Customer journey mapping is essential for energy utilities. As the industry focuses on becoming more customer centric and improving the customer experience, utilities must optimize every interaction.

Where once customers were seen merely as account numbers or “ratepayers,” new technologies and advancements across all industries are changing customers’ expectations of how they interact with their utilities.

Energy utility customers interact regularly with many other businesses, and it’s their experience with those industries that sets expectations. The more businesses like Disney, Amazon and Apple improve their customer experiences, the more consumers expect from their energy provider.

The importance of utility customer experience management

Because of this dynamic change in relationships, utility customer experience management — the intentional planning and implementation of interactions across all channels and touchpoints — is critical to deliver a consistently excellent experience.

Why is utility customer experience important? For a variety of reasons, but primarily because well-designed and implemented experiences increase customer engagement. Increased customer engagement in turn builds customer satisfaction. The outcomes of customer satisfaction can include:

  • More participation in programs
  • Increased enrollment in paperless billing
  • Higher use of self-service channels
  • Lower cost to service
  • Greater customer advocacy and loyalty

Mapping the customer journey for energy utilities

A great way to approach the process of improving the customer experience is by developing a utility customer journey map that looks at these events collectively.

McKinsey describes a journey as “the process a customer goes through to complete a particular task, such as opening an account or resolving an error.”

These journeys often encompass multiple departments and varying mediums. For example, a customer journey to purchase a smart thermostat might involve touchpoints in multiple channels — website navigation and search, e-commerce, email, phone calls, a technician visit for installation, etc.

When developing a utility customer journey map, be sure to capture the key moments of truth. Those specific positive and negative touchpoints that make or break how customers perceive their utility.

Other journeys might include customer onboarding, bill payment, an outage, interacting with customer service or various program enrollments. These journeys work together to build the entirety of a utility’s customer experience.

To truly be customer centric, utilities must map out and understand all the possible touchpoints and outcomes along the customer’s journey.

Here are key journeys your utility should consider:


First impressions are everything. This is when your new customer decides if it’s easy or cumbersome to work with your utility. Can they easily find all the information they need? Do they know where to turn for help? Is your utility going to be an ongoing resource? Or will they face headaches down the road?

Answering these questions upfront and setting the right tone is essential for the launch of your customers’ journeys. Build an onboarding workflow that gives customers everything they need.

Through deployment of thousands of Welcome Series, Questline Digital has determined that it’s best to send between three and five emails upon the start of service. These emails include the following information:

  • Welcome message from leadership
  • Instructions for My Account set up
  • Prompts for eBill enrollment
  • Payment assistance resources
  • Guidance for eNewsletter or Preference Center sign up
  • Outage alert enrollment reminders
  • Explanation of available programs
  • Energy efficiency and cost savings tips

Depending on your community, your energy utility may need multiple welcome workflows that speak to different audiences. Common targets include first-time customers, moving customers, commercial business owners and small business owners.


Ensure clients are aware of the payment options available to them. Look at the experiences for those who pay via mail and online. What hurdles do they hit along the way? Where can improvements be made?

Paperless billing enrollment is known to increase customer satisfaction. According to Fiserv’s Eighth Annual Consumer Billing Household Survey, 68% of consumers acknowledge increased satisfaction with their biller when they receive electronic statements.

So, set the stage early and get customers enrolled in My Account and eBill as early as possible. The sooner customers are enrolled, the better their overall utility customer journey will be.


An outage experience is a key moment of truth, as it will certainly impact a utility’s J.D. Power customer satisfaction score. Customer journey mapping before an outage could include:

  • Ongoing outage education
  • Outage preparation communications
  • Registration for outage notifications
  • Inspiring interaction and two-way conversation

These steps would be delivered as emails, texts, automated calls, social media posts or conversations, website tools, bill inserts and brochures.

Other forms of outage communications would then occur during a planned or an unexpected outage. Whether your utility is providing a single report, or sending updates along the way, every touchpoint must be thoughtfully executed.


Beyond the basic customer lifecycle and outage communications journeys, utilities are also now exploring customer journey mapping for specific programs and products.

Solar program customers, for example, will not only rely on their utility for educational resources ahead of making a decision, but also throughout the financing, contract, installation, monitoring and maintenance phases of their solar use.

