It can be hard to believe that there are still customers left to enroll in paperless billing. After all, with the tremendous growth of electronic billing, automatic payments, mobile apps and digital currency, most customers now prefer a paperless way of paying utilities.

However, some customers remain reluctant to adopt paperless utility bills. Habits can be hard to break — and many customers are accustomed to receiving a paper bill in the mail. Energy utilities are faced with the challenge of converting resistant customers who may not realize the many benefits of going paperless.

“When I think of who is left to enroll in paperless billing, two categories of customers come to mind,” says Melissa Thom, Brand Engagement Lead at Idaho Power. “One group is those who don’t regularly engage with us and haven’t considered whether we have a paperless option or not. The other group is older generations who have a set routine for paying their bills, and that usually involves paper.”

For utilities, developing a plan of action to encourage these customers to enroll in e-billing programs and finally go paperless can make all the difference.

Prioritize Proactive Outreach to Utility Customers

The latest research finds that customers spend only eight minutes per year interacting online with their utility, and only six minutes per year thinking about their energy bill. According to Thom, encouraging a paperless way of paying utilities starts with proactive outreach and ongoing digital communications.

“If customers are not thinking about Idaho Power, they’re also not actively looking at ways to enroll in our programs,” Thom says. “That’s why we do proactive outreach on programs like paperless billing, auto pay and budget pay for customers who haven’t needed to think about us in a while.”

To boost program enrollments, Idaho Power recently revamped its My Account portal. When customers log in, they now see a list of programs with either a red “X” or green check mark by each one. This indicates whether or not they have enrolled in the programs.

“On a behavioral level, we think customers will want to see all green check marks, pushing them to enroll in paperless billing and other programs,” Thom explains. “This also makes the enrollment process much easier since they are already logged into their account.”

Example of animated gif from a popup ad promoting paperless way of paying utilities

My Account pop-up ads are another marketing tactic that has been effective for Idaho Power. The pop-up ads highlight the benefits of paperless utility bills, including more convenience and greater security. When customers click on an ad, it will take them directly to the paperless billing enrollment page.

Educate Customers on the Benefits of Paperless Utility Bills

It’s important to explain the benefits of e-billing, including faster payments, easier access to online payment options, and reducing clutter in customers’ homes. These benefits should be presented clearly and concisely in email campaigns, website landing pages and other communications.

One of the biggest benefits of paperless utility bills is the ability to pay anytime and anywhere. An e-bill marketing campaign from a Pennsylvania-based energy utility focused on how e-bill was a must-have for summertime. Customers have the opportunity to pay their bill “from across the nation to around the world.”

Example of email promoting paperless way of paying utilities with benefits

Feedback from customers who have resisted a paperless way of paying utilities can also be useful. Utility marketers should identify the common objections or concerns customers have about paperless billing and address them in future marketing campaigns.

For example, many customers have concerns about the security and privacy of their personal information when making digital payments. Ease customer concerns by emphasizing how they can access their bills through secure portals, reducing the risk of personal information being compromised in the mail. In addition, encryption technology adds extra security measures to protect customer information.

Discover the Impact of e-Bill Incentives

Offering incentives can be the push that resistant customers need to make the switch. This might include discounts on monthly bills, cash back or small rewards like $5 Amazon gift cards.

There is no one-size-fits-all incentive that works across all utilities. For example, in a city with a large percentage of sports fans, customers may be motivated by the offer of tickets to the big game. Cities with a focus on the great outdoors may be motivated by environmentally minded giveaways like energy-efficient appliances.

PSEG Long Island took advantage of various incentives to encourage a paperless way of paying utilities, including a chance for 10 winners to receive $1,000 each. The utility also tried smaller incentives like free LED light bulbs.

Example of email promoting paperless way of paying utilities with incentive

Through testing of numerous incentives, PSEG Long Island identified what worked best for their target audience and successfully increased paperless billing enrollment by 51,000 customers. The energy utility discovered that tangible, guaranteed incentives drove greater engagement.

Idaho Power utilized a sweepstakes to encourage customers to enroll in paperless utility bills. Customers who enrolled in paperless billing were automatically entered into a drawing to win an iPad Mini. According to Thom, it made sense to offer a digital prize for a campaign encouraging customers to switch from paper to digital bills.

Example of animated gif promoting paperless utility bills enrollment incentive

During the sweepstakes, 38,000 customers logged into My Account and were shown the pop-up ad. With a click-through rate of 3%, around 1,100 customers clicked through to the paperless billing enrollment page.

Make the Paperless Enrollment Process Easy

Oftentimes, a complicated enrollment process is the main barrier preventing customers from signing up for paperless utility bills. Providing simple and straightforward instructions can go a long way in encouraging customers to switch.

Make enrollment easy by reducing the number of steps needed and providing multiple ways to enroll, including online, through the utility mobile app and via text message. The more clicks involved in enrollment, the more likely customers will navigate away from the page out of frustration.

A fast enrollment process was the focus of this email from a large Northeast energy utility. With just a few clicks, customers could go paperless in seconds.

Example of email promoting paperless way of paying utilities with simple enrollment

Utilities should also provide paperless sign-up directly through their mobile app. Customers who download the app are more likely to be tech-savvy and prefer a paperless way of paying utilities. This is also an ideal channel to promote the benefits of paperless billing.

“We promote a lot of programs together, like paperless billing, auto pay and the mobile app, because we think if customers enroll in one, they are likely to enroll in another,” Thom says. “If they’re engaged in My Account or the mobile app, it’s much more convenient for them to enroll in paperless billing.”

