Studies show that 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But you can’t improve your utility’s customer experience if you don’t understand it from your customers’ perspective. That’s where customer journey mapping comes in.

Journey mapping is critical for understanding and solving customer pain points. This becomes even more important as customer experiences shift with changing technologies and preferences. Customer journey mapping lays the groundwork for greater engagement and sets your utility up for success and long-term customer satisfaction.

To better uncover and solve customer pain points, your energy utility can benefit from using the right customer journey mapping software. Consider the following tips and tools to assess and improve the customer experience at your energy utility.

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

Customer journey maps are visual workflows that outline the step-by-step experience a customer has with your brand, service or product. The workflow typically includes steps from both the customer’s and company’s point of view, but focuses on the cumulative experiences across multiple touchpoints and channels over time.

Customer journey map examples provide clearly defined start and stop points for the experience you want to highlight, inclusive of customers’ actions, emotions and behaviors.

Companies that do not incorporate experience mapping risk facing an array of negative consequences. According to McKinsey, failing to appreciate customer journey mapping can include consequences like:

  • Customer defection
  • Dramatically higher call volumes
  • Lost sales
  • Lower employee morale

In contrast, there are many benefits to customer journey mapping, including:

  • Strategize and plan for utility resources
  • Identify and solve for customer pain points
  • Improve overall customer satisfaction
  • Enhance sales and retention
  • Reduce end-to-end service cost
  • Identify operational inefficiencies within the utility
  • Strengthen employee satisfaction

Delivering an exceptional customer journey experience makes it more likely that customers repeat a purchase, spend more, make a recommendation to their friends and stay updated with your utility.

Chart showing the impact customer journey mapping has on customer satisfaction

“Almost 90% of those using customer journey mapping said their program is delivering a positive impact, the most common one being an increase in customer satisfaction,” according to Mike Weir, Chief Revenue Office at G2. “Lower churn, fewer customer complaints, and higher NPS [net promoter scores] were also among the top impacts.”

How Do You Create a Customer Journey Map?

Follow these steps when preparing to develop a journey map:

  • Identify the experiences you want to analyze
  • Identify the users in the experience
  • Cluster your users into distinct groups
  • Interview users from your groups to get direct input
  • Map out the steps, including actions, mediums, emotions and behaviors

It helps to start with your goals and ask yourself, “Whose journey am I mapping?” From there, you can create a customer persona and capture the highlights of the journey in easy-to-understand stages. Remember, you want to make the customer journey map actionable.

Customer Journey Mapping Software and Tools

There are so many utility customer journey mapping tools available that it can be overwhelming to choose which one to use. We’ve compiled a list of some of the top platforms to make it easy for you to decide.

“When choosing a software, it depends on how robust you want the journey map to be, and then how visually appealing you want it,” says Zach Hardison, Questline Digital’s Vice President of Solutions Innovation. “Make sure the software meets your needs and accomplishes your journey mapping goals. And don’t overcomplicate it — sometimes simple is better if creates an easy-to-understand and actionable process. Every customer experience is different — choose a software that fits with the experience that you’re mapping out.”

When choosing customer journey map software, consider:

  • Easy design functionality
  • Quick and simple editing
  • Sharing capabilities
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Integration with data

Five Tools to Create Your Customer Journey Map

1. Mural: A whiteboard tool with pre-built templates, capabilities for real-time collaboration and easy-to-use models for common cases and proven methods.

  • Price: Various subscriber options ranging from free to $18 per user per month depending on your needs.
Customer journey map example from Mural software

2. LucidChart: Simple cut-and-paste capabilities that allow teams to clarify complicated processes. This software is used by many Fortune 100 companies, including HP and NBC.

  • Price: Plans ranging from free to $13.50 per user per month.
Customer journey map example from Lucid Chart software

3. Microsoft Visio: Another simplified shapes tool, this flowchart and diagramming software provides premade templates, starter diagrams and stencils. It also allows for real-time collaboration and features integration with Microsoft for easy sharing.