The more holistic a utility can make specific interactions along a product journey, the higher customer engagement, satisfaction and advocacy will be later.


We see consistently stronger engagement metrics with customers who receive ongoing communications, as compared to customers who receive only sporadic, one-time messages from their energy company.

In-between journeys, there is the overarching and long-term utility customer experience. This includes what happens between traditional bill payment and outage alerts, including:

  • Providing energy efficiency advice to customers during high bill seasons
  • Encouraging customers to take advantage of available rebates and promotions
  • Signing customers up for your monthly eNewsletter

Stay top of mind and enhance the customer journey by giving customers helpful information exactly when they need it.

Map out your utility customer experience

Start your conversation today about the importance of customer centricity and journey mapping a positive customer experience.

How do customers begin their journey with your energy utility? Build a strong relationship from day one with a Welcome Series.

The sky darkens. Thunder rumbles in the distance. There’s a boom! The power goes out. An energy utility customer has an important project due later in the day. Will the power be back on before then? Does her energy provider even know it’s out?

Power outages are a frustrating experience for customers, negatively impacting their daily lives. Both residential and business customers depend on outage communications from their energy utility to mitigate the impact of an outage and plan their day accordingly.

Depending on how your energy utility handles the situation, the right outage communications can actually improve customer satisfaction. Discover what actions to take before, during and after an outage to ensure your customers are prepared when the lights go out.

What are outage communications?

Energy utility customers don’t want to be left in the dark during a power outage. For energy utilities, outage communications are a vital way to keep customers informed when a storm is approaching or when an outage occurs. Outage communications, whether emails, text alerts or social posts, provide important details like the number of customers impacted, locations affected by the outage and estimated restoration times.

Every energy utility has a different strategy for handling outage communications, but those with higher levels of customer satisfaction have a few things in common. In particular, they focus on continuous and transparent communications with their customers.  

How do outage communications impact utility customer satisfaction?

For energy utilities, the right outage communications strategy is essential for long-term customer satisfaction. Questline Digital’s metrics find that 82% of customers prefer proactive communications during an outage. Additionally, customers are more responsive to outage communications than other types of energy utility messages.

According to Questline Digital’s Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, the open rate of outage communication emails is 31.4%, the highest engagement next to Welcome Series and billing notifications. Not surprisingly, energy utilities using outage communications are experiencing higher customer satisfaction numbers. For example, Questline Digital clients using outage alerts received some of the highest approval ratings in their respective segments.

J.D. Power has measured a direct connection between outage communications and customer satisfaction. According to the J.D. Power 2018 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, overall satisfaction among customers who receive outage communications is much higher than among those who do not receive such information.

“Proactive communications, primarily delivered through digital channels, such as email, text message or social media post, are having a significant positive impact on residential electric utility customer satisfaction,” said John Hazen, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power. “Power outages are going to happen. The more proactive electric utilities are in clearly communicating information about the cause, anticipated duration and repair of an outage, the more satisfied their customers will be with their overall service.”

According to Chartwell’s 2020 Residential Consumer Survey, 60% of customers were satisfied with their energy utility’s communications during outages. However, this was dependent on how well the utility communicated estimated restoration times and what type of communication channels were used.

What messages to send before, during and after a storm

Energy utilities need to consider what outage communications will be sent out before, during and after an outage, and how best to reach customers to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction. The right outage communications strategy makes all the difference, whether your energy utility is sharing storm and outage safety tips ahead of storm season or sending power outage notification emails to keep customers informed.

Best practices for outage preparation emails

The prep work starts long before a storm is imminent. Energy utilities should send outage communications at the start of summer and winter storm seasons, informing customers of key services like outage text alerts and outage maps, as well as essential safety tips. If your energy utility has an online outage center, it’s important to make it current and have a backup plan is in place in case the technology fails.

For example, a Southeast energy utility developed a creative campaign to promote text alerts that emboldened customers with the strong message of “Take Your Power Back.” The powerful campaign inspired customers to sign up to receive power restoration alerts and other outage-related texts so they could prepare before a storm or potential outage.

The campaign targeted customers who were not already signed up for text alerts with messaging focused on the benefits of real-time notifications. A clear call-to-action drove customers to My Account to sign up. By receiving these instant outage communications, the campaign emphasized how customers would no longer feel powerless during an outage.