Reach the Next Generation with e-Bill Promotions

Every day, younger generations are becoming the next wave of utility customers. While Gen Z are more likely to show interest in paperless utility bills, they aren’t keen on paying with traditional methods like debit cards and online banking.

Gen Z customers prefer paying with new money management tools like apps and digital wallets. Research also finds that less than 50% of Gen Z customers have traditional bank accounts. In the coming years, energy utilities will need to think about how paperless billing will evolve to meet Gen Z’s preferences.

Idaho Power will soon be expanding its payment options, as a growing number of customers prefer paying with mobile payment services like Apple Pay.

“We will soon have more digital payment options, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in the very near future,” Thom says. “If a customer loves using Google Pay anywhere they go, they should be able to pay their energy bill in the same way. We have to constantly be thinking about the preferences of younger generations.”

Reach Remaining Customers with Paperless Ways of Paying Utilities

For energy utilities, there will always be customers to enroll in paperless utility bills, whether brand-new customers or those finally ready to make a change. According to one study, three in four adults across all ages would likely switch at least one bill to paperless. In fact, 87% of millennials were likely to pay at least one bill digitally.

“I look at paperless billing two-fold,” Thom says. “If most of our customers know that it’s an option for them, I’m happy. I’m never going to force any customers into the program. I just want them to know their options — that’s the awareness side of marketing paperless billing. Then there’s the conversion side — sometimes all customers need is an extra little push to make the switch.”

Enroll more customers to receive paperless utility bills with Questline Digital’s proven marketing solutions.

Staying connected with energy utility customers is more important than ever. Utility marketers are constantly looking for effective ways to engage with their audience and deliver timely information about programs, services and energy-saving tips — all while cutting through the digital clutter that make it hard to attract customers’ attention.

Two popular marketing channels have emerged as top contenders in this space: SMS (Short Message Service) marketing vs. email marketing. While both channels share an ability to connect with customers efficiently, they differ in terms of reach, immediacy and user preferences.

Chart comparing the differences between sms marketing vs email marketing

The Differences Between SMS Marketing vs. Email Marketing

It’s essential for utilities to employ effective marketing strategies to reach their target audiences. While SMS marketing vs. email marketing have their own strengths and weaknesses, which one is more effective for utilities?

SMS marketing involves sending promotional messages directly to customers’ mobile phones. Research shows that the average SMS marketing campaign has a high open rate of 98%, making it an effective way to grab people’s attention quickly. Additionally, we know that 95% of text messages are read and responded to within three minutes of being received. SMS messages can also be tailored to specific audiences, allowing utilities to send personalized messages that are more likely to convert.

On the other hand, email marketing involves sending promotional emails directly to customers’ inboxes. It has a lower average open rate than SMS at only 20%, but offers more customization options such as dynamic information about customers, images and videos. Your utility is also more likely to have a greater number of customer emails than phone numbers.

When comparing SMS marketing vs. email marketing, it’s important to consider:

  • Customer preferences
  • Campaign data
  • Communication circumstances

Customer preferences

While the 98% open rate achieved by SMS marketing is impressive, it doesn’t tell a full story. In fact, according to Statista, between 2020 and 2021 almost 50% of survey respondents preferred receiving business communications through email, while only 25% of respondents preferred SMS.

When compared to email, one study says that 2023 will be the year we reach 4.37 billion email users worldwide — more than half of the global population. In 2023 alone, the number of emails sent and received is 347 billion, and that number is expected to reach 393 billion by 2026.

All of this data makes one thing clear: customer preferences are fluid.

There will always be customers who prefer email over SMS and vice versa. Choosing to use just one of these communication mediums isn’t recommended. Your customers want the option to choose which is best for them. 

Campaign data

SMS marketing campaigns and email marketing campaigns differ in the types of performance metrics that are available for evaluation.

SMS marketing campaigns typically yield information such as delivery rates, open rates, click-through rates (if using short links) and opt-out rates. Additionally, utilities can track the time it takes for customers to open and engage with messages, enabling them to optimize future campaigns based on user behavior patterns.

However, due to the character limitations of SMS messages and the absence of visual elements, the data collected through this channel may be less comprehensive compared to email marketing. Still, the high open rates and immediacy of SMS marketing make it an effective tool for utilities to communicate time-sensitive information and gauge customer responsiveness.

On the other hand, email marketing offers utilities a more extensive range of data points to analyze, thanks to its versatile format and richer content options. Besides open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates, email marketing allows utilities to track user engagement with specific elements within the email, such as images, videos and call-to-action buttons. This granular data helps utilities better understand their audience’s interests and preferences, allowing for more targeted and personalized communication.

Additionally, utilities can gather demographic information through email sign-up forms, enabling them to segment their audience and tailor content accordingly. While email marketing may not boast the immediacy of SMS, its ability to collect in-depth engagement data makes it an invaluable tool for fostering long-term customer relationships.

Communication circumstances

One element that you must consider in the SMS marketing vs. email marketing conversation is their different use cases. For example, email marketing can provide more personalization and creativity in its messages, connecting with customers not only through written text, but with design, too.

SMS marketing campaigns, on the other hand, focus on brevity and immediate impact. You must tell a customer exactly what they need to know in a matter of a few characters, using only text and short links.

When considering which circumstances to use SMS marketing vs. email marketing, one thing is important to maintain across both sectors: ask for permission.

Your utility wants to communicate essential information to customers, not annoy them. Therefore, it’s important to ask for permission from your customers before messaging them, especially when it comes to SMS marketing. Text messages are considered more personal, and sometimes more invasive, than emails, so getting permission is critical.