  • Price: Free trial version, with paid options ranging from $5 to $15 per user per month.
Customer journey map example from Microsoft Visio software

4. InDesign: Adobe is well known for its robust suite of design tools. There is a learning curve if you’ve never used Adobe products before, but the capabilities allow you to create beautiful designs.

  • Price: $34 per user per month, or $80 per month for all of Adobe Creative Cloud apps.
Customer journey map example from Adobe InDesign software

5. SuiteCX: A good mix of features and design elements for those who are seeking robust capabilities without a steep learning curve. It also provides a built-in journey mapping analytics platform to track your progress.

  • Price: Based on company size, ranging from $2,000 per month to $20,000 annually.
Customer journey map example from SuiteCX software

Integrate Customer Journey Mapping into Your Strategy

Customer journey mapping is a process that gives your utility the opportunity to create better, more seamless customer experiences that boost engagement and satisfaction. Take advantage of our insights into customer journey map software to build the foundation for a successful journey mapping process.

Remember: No process is perfect. It’s important to keep this in mind and take a step back before jumping into journey mapping. Your goal is to create the best experience you can, considering that as technology and customer preferences shift, the processes will continuously evolve.

As Annette Franz, CEO of CX Journey said, “Journey mapping is a creative process that allows you to understand — and then redesign — the customer experience. The output is not just a ‘pretty picture;’ once the map is developed, it is meant to be a catalyst for change.”

Learn how Questline Digital can help your utility kick off a customer journey mapping strategy to build engagement and customer satisfaction.

To keep customers engaged in between billing notices and program promotions, energy utilities should have a consistent touchpoint like a monthly utility newsletter. This ongoing communication is popular across audiences, from residential customers to small business owners to C&I facility managers.

According to Questline Digital’s 2020 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, utility newsletter readers are much more engaged with their energy utility’s program promotions. In fact, residential eNewsletter readers open promotional emails at a 37% higher rate. Small and medium business eNewsletter readers click on promotional emails at a 73% higher rate.

To gain more insights, we spoke with Brian Lindamood, Questline Digital’s VP of Marketing & Content Strategy, about the power of eNewsletters and why they are essential for energy utilities.  

Why are utility newsletters a vital customer engagement tool?

A monthly email newsletter is a critical part of a customer engagement strategy for any energy utility. They provide a regular touchpoint — a monthly reminder that the utility is working to improve customers’ lives — which is key to maintaining customer satisfaction over the long run. As part of a comprehensive content strategy, eNewsletters can reinforce messages shared on social media and drive traffic to relevant pages on a utility’s website. This creates a consistent customer experience across digital channels.

eNewsletters are also a more personal connection than other channels. When you reach inboxes on a smartphone — and more than 60% of utility newsletters are read on mobile devices — your message is going literally into customers’ hands. Plus, email is the most flexible channel. By segmenting your eNewsletter audience, you can deliver extremely relevant, targeted content that you know customers will be interested in.  

How do eNewsletters build engagement with customers versus a one-time email?

Utility newsletters are a consistent, reliable touchpoint between an energy provider and its customers. This is a chance for utilities to be part of customers’ lives on a regular basis by answering their questions, providing helpful advice and sharing interesting information.

Ultimately, this ongoing engagement builds trust and helps customers see their utility as a helpful resource. You simply cannot build that kind of relationship with a one-time email.  

What is the recommended utility newsletter cadence for maximum engagement?

We recommend a monthly schedule for utility newsletters. Our performance metrics have shown that this is “just right” — not too often, but not so infrequent that you lose the benefit of regular contact.

An eNewsletter builds engagement in part because of its regular cadence. Customers know to expect interesting content and useful advice from their utility, and they get in the habit of looking for it every month. In our experience, a bimonthly or quarterly newsletter schedule loses that benefit and delivers lower engagement. (See comparison chart below.)

Why do customers often see more value in eNewsletters compared to other types of campaigns, such as program promotions?

Advertisements are easy for customers to tune out. An unwanted promotional email is easy to delete. On the other hand, customers open eNewsletters because they want to read them — they look forward to receiving useful advice. Customers value their utility newsletters because the content interests them; it’s not just trying to sell them something.

What types of content should be included in a utility newsletter?