Example of outage communications email to improve utility customer satisfaction

To prepare customers ahead of time, Duke Energy promotes its mobile app on social media as an easy way to report outages and check for restoration updates. Outage communications like this social media campaign help customers to better prepare for future outages, ensuring greater customer satisfaction.

Example of outage communications social post to improve utility customer satisfaction

Best practices for power outage notification emails

During a storm, emails, text alerts and social posts communicate that energy utilities are ready and have a solid restoration plan in place. These messages should also inform customers about the size of the outage, which areas are affected, what caused the outage and when power is estimated to be restored.

When a winter storm hit the Northeast, PSEG Long Island sent out a power outage notification email informing customers that the storm was causing hazardous weather conditions. The email also alerted customers that the energy utility’s crews were working to restore power to all customers affected as quickly as possible.

Example of outage communications email to improve utility customer satisfaction

To make it easy for customers to report an outage or receive updates, the outage communication also provided links to PSEG Long Island’s Storm Center, outage map and social media channels. It also included helpful storm safety tips.

Example of outage communications social post to improve utility customer satisfaction
Example of outage communications message to improve utility customer satisfaction

Consumers Energy sent a power outage notification email to share important details with its Michigan customers about the restoration process underway, while also being transparent that more severe weather is expected. The email provided safety tips and links where customers could check the status of an outage and sign up for restoration text alerts.

Example of outage communications email to improve utility customer satisfaction

Best practices for utility power restored alerts

Once a storm has passed and power has been restored, utility power restored alerts are the final step in your outage communications. These communications notify customers that power has been restored and thank them for their patience.

Following the damage caused by Hurricane Ida, Entergy shared regular updates regarding the power restoration process on Twitter. One post linked to the utility’s newsroom, which highlighted that the Category 4 hurricane commanded the largest restoration workforce in the company’s history. While showcasing the impressive work of the Entergy team, the utility’s power restored alert tempered expectations for customers who may still be without power.

Example of outage communications social post to improve utility customer satisfaction

When an outage happens, it can make or break the energy utility customer experience. But the way your energy utility responds to the situation makes all the difference. For long-term customer satisfaction, your energy utility needs an outage communications strategy that is ongoing, transparent and connects with customers on multiple channels.

Discover how an Outage Communications solution from Questline Digital can boost customer satisfaction for your energy utility.

Newsletters: we read them, we write them, we live them. What started out as society publications (think Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers from Netflix’s “Bridgerton”), quickly turned into print newspapers. Then, as the digital age began, print publications turned to email and the eNewsletter was born.

Today, we can find eNewsletters for nearly any topic of interest.

Politics? Check — POLITICO Playbook.

Example of email newsletter from Politico

Beer? Check — Good Beer Hunting.

Example of email newsletter from Good Beer Hunting

Positivity? Check — Milkshake.

Example of email newsletter from Milkshake

Funny thing is, these are just single examples for each of these topics. There are thousands of eNewsletters for every topic imaginable. Do a quick search on Google and you’ll be overwhelmed with what to read in a matter of minutes.

But just because it seems like everyone is doing a newsletter doesn’t mean everyone is doing it well. Whether inside the energy utility industry or outside of it, here are five common eNewsletter mistakes you don’t want to make.

1. Putting Important Content Last

What is the purpose of an eNewsletter? According to Brafton, an eNewsletter is used “to share relevant and valuable information with a network of customers, prospects and subscribers…allowing you to share engaging content, promote sales and drive traffic to your website.”

With this definition in mind, it simply makes no sense to put important content last. According to Chartbeat, 35% of desktop users leave a page without scrolling down at all and the most viewed area of the page is just above the fold (typical height of a browser window) with 80% of viewership.

Today’s consumers don’t always have time or aren’t engaged enough to read a full newsletter, so put the most important takeaways at the top, whether encouraging your energy utility’s customers to watch the latest video in a popular series or educating them about new energy efficiency rebates.

2. No Call-to-Action

Newsletters are a great opportunity to encourage readers to take action after reading. A clear CTA gives readers direction for what to do during or after reading your content. Without a specific CTA, customer engagement ends before it really began. They act as a tool to increase program conversions or enrollments and without one this isn’t possible — it may even persuade customers to reevaluate why they subscribe, potentially leading to increased opt-out rates.