In fact, it’s not just a best practice — it’s the law. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is the federal legislation that governs telemarketing, text messaging and the Do-Not-Call List. One of the rules of this legislation is that companies must receive prior written consent ahead of contacting customers with commercial or marketing offers.

Other elements to consider between SMS marketing vs. email marketing include:

  • Timing: Maintain a regular cadence with email marketing so customers know when they can expect communications from you. But only send SMS messages to customers on a limited basis — they don’t want to hear from you every day.
  • Content length: Share long-form content and messages via email. With SMS, brevity is critical; only send brief updates about programs or services.
  • Personalization: Input dynamic customer data into emails to deliver a truly personalized message. Realize that texts come across more personal no matter what, as they are in a more intimate setting.
  • Content types: Share general updates about programs or marketplace products via email. But share time-sensitive offers and updates via text, such as an exclusive coupon on an electric vehicle charger or a last-minute chance to register for an e-bill giveaway.
Example of mobile solutions text alerts for energy utility

Which Communications Channel is Best for Utility Customers?

While it’s great to understand the differences between SMS marketing vs. email marketing, it’s important to understand which ones are right for your utility and, more importantly, your utility’s customers.

SMS marketing campaign use cases:

  1. Outage notifications: SMS marketing campaigns are ideal for sending real-time power outage alerts, ensuring customers receive crucial information promptly, even when they don’t have internet access.
  2. Billing reminders: Utilities can send timely SMS reminders for upcoming bill payments, helping customers avoid late fees and keep track of their monthly payments.
  3. Emergency alerts: In case of urgent situations, such as gas leaks or severe weather warnings, SMS messages can quickly inform customers about the issue and any necessary actions to take.
  4. Energy-saving tips: Short, actionable tips can be sent via SMS to encourage customers to reduce their energy consumption, especially timely messages during seasonal high-bill situations.

Email marketing campaign use cases:

  1. Newsletters: Email marketing is perfect for distributing utility newsletters that contain detailed information about new programs, services, industry updates and energy-saving initiatives.
  2. Personalized recommendations: Based on customer data, utilities can send personalized emails suggesting relevant energy efficiency programs, rebate offers, or home improvement tips tailored to individual needs.
  3. Educational content: Utilities can leverage email marketing to share in-depth educational resources, such as energy efficiency advice, infographics and videos, helping customers make informed decisions about their energy usage.

BONUS: Customer surveys and feedback. Both SMS and email are effective channels for inviting customers to participate in surveys or provide feedback on your utility’s services to gather insights for continuous improvement. The type of service provided and the length of the survey will be deciding factors in which channel your utility should use to promote surveys.

When to Use Both SMS Marketing and Email Marketing

Although the impending death of email has been predicted for decades, and text messaging was once seen as an ephemeral chat tool for teens, the truth is that these two marketing capabilities are valuable and dependable ways to connect with customers. The best marketing strategy isn’t comparing SMS marketing vs. email marketing and picking one or the other, but rather determining how to best combine both marketing channels to improve customer communications.

Incorporating both an SMS marketing and email marketing strategy is critical to connecting with all customers. In doing so, your utility will maximize its ability to communicate about programs and services on the platforms that customers prefer.

Learn more about how Questline Digital can help your utility develop an engagement strategy to connect with customers on all channels.

Maintaining energy customer satisfaction is a top priority for energy utilities nationwide. As energy prices continue to rise and inflation affects prices across industries, customer satisfaction is taking a hit.

According to J.D. Power’s 2022 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, overall residential electric utility satisfaction is down as customers experience higher monthly bills and struggle financially. “Utilities need to be sensitive to the financial challenges that some customers are experiencing,” John Hazen, Managing Director of Utility Intelligence at J.D. Power, said in a recent press release.

Additionally, service reliability and lack of transparent communications are impacting residential energy customer satisfaction.

6 Ways to Raise Energy Customer Satisfaction

Despite the challenges that utilities face, there are several strategies for achieving high energy customer satisfaction. Utilities ranked highest in their respective regions share their tips and tactics, including:

  • Focus on the customer experience
  • Communicate proactively and consistently
  • Offer convenient services and programs
  • Provide energy efficiency tips and energy savings advice
  • Educate and empower customers
  • Champion and encourage employees

Focus on the customer experience

For Louisville Gas & Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company (LG&E and KU), high residential customer satisfaction stems from a mission to provide safe, reliable service at a reasonable cost, communicate with customers and focus on the customer experience.

“It has to be across the entire company. Everyone has a responsibility, whether it’s on or off the job, they’re representing our brand,” says Debbie Leist, Director of Customer Services and Marketing at LG&E and KU. “It’s a huge initiative for us. We need to make sure we’re addressing the evolving needs and expectations of our customers because they’re constantly changing.”

The customer experience includes every touchpoint the customer has with their utility, including payments, outage alerts, energy efficiency and more. Energy customer satisfaction also comes from understanding customers’ needs, interests and preferences.

“Cost and reliability are customers’ greatest concerns,” says Leist. “Reliability is very important, especially on the residential side with more customers working from home. There’s greater awareness from customers, even with brief interruptions or outages.”

For PSE&G, the utility has dedicated teams focused on specific customer experience categories, such as corporate citizenship or billing and payment, that influence perception, explains Cynthia Foose, Manager of Customer Assessment at PSE&G.

“We have subject matter experts within those areas to understand what we’re currently doing and where there are gaps in customer experience that we can improve upon, whether it’s with a process, technology or people,” says Foose.

An important part of corporate citizenship is supporting the utility’s local communities. PSE&G encourages employees to volunteer and regularly communicates the importance of doing so.

