics you want to analyze from this campaign and then hit send. When the numbers start rolling in, you can then decide the next steps based on the campaign outcomes.

In conclusion:

  • Understand your audience
  • Choose your objectives and goals
  • Develop an outreach plan or campaign based on audience insights
  • Target and segment communications
  • Analyze and review results
  • Monitor and follow up with customers

Lean on partnerships

“I often hear my clients say, ‘We have so much to say, we have so much that needs to go out, but we don’t have the time or know-how to make it all happen,’” says Enoch.

Invest in partnerships that can take some of the heavy lifting off Key Account Managers’ plates. These partners can aid with content creation, consistent communication, relevant information and more.

For example, as a partner to many utilities, Questline Digital provides an email newsletter service that takes the heavy lifting away from Key Account Managers. Account Managers choose relevant and timely content to include in a newsletter and choose a deployment schedule based on previous conversations with the Account Managers. If KAMs want more of a role in the newsletters, they can also choose to write a short introductory text. Otherwise, the newsletters are a hands-off and seamless process.

These newsletters provide enormous value to utilities, including:

  1. Timely information with relevant updates.
  2. A consistent communication that builds a trusted expectation with clients.
  3. A focus on conveying important information and the value it provides to clients.

Focus on benefits

With so many things to accomplish, it’s important for KAMs to consider how information is dispatched. It’s not just about being fast, but relevant.

“The timeliness of the information being conveyed is important… You want to set and build a communication expectation with your client,” says Huss. “The important thing to be conveyed is what does it mean to them? If you have a rebate program, tell them the deadlines and what it’s about, but get down to the nitty-gritty of why it can be helpful to them. Make sure you’re translating for your reader just what the benefits are in reading your messages.”

As the main point of contact, KAMs should simplify things for energy customers, not add to their plates. Focusing on benefits, not just facts or features, can help illustrate why action is needed.

Make time for visits

For continued relationship development, Collins recommends in-person visits. “If time allows it, in-person visits are extremely valuable,” she says. “I know that’s not something people have been doing a lot in the last couple of years, but especially if it’s a new account or you don’t know your contact, face-to-face is a great way to build those relationships.”

Koker highly recommends client visits as well. “I think you learn so much more being in a customer’s facility and seeing their operation versus just having a telephone conversation or virtual meeting. Whenever I can accompany a site engineer on a visit, I do.”

Invest in tools

Guiding key accounts on large energy investments requires a lot of calculation and precision. Customers need to know the potential return before diving into any facility upgrades. Having easy-to-use tools that produce custom data can go a long way in helping KAMs with customer communications.

“Having credible tools that provide good estimates of what kind of savings they will see over time or the payback they will get on upfront investments for programs or rebates is helpful,” says Rendall Farley, Manager of Electric Transportation at Avista Utilities. “Deliver communications that allow customers to feel comfortable knowing that you’ll be there to help them in the journey.”

Education is key

Business customers need to be made aware of the latest sustainability and green building legislation, so it’s helpful to not only educate them on utility incentives and rebates, but also on state legislation and requirements. Utilities need to have current rebates and incentives available that reflect the needs of their business customers.

“First, you have to listen and understand that every business is going to have their unique perspective and specific scenario of where they are with their business, what their goals are and what they’re focused on,” says Koker. “You have to figure out what they are trying to accomplish and support where you can. Each customer is unique.”

Trust Leads to Customer Engagement

Utility key account management challenges don’t have to inhibit engaging relationships from growing and flourishing. In fact, sometimes finding ways to overcome the challenges helps to develop a more trusted relationship in the end.

“Start building that trust,” says Huss. “If you do it continuously and they can depend on you for information, you’re building a level of trust with that person. You become a subject matter expert to that client and a partner by providing relevant, consistent information.”

Learn how an engagement strategy from Questline Digital helps key accounts managers build stronger relationships with their customers.

Energy prices are expected to continue rising this year and next, making it imperative that utilities have an energy rate communication strategy in place to help customers navigate rising bills.

Average U.S. residential electricity prices will reach an estimated 15.33 cents/kWh in 2023, jumping from 13.72 cents/kWh in 2021. To put this into perspective, the average U.S. residential customer uses about 886 kWh per month. This means the average energy consumer will pay $136 per month in 2023 when they only paid $121/per month in 2021 — a potential increase of $180 per year.

While this may not seem like a life-changing sum, it greatly impacts the day-to-day life of many residential customers, especially low-to-medium-income customers or those who are behind on electricity payments. Some regions of the country are also getting hit harder with price increases than other regions.

