High bill communications is a hot topic (pun intended) for utilities everywhere. Extreme temperatures have impacted billing communications in a big way as scorching summers and frigid winters hit customers’ energy bills. How your utility communicates seasonal costs directly impacts customer satisfaction.

In Questline Digital’s webinar, “Strategies for High Bill Communications,” our expert speakers, Morgan Kriley with Duquesne Light Company and Shantel Johnson with Entergy, shared insights and advice from their own experience with high bill communications.

Become a Trusted Partner for Your Utility’s Customers

Kriley shared early in the discussion that Duquesne Light Company’s (DLC) focus was on being a “Trusted Energy Partner.” With this goal in mind, DLC set out to help its customers with the mission to:

  • Provide good value
  • Charge fair prices
  • Be honest and transparent

DLC’s approach to assisting customers with high bills came down to three goals:

  1. Identify the main factors driving a high bill
  2. Utilize customer insights and persona groups
  3. Develop multichannel campaigns to educate customers

By homing in on these goals, DLC developed four targeted approaches to assisting customers:

Customer choice

“Under Pennsylvania’s Electric Choice Act, customers can choose or shop for a supplier that provides their electricity, which impacts the supply portion of their bill,” Kriley explained. “While it’s not mandatory for customers to shop for a supplier, they can choose the company based on factors such as savings, clean energy sources, and fixed and variable rates.”

As an electric distribution company, DLC is neutral as to whether a customer wants to shop for suppliers. Through its research, though, DLC discovered that 80% of its customers were paying above the default service rate. With these insights, DLC identified an opportunity to initiate conversations about customer choice and educate customers about their options and the impact on their monthly bills.

DLC communicated this information through:

  • Website tutorials, videos and FAQs
  • Targeted email communications
  • Social and display ad campaigns
  • Newsletter features
Example of utility email strategies for high bill communications from DLC

Changing energy rates

In June 2022, DLC had two energy rate increases occur that impacted customers. The utility knew customers would be comparing their bills to the previous year’s bills and wanted to get ahead of the discussion.

“The honesty and transparency piece played a major role in this campaign,” Kriley said. DLC created web resources, such as a website banner and resource hub, in addition to developing social media posts and newsletter features to explain the increased 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.

Example of email from utility strategies for high bill communications

Energy efficiency management

Through recent research, DLC learned that half of its customers actively monitor their electric usage in the hopes of reducing their usage. “They’re closely monitoring their thermostat and using lights and electronics very cautiously,” Kriley said. “Customers really want to know how to best use their energy and when.”

Kriley shared that DLC consistently shares educational materials with customers about energy efficiency and energy savings. In a recent survey, a DLC customer specifically asked, “How can I make my home more efficient for the least amount of money?”

The utility promotes its energy efficiency content in social media posts, newsletters and targeted emails. Additionally, customers receive a usage email each week that lets them compare their usage from the week prior and provides a projected view of their monthly usage.

To assist with these initiatives, DLC also provided free energy efficiency kits to residential customers. The kit included LED light bulbs and night lights.

Example of digital ad from DLC utility strategies for high bill communications

High bill management

As high bills occurred in full force, DLC began seeing more calls to its call centers from customers inquiring about their bills. Kriley shared that the driver of DLC’s high bill communications was empathy, followed by education and action-oriented steps.

“In this email campaign, DLC recognized its responsibility to our customers and, again, utilized the ‘Trust Energy Partner’ message to show customers that we were transparent about the changing energy rates,” Kriley said. “We wanted to provide customers with valuable strategies to manage their current bill and reduce their usage for future bills.”

DLC provided the same resources to customers in a self-serve channel. This gave customers the opportunity to freely find answers and solutions in their own time. “This campaign was a testament to the importance of reaching the right customer at the right time,” Kriley says.

Stepping Up Your High Bill Communications Strategies

Johnson shared ways in which Entergy was taking steps to assist residential customers who may see high bills during summer months in the Southeast. The utility developed a focus and motto for its high bill work: “Temps are up. Costs are up. So we’re stepping up.”

“Our customer strategy leaders gathered a large group of us together to ideate programs that would make a meaningful difference to customers during this time,” Johnson shared.

In addition to its usual bill assistance programs, Entergy began offering new solutions for high summer bills, including:

  • Late fee credits
  • Moratorium on disconnects
  • $10 million in donations
  • Credit card fee credits
  • Energy efficiency events
  • Early security deposit returns

The above services differed slightly based on what service area customers were in, as Entergy serves Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The programs were nuanced based on the customers’ needs as well as the state regulatory environment.

One of Entergy’s most popular programs was created from $10 million in shareholder donations. This was a one-time, $150 bill credit for qualifying customers. To qualify, customers must have had a total household income of up to 250% of the federal poverty level. This was a part of the targeting criteria that Entergy used to ensure the utility reached the right customers with the right messages. Entergy also partnered with local non-profits, including the United Way, to help distribute those funds.

The online application process for this opened at 9 a.m. on launch day and by 4 p.m. all of the funds had been distributed. To avoid any surprises, customers were aware that this was on a first-come, first-served basis. This was a successful program for Entergy and spoke to the need of its communities.