Additionally, PSE&G develops customer journey maps to look at its processes from customers’ perspectives. “We’ve been doing journey mapping for a few years,” says Foose. “We get a lot of learnings from it. It’s not a process map, it’s really going through the customer experience, from the customer’s point of view, and looking at things differently.”

Communicate proactively and consistently

As the energy industry continues to change, it’s important to keep customers in the know. This starts with proactive communication and consistent touchpoints.

In a world of quick Google searches and hyper-personalization, keeping up with changing customer expectations can be a challenge. “We’re a utility, but we’re not being compared to other utilities, we’re being compared to Amazon and other retailers that are quicker to market or more agile,” says Foose. “We have to be just as nimble and provide similar experiences that our customers have come to expect.”

PSE&G leverages a variety of messaging formats to communicate with customers and impact energy customer satisfaction, including newsletters and email campaigns. “We find email has a very strong recall, but we also do bill inserts, bill messages, social media and website updates,” says Foose.

Whether it’s an outage, gas emergency, billing updates, or self-service technology enhancements, PSE&G believes communicating to customers in a way that will resonate with them is critical. The utility sends messages in various channels and reviews the metrics of each to help its internal team understand where they need to make tweaks in the communication — both in messaging and in the delivery channel.

Leist says there’s been a large focus in recent years on educating customers about economic development and what LG&E and KU are doing to make service more reliable. The utilities also regularly communicate with customers about:

  • Safety
  • What to do in the event of an emergency
  • How to contact LG&E and KU
  • Programs and services that are available
  • Payment options
  • Self-service opportunities
  • AMI awareness and preparation

“Communication is important,” says Leist. “We take what we call a surround-sound approach to that, in meeting customers on platforms that they use most, so we don’t just rely on one way to communicate to our customers.”

LG&E and KU communicate to customers via social media, the utility corporate website, a monthly newsletter, bill inserts, email and direct mail. Additionally, when there is important information that will affect a lot of customers, LG&E and KU reaches out to community leaders to make them aware and act as advocates in sharing the information.

“Communication is critical for us,” says Leist. “We have a lot going on at any given time, so we try really hard to keep customers informed of everything that is happening.”

Offer convenient services and programs

No one likes jumping through hoops to find an answer to a simple question. Customers expect to easily find relevant information or interact with their utility in their preferred channels.

“Convenience is important,” says Leist. “When we say convenience, we’re talking about offering a variety of options to customers — not everyone likes to pay or interact with us in the same way. It’s important that we can meet customers where they want to be met and we offer a variety of technology and tools to give them the flexibility to do that.”

One way LG&E and KU offer convenience is through a mobile app that the utility implemented in 2021. It allows customers to make payments, track their energy usage, report and track outages and more. The utility’s app currently has more than 450,000 downloads, 13,000 ratings and a 4.8-star rating in the App store. Additionally, it has 3,350 ratings and a 4.7-star rating in the Google Play store.

“In a single calendar year, our customers conducted 5.4 million transactions on the app alone,” says Leist. LG&E and KU offer other self-service options through their automated phone system and My Account portal as well.

Screenshot example of LG&E and KU utility mobile app to improve energy customer satisfaction

“We realize that the digital experience is the key to being better in a lot of ways. There really has been a focus in the past six years on improving the digital experience with our customers,” says Leist. “We continue year after year to see increases in the use of our self-service channels. While you can’t do everything self-service, we try really hard to have the basic, simple functions be available via self-serve.”

PSE&G offers three digital self-serve options to customers, including My Alerts, an opt-in text notifications program, mobile app and My Account web portal. Customers who are enrolled in PSE&G’s My Alerts program and mobile app rank higher in energy customer satisfaction. This is attributed to the fact that customers receive more proactive information and updates.

Provide energy efficiency tips and energy savings advice

Rising energy rates and overall inflation are major concerns for customers. More than 20 million American households — one out of six homes — are now behind on their utility bills, by an average of $788. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there is no relief in sight.

Educating customers about the options available to them and how to manage their energy usage is a top priority for both PSE&G and LG&E and KU. This strategy has a high impact on energy customer satisfaction.

Screenshot example of PSE&G utility payment assistance website to improve energy customer satisfaction

“We have a very robust communication plan. There’s a conscious effort to let customers know what programs are available to them, whether they’re PSE&G energy efficiency programs or federal and state payment assistance programs,” says Foose. “We do targeted campaigns as well as general awareness campaigns to make sure that customers who are eligible for assistance know how to apply and access programs.”

Within the past year, PSE&G has implemented both rate increases and decreases. In either scenario, transparent communication is key. For rate increases, the utility focuses communications on how to save money, use its home energy analyzer, assess personal energy usage and more. Additionally, the utility includes information on programs and services that could help customers mitigate the costs of rate increases. For rate decreases, PSE&G communicates when and how much customers can expect in bill impacts and provides continuing energy efficiency education to keep the costs down.

“We work very closely with our residential energy efficiency program managers to make sure we know the program benefits and how to communicate the benefits of the programs to customers,” says Foose. “With increasing prices and the economic challenges that our customers are facing, we need to be able to have that partnership with our customers so that they see the value and opportunity in our efficiency programs.”

LG&E and KU offers a WeCare Program, which is a “voluntary program designed to create savings through weatherization and energy education to help income-eligible customers in need.” This program provides assistance to eligible customers, offering energy efficiency tips and even making home repairs when needed.

“We have a team dedicated to these customers to help them make energy-saving changes to their home,” says Natasha Collins, Director of Media Relations for LG&E and KU. “They look at different ways energy is impacted in their homes and help them better manage their energy use, which ultimately impacts their energy bills.”