The best content helps improve customers’ lives. It may be energy efficiency advice that helps a customer save money, do-it-yourself tips that make a customer’s home more comfortable or educational content that helps a customer improve their energy use.

In terms of format, we recommend using a mix of text articles, videos, infographics and interactive games and quizzes. Some topics lend themselves to different formats better than others — say, because of the complexity or visual nature of the information. But more important, customers want to engage with content in a variety of ways. Sometimes they want to learn about energy through a fun quiz or watch an entertaining video. Other times, they need the visual detail of an infographic that breaks down a complicated topic.

Why is audience segmentation a valuable strategy for eNewsletters?

The goal of any content strategy is to build a long-term relationship with customers by providing content that is interesting and useful to them. Of course, not every customer is interested in the same things. If you can identify those differences, and provide specific content that meets those interests, you are more likely to increase engagement and build a strong connection with those customers.

A simple example, and one we recommend, is to create residential segments for homeowners and renters. Homeowners will be looking for energy efficiency advice that includes more elaborate renovation projects — such as insulation or HVAC replacement — where renters are more interested in efficiency measures that don’t require a large investment, like using LED lightbulbs or smart power strips.

To engage business customers, we recommend creating industry-based segments. For example, a retail shop, manufacturing plant and healthcare facility have wildly different energy needs. Through a segmented eNewsletter, we can deliver specific content to each industry. This is not only more useful to the customer, but it increases engagement and ultimately improves customer satisfaction.

A Look Back: Quarterly vs. Monthly Utility Newsletters

Since a majority of our utility partners now deploy monthly eNewsletters, 2017 is the most recent year we have metrics on monthly versus quarterly sends. In our Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, we looked at the average performance metrics across business audiences.

Based on this data, energy provuders were able to increase reach by 17 percentage points when sending utility newsletters monthly instead of quarterly.

Chart showing the performance of quarterly newsletters and monthly newsletters

Monthly newsletters perform better than quarterly newsletters across all categories. We continue to see that when communications become less frequent, customer engagement suffers.

Learn how Questline Digital’s utility newsletters can build engagement with your customers.

More than 81% of Americans own a smartphone, yet many consumers still receive their utility bill through snail mail. For energy utility marketers, encouraging customers to go paperless is no easy task. Customers are accustomed to receiving paper bills — and old habits can be hard to break.

Useful Tips for Encouraging Customers to Go Paperless

According to a Utilities & Telecom Consumer Payments Insight Report, while 66% of customers receive bills by mail, only 48% prefer to receive them this way. This report also finds that 45% of customers prefer to pay via an online/digital payment service. In other words, customers might be used to paying their bills with checks and stamps, but they are open to more convenient options.

The first step to encouraging customers to go paperless is acknowledging the barriers that hold them back. Once you accomplish this, then your energy utility can find the e-Bill benefits that would provide a positive impact on their daily lives. Through our work with energy utility companies across the country, we have found these five effective strategies for increasing e-Bill conversions.

1. Debunk paperless billing security concerns

For some customers, particularly older generations, a major concern about paperless billing is payment security. They are worried that their personal information could fall victim to scammers online. To encourage customers to go paperless, reinforce the safety of paperless billing and how it is often more secure than dropping a check in the mail.

The reality is paper statements are not free of fraud risk. Mail can be delivered to the incorrect address or intercepted into the wrong hands. Be sure to highlight the steps your energy utility takes to ensure customers’ personal information is protected.

2. Highlight payment reminders and other useful features

For many customers, paper bills are helpful reminders to ensure they pay their bill on time. Without a paper bill showing up in the mail each month, customers fear missing a payment. Encourage customers to go paperless by highlighting the convenience of email and text reminders.

Unlike paper statements, customers don’t have to be at home to receive them. In fact, they can be on a beach vacation and receive a text reminder that their bill is due. With alerts sent straight to a customer’s smartphone, paperless billing actually provides more effective reminders than old-fashioned paper bills.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with payment reminder

It behooves energy utilities to promote the other useful features, including easy access to current and past bills in My Account. Nowadays, everyone is looking for ways to reduce paper clutter and simplify their lives. Your customers will appreciate this convenient option for keeping track of their bills. Instead of storing paper bills in a filing cabinet or desk drawer, electronic statements are available in My Account for safe recordkeeping. You can encourage customers to go paperless by promoting these useful, yet lesser known, benefits of ebill.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless by saving time

3. Showcase the convenience of ebilling

With our on-the-go schedules, everyone is looking for less stress and more convenience. One of the most popular benefits of paperless billing is the flexibility of “anytime, anywhere” online bill access.