For energy utilities, a CTA could guide customers to your latest programs, incentives or rebates. You can include a CTA within the copy or at the beginning or end (or both) of the newsletter. This gives readers multiple opportunities to click through to more content or resources. For some tips to create CTAs that lead to conversions, Campaign Monitor suggests:

  • Using actionable language
  • Making the CTA easily identifiable
  • Keeping CTAs short, while still showcasing the required action
  • Changing the point of view to address readers
  • Creating a sense of urgency

3. Including Overly Promotional Material

While newsletters offer a valuable opportunity to promote services and programs, there is a thin line between sharing helpful resources and marketing your energy utility too much. Remember: Customers subscribe to newsletters for valuable content that will help make their lives better in some way. They expect content that meets their interests and needs. Promotional material puts focus on your energy utility rather than the customer.

When reviewing your eNewsletter, ensure you do so from a customer’s perspective. Answer these three questions:

  • Does this content help my customers solve a problem?
  • Is the content focused on the customers’ needs or my utilities’ goals?
  • What value is this eNewsletter providing to my customers?

If you can answer these questions and assess that the content is customer-centric then move forward to hit the send button!   

4. Trying to Reach Everyone

We already know customer segmentation is one of the smartest marketing tactics for any industry. According to Campaign Monitor, 56% of people unsubscribe from emails due to content that’s no longer relevant to them. For eNewsletters, it’s imperative your energy utility understands that your customers have different needs.

Business customers versus residential customers, homeowners versus renters — each audience is unique. Decide how many segments makes sense for your energy utility based on your customers’ interests and create personalized eNewsletters for those audiences.

Consider going further to segment your business customers into separate industries. When Questline Digital did this for AEP Ohio, the energy utility saw an engagement increase of 84% for their healthcare sector. In addition, engagement for their education and manufacturing segments increased by 54% and 43%, respectively.

Yes, you could reach all of your energy utility’s customers with a single newsletter, but it won’t serve your energy utility well. Segment content based on your customers’ wants and needs to see higher engagement and satisfaction.

5. Boring Subject Lines

How many emails do you receive a day that you simply discard based on subject line alone? Probably a lot. In fact, Invesp says that a staggering 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. Don’t let this happen to your energy utility. Invest time into the best practices that make a subject line stand out. For starters:

  • Be descriptive
  • Keep them short
  • Limit punctuation
  • Consider your message

The last bullet is especially important — what you want your energy utility’s customers to know will drive the direction for the subject line. Most importantly, craft a subject line that would make you stop scrolling and open the email.

BONUS: Not Optimizing for Mobile or Dark Mode

Finally,  make sure your energy utility’s eNewsletters are optimized for both mobile viewing  and dark mode. Mobile should be a given — most emails are now read on smartphones — but as customers continue to spend more time looking at screens, dark mode has become increasingly important. In order to encourage more engagement and longer reading times on your eNewsletter, it’s important to consider these two factors in the design process.  

Newsletters are Here to Stay

Newsletters are a popular, and important, way to engage with customers. By creating content that speaks to what they value, your energy utility is showing that you both listen and care about your customers. Continue to be a trusted resource for them by sharing newsletters full of helpful tips, insights and solutions. And don’t make the mistake of making these mistakes.

With an eNewsletter from Questline Digital your energy utility can deliver engaging content directly to customer inboxes.

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.

Does your energy utility have an effective digital relationship with customers? The answer may surprise you. Most energy utilities email program promotions to customers, text them outage alerts and offer electronic billing options — creating the impression of a strong connection. However, these transactional tactics actually fall far short of a true digital customer relationship.

To effectively build engagement, energy utilities need to think beyond the monthly bill and generic notifications. A digital customer relationship requires consistent touchpoints, relevant content and messaging that responds to each customer’s specific interests.

What is a digital customer relationship?

A digital customer relationship means that an energy utility proactively uses two-way communication channels to connect with customers, listen to their needs and interests, and deliver targeted, personalized messages to build long-term engagement.

The “digital” part indicates how you reach customers — through email, text, web and social platforms. But the “relationship” in this equation is about much more than which channel you use. Customers expect a digital relationship to be responsive and relevant to their interests.