The utilities offer a budget payment plan, which levels out payments throughout the year so customers know what to expect and can budget for monthly payments. LG&E and KU customers can also take part in installment plans that allow them to extend their due dates to have more time to make payments. “We try to educate our customers on the investments that we’re making,” says Leist. “That’s one component of our consistent communications with them.”

AMI meters are also being installed, which allows customers to look at their energy usage in intervals and see how they can better manage their usage. “We want customers to be aware of the many programs available to them and help them be wiser energy consumers,” Leist adds.

LG&E and KU also offer website resources in a variety of content formats, which speaks to customer preferences. “Everyone likes to learn differently,” says Collins. “We offer energy efficiency videos on our website for those who like to learn more visually, in addition to our articles and text-based content.”

Additionally, the utilities put a large focus on community partnerships. One example is holding quarterly meetings with low-income agencies in their service territories. “We get together and talk about what’s going on, what we, as the utility company, can do to help make their jobs easier in being able to assist customers as quickly and effectively as they can,” says Leist. “We don’t want to be a bottleneck.”

Educate and empower customers

Educating customers about what is going on in the energy industry is a win-win for both the utility and customers. The more transparency and open communication there is among groups, the more energy customer satisfaction is impacted in a positive way.

“Our primary mission is safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for our customers,” says Collins. “As a company, it’s all about empowering customers. We want to make sure that customers know they have control over how they’re using energy. Part of that is teaching them how to manage energy use in their homes and resources to manage their usage and cost as much as possible.”

In addition to the quarterly meetings with low-income agencies, the utilities also have an online panel of customers to expand their reach in the community. Conducted for 10 years, the panel currently has 1,000 participating customers. The utilities present and discuss information with customers, such as communications they’re planning to send out, which messages are resonating most, what features they’d like to see on the website or in the app, and more. This allows LG&E and KU to hear from engaged, responsive customers to see what they’re interested in.

“We want our customers to have a voice in what we do,” says Leist. “The online panel has been a very valuable tool for us to get insight to our customers to make sure we’re delivering and meeting their expectations.”

Additionally, LG&E and KU have a customer advisory panel, where customers throughout the service territory can learn about the utilities’ offerings and share them with others. Panel members are chosen after being recommended by employees or other community members. The panel consists of 20 customers from various parts of the utilities’ service territories who each serve a three-year term. “The purpose of these customers is for them to be advocates for us in the community,” says Leist. “They help get the word out — help educate, increase awareness and bring back learnings for us.”

PSE&G also touts the value of customer feedback in expanding and improving the utility’s energy customer satisfaction efforts. The utility has an online panel of about 2,500 residential customers that PSE&G can tap into for feedback. Customers opt-in to the panel to provide their opinions and perspectives. “We’ve gotten good response rates,” says Foose. “These customers are invested and interested in providing us feedback so that we can better their experiences.”

In addition to various customer panels, PSE&G and LG&E and KU look for feedback from J.D. Power research, email surveys, Gartner best practices and Chartwell research. The utilities stay tuned in with these different organizations to ensure they are constantly improving the customer experience and affecting energy customer satisfaction. PSE&G also has an in-house research team that produces ad-hoc research, including email surveys, to gauge its customers’ satisfaction and interest in the utility’s products and services.

Champion and encourage employees

In addition to encouraging customers to speak up and become involved in utility decisions, PSE&G and LG&E and KU find that championing employees leads to higher energy customer satisfaction.

“We share positive customer feedback with front-line associates and also with supervisors to share with their teams,” says Foose. “We’re looping that feedback back to the individual that provided that service, which really helps recognize the employee and drive employee engagement which then translates into better customer service.”

Utilities are people-focused organizations, both in how they operate internally and who is affected externally. Empowering employees directly impacts energy customer satisfaction.

“It’s more than just customer satisfaction,” says Foose. “When you really think about the customer and make a conscious effort internally of how to improve the customer experience, you’ve gained loyalty and advocates — both with employees and customers.”

What’s the Secret to Energy Customer Satisfaction?

Utility customers are unique in many ways. Research shows that customers think about their utility for only 10 minutes per year. In those 10 minutes, customers are most likely experiencing an emergency, such as an outage or billing issue.

What doesn’t make utility customers unique is the fact they want reliable service and easy interactions. Being able to quickly and efficiently ease customers’ anxieties will lead to an increase in energy customer satisfaction.

“You’re not dealing with something that’s static. We’re working with customers and their behaviors and experiences,” says Foose. “Everybody is unique so you have to be able to constantly adapt based on what the customer needs.”

Not one thing impacts customer satisfaction; there is a domino effect of factors influencing each other. Developing designated customer committees can assist in seeing the full picture, along with the nitty-gritty elements that impact customers. “It’s a continual process,” says Leist. “We have to identify opportunities for improvement, make sure we’re addressing the evolving needs and expectations of our customers and implement changes.”

Additionally, building awareness about utility services is key. Utilities aren’t just natural gas or electricity providers, they’re partners to customers and their communities. It’s not just about making sure the service is delivered, but seeing how the service is delivered, understanding the value of the service and how it’s resonating with customers.

“It’s about the overall customer experience,” says Foose. “It’s education, building awareness and making sure that we have strong customer service to back up the value that we’re presenting to customers.”

Customers must be put first, with an eye on constantly improving the customer experience in the long run. Customer centricity isn’t just a buzzword — it’s a tangible concept of working toward a customer-focused culture.

“We’re all people,” says Leist. “We’re trying to help customers the best we can in the best ways we know how. Communicating, educating and empowering customers and employees comes first. Then customer satisfaction, advocacy and loyalty follow.”