Instead of waiting for a paper bill in the mail, customers can view their bill while waiting in line at a coffee shop or taking their dog for a walk. Emphasize the convenience factor in your email campaigns to encourage customers to go paperless, including the ability to view and pay their bill from any location.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with convenience

4. Make enrollment easy and quick

One of the biggest barriers to paperless billing adoption is a complicated enrollment process. Everyone is strapped for time in our 24/7 world — that’s why your utility needs to make ebill enrollment as streamlined as possible.

Even if customers are finally ready to make the switch, a long and complicated enrollment process can stop them in their tracks. To encourage customers to go paperless, we recommend creating a one-click enrollment on your website or mobile app. Also, be sure to highlight the ease of enrollment in your promotional campaigns. For example, use language such as “enroll in 30 seconds” or “you’re only one click away from e-Bill convenience.”

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with easy enrollment

5. Educate customers about the environmental impacts of ebilling

Environmental concerns are top of mind for residential and business customers alike. Your ebill promotions should remind customers that going paperless not only has benefits for them, but for the planet as well.

Paperless billing plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions. In fact, turning a tree into paper (17 reams to be exact) releases around 110 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Additionally, paper makes up around 23% of landfill waste. By showcasing the positive impact of ebill on the environment, your utility can go a long way to encourage customers to go paperless.

Keep in mind, not all customers are motivated by the environmental impact of ebill. In email campaigns, eco-friendly messaging should be subtle and mentioned along with other benefits like convenience or easy enrollment.

Example of email encouraging customers to go paperless with environmental message

Break Barriers and Increase Conversions

While it can be a challenge to encourage customers to go paperless, it’s not an impossible task. With the right messaging, your energy utility can help customers replace old habits with new ones.

Get more of your energy utility customers to sign up for paperless billing with a digital engagement strategy from Questline Digital.

Segmentation. What is it and why does it matter? Before we get there, let’s talk about movies.

Brian Lindamood, VP of Marketing & Content Strategy, shared this example to begin the conversation during Questline Digital’s webinar. “If we were to put up a poll asking all of us what our favorite movie is, I bet we would get 100 different answers. And that would be interesting, but not really that useful.”

However, if we instead polled 100 people on their favorite movie genres, we might end up with a response like so:

  • 10% romantic comedies
  • 10% dramas
  • 5% vampire movies  
  • 75% science fiction

By polling genres, Lindamood explains, “We can see the trends, we can see the meaning in this seemingly random group of 100 people. That’s what customer segmentation is. By identifying the interests of your customers, by identifying their motivation and then organizing them into groups or segments, we can act on that information.”

Who? What? Why?

By definition, segmentation is the process of dividing something into parts or segments. As it relates to energy utilities, segmentation is a best-practice solution to maximize the impact of program promotions, eNewsletters and other communications. By utilizing segmentation strategies, your energy utility focuses on sending relevant messages to targeted groups based on the motivations and interests of your customers.

During the webinar, we asked the audience to share their energy utility’s primary goal with segmentation. Responses showed that 36% wanted to increase customer engagement, followed by a tie of 24% to increase customer satisfaction and increase program conversions.

Luckily, segmentation can accomplish all of these goals. As Lindamood shared, segmentation can lead to:

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

More importantly, it also meets customer expectations. As tech giants Netflix, Amazon and Google continue to segment and personalize communications to their customers, these same customers begin expecting this from all of their brands, including their energy provider.

Lindamood reinforced that segmentation is not to be confused with personalization, although the two sometimes go hand-in-hand. Whereas segmentation sends different messages to specified groups, personalization sends a unique message to each individual customer.