Unfortunately, most customers don’t seek financial help from their utility or even know it’s available. Worse, many find the promises of payment assistance programs too good to be true. And others are just plain angry that costs are rising.

To mitigate this frustration and offer aid to more customers, Questline Digital recommends a proactive and empathetic energy rate communication strategy. Specifically, we’ve seen success when utilities implement the following tactics:

  1. Increase education
  2. Don’t leave it to PR
  3. Use more video
  4. Provide energy-saving tips
  5. Share program information before customers need it
  6. Promote home assessments and energy audits
  7. Use customer testimonials

Increase education

It’s common for customers to blame their utility for rising rates, even when it’s not the utility’s fault. Help customers understand what causes high energy bills. With more knowledge comes less frustration.

When customers Google questions like, “Why are electricity costs rising?” they are met with a barrage of news stories and social media complaints, and they’re not always sure which to believe.

Your utility should be the trusted authority. Use content marketing to explain how the rising cost of fossil fuels is impacting electricity rates, where renewables fit in the puzzle and what specifically your utility is doing to reduce the costs of power generation and distribution.

Be transparent and show proactive steps, even if the savings won’t be tangible for some time. Let customers know your utility is working hard to help.

Don’t leave it to PR

While media relations is an incredible tactic for sharing news with the community, it shouldn’t be the sole tool in your tool belt. If your customers only hear about available financial aid or what’s driving higher prices from local publications, they aren’t going to think highly of their utility. Get ahead of the news cycle and share updates and aid directly with customers.

Example of two emails from a utility used to communicate rising energy rates

See this example from a Questline Digital client. Knowing that holidays and winter months can be a stressful time for finances, the utility proactively shared payment assistance programs with a segmented email campaign to targeted customers.

Use more video

Video content should be included in your energy rate communication strategy. Why? Because explainer videos can make complex topics easier to understand. Images and animation aid with learning, while short video lengths and fast action keep viewers’ attention.

Create and share clips that illustrate the forces at play behind higher energy costs, promote programs and explain billing options. Share the videos on your website, YouTube channel and social media, along with newsletters, advertisements and email promotions.

Provide energy-saving tips

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the typical household can save 25% on utility bills with energy efficiency measures. That’s significant, particularly during a period of rising rates. With educational energy-saving advice, your utility can help customers make necessary home improvements or behavioral changes.

We Energies, an energy provider serving areas of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, uses an animated video to show customers how they can update their homes to save energy. At just over two minutes long, the video focuses on stopping air leaks by doors, windows and attics.

Questline Digital provides clients access to an extensive video series titled “You Can” to help homeowners and renters with energy efficiency projects. The videos provide step-by-step instructions on DIY improvements that customers can make no matter what their budget is.

Example of content marketing for an energy rate communication strategy

Share program information before customers need it

While education on energy-efficient products and behaviors can certainly help, utilities shouldn’t rely on efficiency messaging alone.

Utility-specific payment programs and federal assistance programs like LIHEAP and WAP should be promoted widely and proactively. Often only shared with customers who have fallen behind on payments or who have qualified in the past, assistance programs go underutilized. While audience targeting is highly effective, current economic conditions require that more customers are made aware of these programs, including customers who may be eligible for the first time.

MCE, a nonprofit renewable energy provider in California, uses simple animation to highlight assistance programs available to customers and explain how they can apply. Housed on YouTube, the utility can call out key moments with time stamps. This makes it simple for customers to find what information they need.

Example of YouTube video used to communicate rising energy rates to customers

PG&E, an energy provider located in Northern California, uses this 30-second animated video to tell the story of a family and their experience with the utility’s financial aid programs. Short and sweet, this video can be used on social media and in digital advertising placements.

Promote home assessments, installation and energy audits

Just like financial aid programs, complimentary home assessments and installation services are often unknown to many customers. Utilities should expand the promotion of these value-added services as part of their energy rate communication strategy.

TECO Energy, an energy holding company based in Tampa, Florida, shares its Online Home Energy Audit Tool via TV advertisements, reaching a mass audience. These clips connect with viewers emotionally while reassuring people of the convenience and positive impact audits can have on their energy bills.

Example of email from a utility energy rate communication strategy

This email example from a Questline Digital client promotes complimentary installation and tune-up services for electric appliances and fixtures. Reaching customers directly in their inboxes, recipients are encouraged to take advantage of available services to reduce energy consumption.