Learn how a customer engagement strategy from Questline Digital can help boost energy customer satisfaction at your utility.

As an energy utility, it’s essential that your customers are satisfied — after all, they’re the very lifeblood of your business. And while customer service and energy supply are obviously major factors in retention and loyalty, there’s another powerful component when it comes to delivering an exceptional customer experience: marketing.

Leveraged correctly, marketing can help you reach a greater number of customers than ever before and create relationships built on trust and understanding. Marketing can be an invaluable tool in raising awareness of your services, engaging customers, and creating a positive experience.

Keep reading to discover the top five components of your marketing strategy that can enhance utility customer satisfaction (CSAT).

5 Ways Marketing Can Improve Utility Customer Satisfaction

  1. Easy-to-use websites and portals
  2. Personalized communications
  3. Entertainment
  4. Helpful content
  5. Honesty

When customers see that you’re attending to their needs and making it simple for them to take advantage of offers, they leave interactions feeling pleased. You can make it enjoyable to engage with your utility by developing easy-to-use websites, investing in segmented email marketing and sharing content that entertains and improves customers’ daily lives.

“I believe that any effort that connects on a personal level with the consumer improves the customer experience,” said Angela Catton, Manager of Member Relations and Development at Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO). “Marketing efforts that can reinforce how that specific product or service can improve a customer’s life strike a chord and make that experience memorable.”

Easy-to-use websites and portals

Navigating the world of electric utilities can be a daunting task for customers. That’s why an easy-to-use website and customer portal can have a tremendously positive impact on CSAT.

When customers can easily access information about their bills, seamlessly make payments and intuitively find what they are looking for, they feel more empowered and in control of their energy consumption.

An intuitive website can also reduce the need for customers to call in and wait on hold for extended periods. This can lead to a higher level of customer satisfaction as their experience is more efficient and hassle-free.

As a customer of an electric utility, the last thing you want to encounter while trying to navigate a website or customer portal is a clunky interface. Not only can a clunky website be confusing and frustrating, but it can also contribute to a negative perception of the utility as a whole.

What exactly makes for a website that successfully serves the needs of customers? The annual Website Benchmark report published by E Source includes a public ranking of utility sites. In 2021 the report assessed 85 electric and gas utility websites, focusing on four usability components: findability, functionality, content and appearance.

Features of top-ranking utility websites:

  • Use responsive design
  • Follow standards for accessibility compliance
  • Prioritize self-service
  • Emphasize security
  • Have intuitive navigation
  • Provide content that customers need

Common pitfalls for utility websites:

  • Slow loading times
  • Difficult navigation
  • Broken links
  • Multi-click pathways to important information
  • Or, lack of important information altogether
  • Poor design
  • Text-heavy or jargon-heavy messaging

Personalized communications

With options such as personalized emails, text messages and mobile app notifications, personalized communications provide a straightforward, cost-effective way for energy utilities to strengthen their customer relationships.

Utilities can personalize communications by understanding their customers’ needs and interests, using data like customer energy use, program participation and content consumption. Con Edison adds insights from third-party companies like Experian Marketing Services to create data-driven customer segments, according to Tony Todesco, Market Research Senior Specialist at the utility.

“Our residential customer database has been appended with these fields so other departments can leverage this data in their analytic platforms as well,” Todesco explained during a webinar.

For example, Con Edison’s outreach team, which hosts events in local neighborhoods, has access to a dashboard that allows them to look up zip code-level statistics when preparing for events. The team can use data, such as language preference or the number of families in an area, to help guide their approach.

Energy utilities have an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction by employing such personalization strategies. By tailoring messages to individual customers, whether through their preferred communication channels or by providing energy-saving advice specific to their household, utilities can build trust and loyalty.

With the rise of technology and data analytics, energy companies can now analyze customer behaviors to create messaging that resonates with their needs.


NIPCO uses virtual reality videos to educate and entertain consumers about the work done by cooperative line workers. Customers can wear headsets and experience a climb to the top of an electric pole through the magic of 360-degree video. The “Lineman 360” experience directly brought the message of line worker safety to the watcher, making it feel personal and memorable.

“These videos immerse the watcher and build empathy with what line workers do daily by experiencing it themselves,” Catton explained. “Lineman 360 improved the consumer relationship because when the lights go out, they remember their experience when they virtually climbed a pole or trimmed a tree and understand that it takes time to restore the power safely.

“By making them ‘virtual line workers,’ they connect personally with their power provider, and consumers become advocates for what they do. When they become advocates, that customer relationship is deepened.”

To get a 360-degree view of a line worker’s pole climb, use your mouse to click and drag the video’s perspective.

Helpful content

As an energy utility provider, your customers want more than just reliable service and competitive prices. They also want to feel informed and empowered when it comes to their energy usage.

By creating and sharing helpful content, such as energy-saving tips, tutorials on how to read their bills, appliance efficiency guides, and regulation updates, you can show your customers that you care about their satisfaction beyond just their monthly bill.

“Finding good, digestible, and engaging content that connects with the consumer is gold,” Catton said. “It draws them in and conversationally communicates good advice on how to save money, improve their lives or live greener.”

Questline Digital’s 2023 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report found that residential customers were most engaged with the following pieces of content:

  1. Myth Busting: Home Energy Use
  2. Wasting Energy is a Hard Habit to Break
  3. Listening for Energy Savings in Your Home
  4. Holiday Season: 12 Days of Energy Savings
  5. Your Home: The Hidden Costs of Summer
  6. How to Keep Your Upstairs Cooler This Summer
  7. You Can Upgrade to a Smart Outlet
  8. Your Home: Sealing in Savings and Comfort
  9. Is Your Home Ready for Winter?
  10. 5 Signs That You Need a New Heating System

Education is also critical for business customers. Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) works to inform its business customers about rising costs, state decarbonization efforts and other imperative issues, according to Denise Galambos, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations and Chief Customer Officer.