Behavioral messages may also be part of a segmentation strategy but differ slightly. These are messages that are automatically triggered by customer actions. Behavioral emails allow you to identify what your customer is interested in and follow up with related information, such as providing relevant program information after a customer reads a related newsletter article.

For energy utilities, segmentation opportunities are boundless. A few campaigns to begin experimenting with a segmentation strategy include:

  • Paperless billing campaigns: Address the motivations of each segment and the benefits of switching to e-Bill
  • Energy utility marketplaces: Target users with specific items or offer related products
  • Welcome Series: Segment communications by residential, business or new and moving customers
  • eNewsletters: Residential newsletters based on interests like EV or smart homes; business newsletters segmented by industry

Artificial Intelligence-Driven Personas

Alison Alvarez, CEO & Cofounder of BlastPoint, joined the conversation to share advanced tactics in creating a segmentation strategy, including using AI-driven personas. These predictive models learn from past behavior and anticipate what’s going to happen in the future, helping utilities to better engage with their customers.

“The whole idea of AI-driven personas is to take advantage of the data that you have and find new sources of value in them and make them work smarter, not harder,” Alvarez says. “You can engage with your customers as they grow and change throughout their lifetime.” A key point in Alvarez’s discussion was that you don’t need perfect data to get started. AI helps to simplify the data you have and identify trends you otherwise may be missing.

When it comes to segmentation, she was also clear in sharing that segmentation can be as broad as your entire customer base or as narrow as groups that are best fit for a particular product, service or program.

To create and utilize data-driven personas, Alvarez shared BlastPoint’s process:

  1. Establish goals: What does your energy utility need to accomplish? What benchmarks do you want to surpass?
  2. Unlock the power of data: AI-driven analysis to discover what data can be unlocked to reach your specific customers.
  3. Meet your personas: Utilize custom reports to meet and understand your audience personas.  
  4. Supercharge your initiatives: Learn how to best utilize the data and personas across your organization, whether with marketing, sales or product operations teams.
  5. Win big: Understand the journey your customers are on and be ready to talk to them where they are in their journey. In turn, you’ll boost engagement and optimize the use of your data.
  6. Refresh and repeat: Never stop learning and continue engaging customers effectively as their circumstances change.

Segmentation Builds Customer Relationships

Segmentation allows your energy utility to develop a long-lasting personal relationship with customers. “You’re not just going to talk to them one time. You’re not just going to have one touchpoint,” Alvarez says. “If you’re really successful at what you’re doing, you’re going to have a relationship with customers and they are going to come back to you continuously. It’s about taking every point of contact with that customer and making it the best point of contact.”

Segmentation doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may sound. With the right technology, tools and experts, your energy utility can create a segmentation strategy to reach and engage with customers from every audience.

Reach the right customers with the right content with a segmentation strategy from Questline Digital.

For energy utilities, eNewsletters are a vital tool to connect with hard-to-reach business customers. Whether you’re trying to reach large commercial and industrial (C&I) customers or small business owners on Main Street, eNewsletters are a consistent source of valuable information and a regular touchpoint in the digital customer relationship. But what type of eNewsletter content resonates most with business customers?

Read on to learn what topics are trending and learn simple strategies to maximize engagement with this important audience.

What eNewsletter Content Do Business Customers Want?

Businesses in your energy utility’s service territory have varying needs. For example, a hospital has very different energy needs than a manufacturing facility. The size of a business also has an impact on their familiarity and comfort level with energy efficiency. A large corporation likely has an energy manager on staff, but a small business with 50 or fewer employees may not.

The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all business customer — that’s why segmentation is an important strategy to reach different industries or types of businesses.

Segmentation is a best-practice solution to maximize the impact of your eNewsletters. Your energy utility can achieve greater customer engagement by tailoring content based on a particular audience’s needs and interests. For example, segment your eNewsletters based on the size of the business (such as C&I customers) or create eNewsletters focused around the top industries in your region.

Industry-Segmented eNewsletters Reach More Business Customers

AEP Ohio, an energy utility that serves 1.5 million customers in the state, experienced a dramatic increase in customer engagement with a segmented eNewsletter strategy. The energy utility partnered with Questline Digital to segment their business eNewsletter by multiple industries, including healthcare, education and manufacturing.

