For over 30 years, Questline Digital has been dedicated to helping energy utilities connect with their customers. Before changing our name to Questline and then Questline Digital, the company that started as “Tech Resources Inc.” was engaging energy utility customers through the latest technology at the time: the fax machine.

While technology has certainly changed over the years, our mission has remained steadfast: to build long-lasting relationships between energy utilities and their customers. Read on for a look back in time at Questline Digital’s humble beginnings and how our company has transformed over the years.

Timeline showing the history of Questline utility customer engagement

The early years of Questline Digital

Questline Digital was officially born in 1990. Dr. Bob Hines, a Battelle employee in Columbus, Ohio, was training an energy utility client on economic development software he developed. The energy utility client asked Hines if there were any Battelle technologies in which their parent company, Dominion Power, might be interested in as an investment. This led to the creation of a 10-person spin-off company, Tech Resources Inc., owned by Battelle and Dominion Power to commercialize technologies at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL).

Over the next four years, Tech Resources’ primary service was industrial energy audits and operating an Electric Power Research Institute hotline called Metaline for utility clients. While Metaline originally covered metallurgical-type inquiries, it soon expanded to cover almost any industrial operations issue. A fee was charged for each inquiry.

Dave Reim (now Questline Digital’s president and CEO) and engineer Jose Antommarchi were hired to answer these calls and conduct audits. After the Department of Energy (DOE) began providing industrial energy audits, this part of the business evaporated almost overnight.

Growing pains and new leadership

Ultimately, leadership at Dominion Power and Battelle believed that Tech Resources would not survive, so they offered to sell the company to the remaining employees. In 1994, seven employees bought the company. A new business model offered utilities an annual subscription to answer unlimited customer inquiries; the service was called Questline (Question Line), our company’s namesake.

To promote Questline, Reim had an idea to support utility account managers by developing a fax newsletter to send to their customers. Tech Resources sent out thousands of faxes per month with illustrations hand-drawn by Hines. This allowed the company to expand as a value-added informational service. After several years of moderate growth, the company added some research librarians, including Scott Miller (now Questline Digital’s content director), to help answer inquires.

A new millennium, a new focus

In 2001, Hines became president of Tech Resources. By 2003, utility newsletters had become the main focus of the company. Tech Resources started sending newsletters by email, which led to the growth of an electronically accessible library of Questline articles. The company soon developed the IntraQuest and RelationshipBuilder platforms for content creation and email delivery and tracking.

Throughout this decade, the company appeared every year in the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in America. With Questline newsletters taking center stage, many energy utility clients began to refer to Tech Resources only as “Questline.” In response, the company formally changed its name.

A leader in content marketing  

In 2013, Reim was elevated to president of Questline. Hines, who served an essential role in the start of Questline, retired in 2015.

The original RelationshipBuilder platform was also redeveloped into our proprietary Engage platform to give energy utility clients access to powerful content marketing capabilities, including deployment and reporting tools. Through Engage, the original content library was transformed into a catalog of 4,500 articles, videos, infographics, interactive quizzes and social media posts.

Today, Questline Digital works with hundreds of energy utility clients across the United States. The company’s focus is helping energy utilities transform their digital marketing strategy to achieve program results and increase customer engagement. Questline Digital’s content marketing, custom creative and technology solutions are designed specifically with energy utilities in mind.

The company has also become a leader in performance metrics for the energy utility industry.  In 2014, Questline launched the Annual Energy Utility Benchmarks Report to share our robust data and insights with our clients and the industry. This valuable report has helped shape the marketing strategy and optimize campaign results for hundreds of energy utilities.

No matter how many years go by, the Questline Digital team remains focused on energy utilities and their customers. As our history demonstrates, our team continues to reinvent itself, adapt to new technologies and think of innovative ways to connect energy utilities with their customers.

We are proud of our track record of successful customer engagement and technological innovation over the years — and we’re just as excited about the next 30 years and what’s to come for our energy utility partners.

Learn how Questline Digital’s expertise in customer engagement can help your energy utility build long-term digital relationships.

Infographic listing ways that utilities can grow customer email lists

Email is an extremely effective channel for energy utility communications. You can quickly reach a lot of customers and also deliver personalized messages to specific segments. You can maintain a consistent customer touchpoint with an email newsletter and then leverage that engagement with targeted program promotions.