“We spend a lot of time counseling business customers on energy efficiency programs, grants, and other ways to save on energy costs,” Galambos explained in a recent Utility Dive article. “Maryland is a state that’s very focused on its decarbonization goals, requiring us to continuously educate customers about what’s happening at the legislative level.”


As energy costs steadily rise and renewable energy becomes an increasingly prominent topic, the importance of honesty in marketing strategies cannot be understated. Energy utility companies can benefit from being transparent with their customers about the sources of their power, any associated costs and details about their operations.

In turn, customers can make informed decisions about their energy consumption and feel confident that their provider has their best interests at heart. This transparency can lead to improved utility customer satisfaction, as consumers feel like they have a better understanding of what they are paying for and how it impacts the environment.

During a recent webinar, Morgan Kriley, Customer Experience Associate with Duquesne Light Company (DLC), explained that transparency is central to DLC’s focus on being a “Trusted Energy Partner” to its customers.

“The honesty and transparency piece played a major role” in a campaign to inform customers of changing energy rates, Kriley said. DLC created website resources, including a website banner and resource hub, in addition to social media posts and newsletter articles to explain the new rates. Each resource directed customers to a link that explained why energy prices were rising and what customers could do to help lower their costs.

Boost Utility Customer Satisfaction with Positive Experiences

Energy customers have more control than ever before, from choosing their energy providers to using smart home devices to automate energy savings. But along with this control comes a need for information to help customers better understand the impact of these decisions on their energy consumption and costs.

With an effective marketing strategy, utilities can be the trusted sources of that information and ensure that customers can take control of their energy use. By providing easy-to-use websites, personalized communications, entertaining and helpful content, and transparent messaging, energy providers can have a positive impact on the customer experience and achieve higher levels of utility customer satisfaction.

Learn how a digital engagement strategy from Questline Digital and help you boost customer satisfaction at your energy utility.

To capture the attention of energy utility customers, the copy in your marketing campaigns is just as important as the design. As an energy copywriter, you have the power to increase customer engagement and participation in your energy utility’s programs and services. For example, a strong subject line will encourage email opens, while a successful call-to-action will motivate customers to take the next steps.

With 15 years of writing and marketing experience in a wide variety of industries, Questline Digital’s Senior Energy Copywriter, Breanne George, shares copywriting best practices to transform your utility’s marketing promotions.

Chart listing the best practices for an energy copywriter

Tip 1: Tell a story

When you think of storytelling, you probably think of your favorite book or magazine article. However, your marketing campaigns can tell a story too. As an energy copywriter, you should create a theme around a specific benefit or motivation that resonates with your target audience.

Example of utility email campaign for paperless billing created by an energy copywriter

For example, we focused the above ebill message around the benefit of “anytime, anywhere bill access” for a major Northeast utility’s paperless billing campaign. Since a majority of the utility’s customers were commuters who used public transportation, the copy and imagery aligned to tell a story about easy bill payments that resonated with this audience.

In another email campaign to promote a Southeast energy utility’s security lighting program, Questline Digital created a story about the importance of security all year round. Through creative copywriting, the email campaign expressed how security lighting gives customers more time to enjoy summer fun, whether at a barbecue or basketball game. They don’t have to worry about their safety when the sun goes down.

Example of a program promotions email written by an energy copywriter

Tip 2: Get Personal with Segmentation

Whether your energy utility is targeting electric vehicle owners or low-income customers, narrowing down your audience to a smaller segment will improve email engagement. In fact, 74% of customers feel frustrated when content is not relevant to their interests. In today’s age of personalized digital communications, segmentation is an essential tactic for energy copywriters.

Your campaign should draw in customers by appealing to their needs, interests and lifestyles. To achieve this, you need to think about your audience:

  • What would make their life easier?
  • How does your program or service benefit customers?
  • Does the copy motivate them to keep reading?

To connect with customers who would benefit from a Time of Use (TOU) rate plan, PSEG Long Island utilized segmentation to send personalized emails to distinct groups of customers. For example, one email targeted electric vehicle owners and another email targeted customers who would benefit most based on their energy usage behaviors.

Instead of sending one mass message to all eligible customers, the emails were tailored to each individual and how much they could save based on their energy usage. The utility leveraged smart meter data to create these targeted messages.

Examples of segmented emails written by an energy copywriter

For segmentation success, energy copywriters need demographic information, marketing personas and any other research that breaks down your audience and what matters most to them. The more insights you have on your audience, the more the copy will reflect customers’ unique needs and interests. 

Tip 3: Avoid Energy Industry Jargon

For energy copywriters, it can be all too easy to forget that most utility customers aren’t experts in renewable energy, rate plans and other popular industry topics. Your readers may not understand complex terminology or programs that are common knowledge in the energy industry. That’s why writing copy that’s easy for customers to understand is essential for your email campaigns.

When you’re promoting a complex topic, such as an energy efficiency rebate or financial assistance program, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They want to know what the program entails, key benefits and how to apply. They don’t need to know “everything but the kitchen sink.”

As an energy copywriter, you should avoid using industry jargon or technical language that your customers may not understand. To help customers learn more about a particular topic, try linking to educational articles, videos or infographics to provide extra assistance.

Examples of educational emails written by an energy copywriter

To help increase participation for a Midwest energy utility’s complex demand response program, Questline Digital created a segmented email campaign. The goal was to encourage participation among two groups of commercial and industrial (C&I) customers: prospective participants and past program participants. The emails were clear and concise, highlighting the benefits of participation and providing a helpful video testimonial from a local business.