Each eNewsletter features industry-specific educational content, such as HVAC considerations, workplace safety, seasonal efficiency, electrification and building comfort. Compared to the non-segmented eNewsletter, the industry-specific eNewsletters achieved outstanding customer engagement (based on click-through rate).

  • 84% higher engagement for the healthcare segment
  • 54% higher engagement for the education segment
  • 43% higher engagement for the manufacturing segment

Trending eNewsletter Topics for Utility Business Customers

Once you’ve segmented your eNewsletter, the next step is deciding what topics to share with each group of business customers. These are some of the trending topics we’re seeing in energy utility eNewsletters in 2021:

1. Simple ways to save energy

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are looking for easy ways to save energy and improve their bottom line. In the past year, the top business content centered around simple energy-saving upgrades, how to save energy during business downtime, LED lighting upgrades and other quick fixes. The infographic “Low-Hanging Fruit: 5 Simple Energy-Saving Upgrades” was a popular piece in this category.

Example of enewsletter content for business customers about energy efficiency

Your SMB business customers are looking for simple solutions they can do themselves to improve energy efficiency, such as installing occupancy sensors, smart plugs or unplugging unnecessary “energy-guzzling” equipment. Larger business customers may be interested in upgrading their HVAC system or installing LED lighting throughout their facility (or multiple facilities). However, these projects are a major investment. Your eNewsletter content should focus on the benefits of these upgrades, such as long-term financial gain, a healthier work environment and more productive employees.

2. Renewable energy

Large corporations like Amazon, Starbucks and Walmart are making headlines for their commitment to renewable energy, reduced carbon emissions and other sustainability initiatives. Your business customers are also looking for opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint without breaking the bank. An article like “Solar Energy Can Power Savings at Your Facility” is an effective introduction to the topic.

Example of enewsletter content for business customers about solar energy

To help business customers invest in renewables, consider content that explores their renewable energy options. Popular topics for business customers include renewable energy credits, solar power, wind energy, geothermal systems and energy storage. Consider sharing news about your energy utility’s renewable energy offerings and initiatives, such as a new solar farm in operation or available renewable energy tariffs for easier access to clean power.

3. Smart technology

Your residential customers aren’t the only ones interested in smart technology. Business customers want to know about the latest technology available to them and how these gadgets can help them increase energy efficiency. Many business customers simply don’t understand the impact of smart technology when it comes to saving money and improving productivity. Questline Digital’s popular video “5 Ways to Save With Smart Technology” is a quick and engaging overview of the topic for business customers.

Example of enewsletter content for business customers about smart technology

We recommend sharing content about the advantages of smart thermostats to automate energy use in an office environment or the benefits of connected security cameras, smart locks and alarm systems to keep customers’ facilities safe. In addition to smart technology, keep your customers informed on hot topics in the industry like beneficial electrification, demand response and smart grid technology.

4. Electric vehicles and equipment

Both large and small business customers are thinking about electrifying their fleets and warehouse equipment. The benefits abound, from less maintenance to reduced noise levels. To meet the demand of employees and customers who are investing in electric vehicles, many companies are considering installing EV chargers at their facilities. Not only does an investment in electric vehicles and equipment save money long-term, but it also shows that your company is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. An infographic like “Electric Vehicle Charging at Businesses” is effective at illustrating these benefits and providing lots of information in a quick, digestible format.

Example of enewsletter content for business customers about electric vehicles

We recommend sharing educational, action-oriented EV content to help businesses in their decision-making process. For example, why should they consider EV workplace charging? What are the benefits of converting to electric warehouse equipment? Is an electric fleet the right fit for their business? Your business customers rely on your energy utility’s advice and resources to help them make the right decision.

Build Engagement With Business Customers Through eNewsletter Content

To maximize eNewsletter engagement, utilize segmentation strategies and share topics that will help businesses improve their operations. With the right content, your energy utility can help your business customers make smart investments in energy efficiency.

With Questline Digital’s eNewsletters for Business Customers, you can build more effective digital relationships and maintain long-term satisfaction.