An energy utility can’t simply replace its old snail-mail outreach with email and consider that to be a digital relationship. Likewise, most digital marketing efforts do not constitute a digital relationship. Those are one-way channels — pushing messages or promotions that are only important to your energy utility, not your customers. An effective digital relationship is built on two-way communications: listening to customer needs and delivering messages that are important to them.

The Netflix secret to a successful digital customer relationship

You probably get at least one email from Netflix every week with movie recommendations you might enjoy or gentle reminders to finish watching a series you started. You might get one of these emails every day!

Are these emails simply marketing messages? After all, the objective is to get you to watch more Netflix so that you won’t cancel your subscription. Or, are these recommendations also a type of customer engagement, helping you get more enjoyment out of your free time by guiding you toward entertaining Netflix content?

Of course these messages can be both a type of marketing and effective customer engagement. The key is personalization. Netflix isn’t promoting the same program to all its customers; the streaming service is making a targeted recommendation, promoting specific content that it thinks you will find relevant and useful. That’s not just digital marketing, it’s a digital relationship.

Importantly, Netflix doesn’t just contact customers when a payment is due at the end of the month. Netflix doesn’t wait to reach out when its rates are going up or to provide restoration updates about streaming outages. Netflix connects with customers all the time, sometimes every day, to make sure customers are enjoying its service.

Does this strategy work? Well, Netflix has built a pretty successful business around its 200 million subscribers. Being part of customers’ daily lives, through continuous digital engagement, is a big part of that success. If you are a Netflix customer, you will be regularly reminded that great entertainment is only a click away.

How energy utilities can build an effective digital customer relationship

Energy utilities can borrow a page from the streaming service’s engagement playbook. Like Netflix, energy providers are a big part of customers’ daily lives, offering a service that’s increasingly valued in today’s connected world. But unlike Netflix, utilities too often fail to build meaningful digital relationships with their customers, instead relying on transactional outreach like monthly bills, outage alerts and generic program promotions.

The good news is, energy utilities can build strong customer relationships. It just takes a commitment to move beyond these typical one-way tactics to embrace the relevant messaging that customers now expect. Here are three key steps to building and maintaining digital customer relationships:

Effective digital engagement starts on day one

Companies that succeed at customer engagement don’t wait to get started. The last time you signed up for an online subscription or created a new account with an ecommerce company, how much time elapsed before you received the first welcome email? Minutes — or seconds? These messages make a great first impression and immediately start building a strong digital relationship.

Likewise, energy utilities can use welcome series emails to start their relationship with new customers (or restart a relationship with customers moving within a service territory). These welcome messages are an opportunity to introduce your utility, show customers how to make the most of their service, and get them started on paperless billing, outage alerts, eNewsletters and other digital touchpoints. And it works! Customers who receive welcome series open future emails from their utility at 30% higher rates than other customers.

Stay top-of-mind with regular touchpoints

Consistency is important in any relationship. Customers want to know that you’re there to support them on their schedule, not just when you’re trying to sell them something.

A monthly email newsletter is one way to maintain engagement on a regular cadence, delivering interesting content and helpful resources on a schedule that’s distinct from other transactional messages. This consistency pays dividends: Questline Digital performance metrics show that eNewsletter readers are much more likely to open other emails from their utility customers, clicking on program promotions at a 16% higher rate than other customers.

Speak to customer needs with relevant messages

Customers don’t just prefer to receive personalized messages — it’s a basic expectation, thanks to companies like Netflix that have set the standard for digital engagement. To meet these expectations, your utility needs to identify and deliver relevant messages, and avoid wasting customers’ time with communications they aren’t interested in.

Customer interests can be identified in a variety of ways: content consumption on your website or eNewsletters, program participation, marketplace purchases or customer personas built using all of these characteristics and more. With this information, you can deliver relevant content and promotional messages that speak to their interests and address their motivations. In one example from Questline Digital performance metrics, an energy utility that segmented its business newsletter by industry saw content engagement increase by 84% for some segments!

Consistent outreach builds strong relationships

A digital customer relationship is much more than digital marketing or one-way communication. To be effective, your energy utility should use two-way channels to listen to customers and consistently provide relevant, personalized messages that speak to their interests. The result will be stronger relationships and long-lasting satisfaction to rival companies that truly excel at digital engagement.

Learn how Questline Digital’s approach to digital engagement builds long-term customer relationships for energy utilities.