Tip 4: Keep it Short and Sweet

In today’s fast-paced world, your customers don’t have time to read a long, text-heavy email. That’s why it’s best to write short and succinct copy.

Energy copywriters should be clear and concise, making the utility program as easy to understand as possible. This is where bulleted lists, headers, pull quotes and other call-outs help to break up the copy and make the information more digestible. Remember, your customers will get the full details when they click on your call-to-action.

It’s not always easy to write short and sweet when describing complicated utility programs. By using the copywriting tactics mentioned above, energy copywriters can avoid massive blocks of text. Use simple words and short sentences, focusing on the value propositions that resonate most with your customers.

Example of My Account email written by an energy copywriter

In this example, part of a welcome series for a West Coast energy utility, the email copy is easy to read with bullets and iconography. This email makes it easy for new customers to find important information, including payment options, billing alerts as well as energy-saving tips and tools.

Tip 5: Craft an Impactful Subject Line

Before your customers can engage with your marketing campaign, they first have to click into the email. A great subject line makes all the difference for energy copywriters. According to Questline Digital performance metrics, the sweet spot for subject lines is 50 characters or fewer. Your subject line should make it clear what customers will learn in as few words as possible.

We recommend using power words that encourage customers to take action. Consider the following subject lines about outage text alerts:

  • Subject line #1: Text alerts to stay informed during an outage
  • Subject line #2: Stay informed! Sign up for outage text alerts

While both subject lines have a similar message, the second option is actionable and encourages the reader to click into the email to sign up. For this example, you could also use a lightning bolt emoji to help the subject line stand out in customers’ inboxes. When it comes to subject lines, energy copywriters should try A/B testing to see what engages your utility’s audience.

Tip 6: Choose a Powerful Headline

Your headline captures attention and encourages customers to keep reading your message. As the first piece of copy your customers will see after clicking into your email, it’s vital to get your promotional message across in a simple, direct and engaging way. No pressure, right?

Energy copywriters should follow these helpful tips for writing an effective and engaging headline:

  • Be clear and concise: Your headline should be simple and direct, while articulating what customers will be reading in the email.
  • Lead with key details: Think of the most important message from your email and write it in a fresh way so the message stands out. This could be the dollar amount of an EV rebate program or the main customer benefit in a paperless billing campaign.
  • Consider the imagery: Make sure the headline and visuals work together. For example, “Protect Your Palace” was a headline for a Southeast energy utility’s security lighting campaign featuring a royal guard in the hero image.
  • Generate curiosity: By giving away just enough information — but not too much — your headline should persuade your audience to read further for more details.
  • Get creative (within reason): Avoid copywriting that is too whimsical, cutesy or irrelevant. Think creatively but don’t stray from the ultimate goal of your campaign.

For this paperless billing campaign for a large Northeast energy utility, an entertaining headline paired well with the campaign theme, which showed humorous yet true reasons why customers should make the switch.  

Example of an effective headline written by an energy copywriter

This headline for a Southeast energy utility’s charitable campaign helped to pull at readers’ heartstrings. The focus of the holiday-themed email was to encourage customers to round up their energy bill to give back to neighbors in need.

Example of community focused PR email written by an energy copywriter

Tip 7: Encourage Customers to Take Action

After engaging with your message, you want customers to take action, whether enrolling in paperless billing or taking advantage of a rebate program. As an energy copywriter, your call-to-action (CTA) is one of the most important elements of your marketing campaign.

Keep these best practices in mind to create a powerful CTA:

  • The shorter the better: Your audience will tune out an overly long and complicated CTA. Keep it short and simple so your customers understand what you want them to do.
  • Urgency is effective: Use time-sensitive language to help boost program conversions and create a sense of urgency. Some examples include “Time is running out,” “Don’t wait” or “Sign up today.”
  • Get creative with button copy: Sometimes a simple button like “Learn More” or “Get Started” works best. However, there are times when energy copywriters should switch things up and make it fun. For example, “Enroll. Enter. Win?” for a sweepstakes email or “Start Saving Now” for a rebate program promotion.
  • Placement matters: If your email is lengthy and requires readers to scroll, include two CTAs: one near the top and one near the bottom. This ensures customers can click through at any point in the email.

In this example from Duquesne Light Company, a Pennsylvania-based energy utility, there are two CTA buttons at the top and bottom of the email. The first button, “Enroll for a chance to WIN” gives readers an immediate opportunity to take action. The second button, below the benefits box, gives those who read the entire email an easy click-through to the enrollment page.

Example of effective CTA buttons written by energy copywriter

To help FirstEnergy promote its financial assistance programs, Questline Digital created an email campaign series with multiple CTA buttons. Since the email goes to both homeowners and renters, there are two buttons that link to the specific application pages.

The first two CTA buttons are located directly below the headline. Since the headline makes it clear what the email is about (connecting the customers to bill assistance), a CTA directly below the headline is appropriate in this instance. As an energy copywriter, you’ll need to determine what placement and number of CTAs are best for the subject matter and email length.

Example of call-to-action placement in email written by an energy copywriter

Copywriting is More Than Creative Writing

As these examples demonstrate, there are many things for energy copywriters to keep in mind when writing for utility marketing campaigns or program promotions. Copywriting is more than just creative writing — it’s about crafting an effective, concise and persuasive message that motivates your target audience. With these best practices in mind, you can transform your utility’s marketing messages, one word at a time.

Learn how Questline Digital’s energy copywriters can help you craft an effective message that connects with customers.