However, you can’t accomplish any of these things if you don’t have email addresses for your residential and business customers. That’s why list growth is often the first step of an email marketing strategy. Here are three ways your energy utility can use other channels to acquire customer email addresses.

Call center

One of the best ways to acquire a customer’s email address is to just ask for it! Add intuitive questions to customer service rep scripts that demonstrate the benefits of receiving email from your utility. For example:

  • “Would you like to be notified of storm alerts and potential outages in your area?”
  • “What is the best way to reach you via email to share cost-saving energy tips for your home?”


Customers are already visiting your website to learn about their energy use or seek out cost-saving programs. Take the opportunity to remind them that you can deliver this content directly to their inboxes.

Add simple email signup forms to your website that correspond to the content on each page. For instance, on an energy efficiency program page you could suggest, “Enter your email address to receive energy-saving tips and rebates.” The call-to-action on a safety education page might be, “Sign up to get more home safety and energy efficiency advice.”

Social media

Your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram followers might not realize they can also get relevant updates delivered via email. When you post on social media sites asking customers if they are interested in receiving updates, make sure you emphasize convenience and interests that appeal to social users. For example:

  • “Never miss an update. Get the latest energy-saving tips sent straight to your inbox.”
  • “Sign up to learn more about sustainability and renewable energy.”

With these tips you can add to your list and reach even more customers, taking advantage of the power to deliver targeted promotions and content with email marketing.

Is your utility welcoming new customers by asking for their email address? Learn how to build a strong relationship from day one with a Welcome Series.

The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated just how critical customer engagement is for energy utilities — in good times and bad. Under normal circumstances, ongoing engagement helps promote safety, smart energy use and program participation.

But during an emergency, as with the current global pandemic, your relationship with customers really pays off. Now this engaged audience is easy to reach and they are ready and eager to hear from you. You can share vital health and safety information — at the moment they need it most — thanks to your long-term commitment to customer engagement.

eNewsletters connect during a crisis

This pattern is especially clear with email newsletters. A monthly eNewsletter provides a regular touchpoint, a reliable way for utilities to remind customers that you want to help them improve their energy use and make their lives more comfortable.

During the coronavirus outbreak, being a reliable part of customers’ lives has taken on new meaning. And customers have responded by engaging with eNewsletters at unprecedented rates.

In March, the eNewsletters Questline Digital deploys for energy utilities delivered a 36.7% average open rate. That’s 65% higher than the same month last year. Engagement with eNewsletter content, measured by click-through rate and click-to-open rate, also reached four-year highs. Even clicks on promotional links have been elevated during the outbreak.

The content customers are looking for

As with any content marketing strategy, an email newsletter should cover topics that interest customers and reflect their needs. In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak that meant articles about customers’ immediate health and safety concerns, as well as reassurances of the security and reliability of their energy supply.

That theme comes through in this list of Questline Digital’s top-performing content in March:

  • Coronavirus Action Plan: Protecting Your Power
  • Do’s and Don’ts: Coronavirus Prevention
  • 6 Ways to Make Your Home Office Energy Efficient
  • Business Downtime: Steps to Saving Energy and Money
  • 5 Simple Steps to Social Distancing

Customers’ initial concerns are now shifting to longer-term needs as they settle into a stay-at-home lifestyle in April and beyond. This is a good time to remind customers that they can take control of their energy use through simple efficiency measures. Not only are they spending a lot more time at home, and possibly using more energy, they might have some time to tackle simple improvement projects as well.

This also applies to customers’ home offices. They want to improve their work-from-home setups, including using technology like smart power strips to control their energy use. They also are looking for advice on avoiding scams and protecting their home computers from cyberattacks.

Many business customers are grappling with unexpected shutdowns, leaving their companies partially or completely closed. These customers are looking for content that will help them reduce their energy use — and their expenses — until they can reopen.

Customers are also open to program promotions that are relevant to their concerns — as long as the messaging is sensitive to the current climate. For example, the convenience and safety of hands-free paperless billing or online account access, or the potential savings of an energy efficiency program, supports the stay-at-home lifestyle and can help them reduce their energy bills.

Continue engaging with customers throughout the crisis

Customers trust their energy provider. You are a reliable source for safety information and customers look to you for helpful advice on reducing their energy use. Your monthly eNewsletter is the right vehicle to continue sharing that content throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

Learn how an eNewsletter solution from Questline Digital will build customer engagement for your energy utility.