Include customer testimonials

Financial aid and energy efficiency programs can often feel too good to be true. Dispel skepticism by telling customers about the positive experiences their peers have had. Ask customers who have made efficiency upgrades or used utility services if they would be willing to share their stories through testimonial videos, articles and quotes.

Example of social media post from utility to communicate rising energy rates to customers

Here, Philadelphia-based energy company PECO shares a residential customer’s experience on Facebook, showing other community members how they might take advantage, too. Social proof is highly effective when shared on social platforms or between peers.

Help Customers with an Energy Rate Communication Strategy

Overdue balances and rising energy costs will continue into 2023 and beyond. Get ahead of customer misconceptions and pain points with proactive communications that focus on education, peer validation and widespread awareness.

Learn how a digital engagement strategy from Questline Digital will help your energy utility connect with customers in need.

Your customers want to save energy; they just might not know how. By educating customers about energy waste and showing them how they can save, your energy utility can help customers take advantage of energy-saving programs and products. More than ever, there is a growing need for energy efficiency education.

Many customers don’t realize the strong impact that making energy-efficient choices has on both a person’s daily life and their community. According to, “Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change, reduce energy costs for consumers, and improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.” Energy efficiency is also a very important component in achieving net-zero emissions.

By increasing energy efficiency education, customers will have a better understanding of how their energy-efficient choices can:

  • Save money
  • Increase the resilience and reliability of the electric grid
  • Provide environmental, community and health benefits

Energy Efficiency Education for Customers

The first step to converting customers is educating them. Think about who your utility is 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 resonate with the other.

Business customers, for example, care about reducing energy usage and operating costs while keeping productivity high. Residential customers, on the other hand, may care more about simple, effective ways to reduce their home energy bills without sacrificing comfort. Consider segmenting your communications so you can reach different customers with different energy efficiency campaign messages.

Energy Efficiency Education Examples

Energy efficiency doesn’t have to be difficult for customers. 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.

Example of assessment used to promote energy efficiency education

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. In the end, customers are made much more aware of the impact on their energy bills.

Example of analyzer quiz to promote energy efficiency education

Additionally, PSEG Long Island promotes seasonal energy-saving opportunities with energy efficiency campaigns. In the summer, the utility developed an email campaign that promoted chargeable electric lawn equipment.

Example of email to promote energy efficiency education

The utility also promoted “National Cut Your Energy Cost Day” on social media by sharing advice for cutting energy costs. It’s important to stay a few steps ahead of your customers in anticipating their needs.

Example of social media post to promote energy efficiency education

There’s No Place Like an Energy-Efficient Home

When it comes to energy efficiency education, residential customers tend to be more open to receiving advice or promotions, simply because they have the time to consider making purchases or behavioral changes. In comparison, time-starved business customers may see these conversations as distractions in their busy day.

“Owners and other decision-makers are busy trying to keep their business running, usually getting their hands dirty right alongside their employees,” observed the Association of Energy Services Professionals. “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 energy efficiency awareness, there are a few topics that resonate most:

  • Self-serve: Customers want the ability to take things into their own hands and control their energy use. By sharing energy efficiency education tips and recommending things they can do themselves, such as replacing traditional lightbulbs with LEDs or adding ENERGY STAR® appliances to their kitchen, they are more responsive to making these changes.
  • Money: A big motivation for purchasing energy-efficient products is 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 investments.
  • 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 homebuyers 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. 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 relevant energy efficiency education tips with renters.

Example of interactive content for energy efficiency education

Content marketing is a powerful tool in energy efficiency education. By teaching customers about energy efficiency in fun, engaging ways, they are more likely to make the switch. One example used by Questline Digital clients is the quiz “What’s your energy type?” which prompts customers to think about how they use energy in their day-to-day life. Once they understand their energy style, it provides more opportunities for your utility to promote energy efficiency awareness.

How Peer Pressure Can Create Customer Interest in Energy Efficiency

Another way to reach your residential customers is through friendly neighborhood competition. We’re serious — social norms are a stronger 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 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 Customers and Energy Efficiency

Compared to residential outreach, communicating to business customers about energy efficiency education 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 swaps, business customers want to know how to save the “big bucks.”

Share energy efficiency campaigns about rebate programs on equipment these customers may often use or need to purchase, or provide 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 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 processes 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

Building energy efficiency awareness comes down to what your customers need. Every customer is unique — it’s up to your energy utility to identify what matters to them and provide relevant solutions.

Customers are interested in saving energy and willing to make the switch, but your energy utility needs to educate them on the efficient products and services that will make an impact and help them save.

Learn how a content strategy from Questline Digital can help your utility drive customer interest in energy efficiency.