All hands on deck

For the strategy and execution of its programs, Johnson explained, “This was an all-hands-on-deck effort. I was seven weeks into the job when this call was made, and we gathered together to talk about what programs might be offered and discuss the marketing strategy to reach customers.”

Entergy also implemented customer surveys that are conducted each week to a random selection of 30,000 customers. The purpose of these surveys is to find out what messages and programs are resonating with customers. Additionally, the utility has done mass-marketing efforts to spread the word about its programs, including producing a commercial to play during the New Orleans Saints’ NFL games.

“The goal overall was to drive awareness of the new solutions that we offered to customers during this difficult time,” Johnson said.

Entergy utilized many direct-to-customer channels, such as email, phone calls and text messaging to reach customers. A part of Entergy’s email campaign messaging was to reiterate the new solutions for high summer bills. The utility’s emails performed exceedingly well with a near-54% open rate — well above Entergy’s average 35% open rate, Johnson shared.

Email example of strategies for high bill communications from utility

Additionally, as programs continue to be rolled out, Entergy ensures its call center representatives are well-informed of the programs and services. The utility sends near-daily updated talking points to its call center with the latest information on programs for each state.

Collaboration is Key for Successful High Bill Communications Strategies

A critical element for both Duquesne Light Company and Entergy’s strategies was keeping an open line of communication, not only between utility employees but between the utility and its customers. Kriley and Johnson both emphasized the importance of honesty and transparency throughout all high bill communications.

“Collaboration is always key as we embark on crisis communication strategies like these,” Johnson says.

Learn more about how Questline Digital can help your utility with customer assistance solutions and high bill communications.

Power outages can occur at any time for any reason, whether due to severe weather, equipment failure or even animal obstruction. Your customers look to your utility for outage updates. That’s why proactive emergency communications are key.

In Questline Digital’s webinar, “Proactively Engage Customers with Emergency Communications,” Vonetta Burrell, Manager of Corporate Communications at Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), and John Bord, Manager of Customer Experience at Tucson Electric Power (TEP), share how to prepare customers before, during and after severe weather events with emergency communication strategies.

Different Customers, Different Emergency Communications Channels

Every customer is unique, as is the utility that serves them. For Belize Electricity Limited, Belize is considered both a Central American and Caribbean nation, with a population of over 400,000. BEL serves 170,000 customers of varying cultures. Burrell says, “This is important to know because what might work for one customer may not work for another.”

Burrell explains that in urban areas of Belize, they tend to like social media updates from the utility. In other areas, radio is the best form of communication because customers may not have consistent internet. For others, direct SMS communication is most effective.

“These are things we consider to ensure that we are reaching the right audience using channels that are preferred by them,” Burrell says.

BEL has a number of drivers that encourage proactive notifications, including their commitments to both regulators and customers. Additionally, they have set standards for the timeliness of the utility’s internal communications and customer notifications.

“We are required to make sure we are issuing notifications in a timely manner, whether these are planned or unplanned or emergency scenarios,” Burrell says. “As a company, we also have implemented our internal standards to make sure we are holding ourselves at an even higher level in terms of timeliness of communication.”

Typically, BEL strives to inform customers at least two business days ahead of planned outages and within 15 minutes of unplanned outages, events or emergencies. The utility primarily uses SMS for initial contact with customers, but they also share updates on the mobile app, website and even a Facebook group. This group allows customers to have two-way communications with the utility.

“It’s not always about what you want to tell your customers,” Burrell says. “They may have valuable information to share with you as well.”

Flow chart showing information flow for emergency communications plan

Engage with customers across channels

BEL considers its wide range of communication channels instrumental to engaging with customers. The utility utilizes a variety of platforms, including:

  • Social media
  • SMS
  • Mobile app
  • Direct calls
  • Website
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Newspaper
Example of emergency communications alert messages

Burrell encourages utilities to use social media as a two-way communication method.

“While you may be opening up yourself for more comments, more negativity, more criticism, it also helps you to understand your audience,” she says. “While it may seem like chatter or complaints, it’s actually helping to determine what do we need to address, what do we need to improve, what are the educational messages that we’re not doing enough of. Sometimes it gets sticky, sometimes it gets rough, but it’s better to have a response rather than leave comments unanswered.”

Apart from internal channels, Burrell stresses the importance of developing relationships with external stakeholders, such as the media or online influencers, well in advance of emergencies. She explained that people will listen to those they trust, which may not always be the utility itself. Having ambassadors share the utility’s message in a timely, accurate matter is imperative to connecting with customers.

Every Minute Counts for Effective Emergency Communications

For Tucson Electric Power, the utility knows the typical timing of its storm and outage seasons, making it possible for the utility to educate customers in advance. Bord says that their typical outages occur between June and September. June often sees extreme heat outages, while the other months see increased rain, lightning and wind outages.

Bord shared that TEP has learned from research that customers have three main outage questions:

  • What is the estimated time of restoration?
  • What is the cause?
  • Have work crews been dispatched?

According to TEP, following through with appropriate answers to these questions helps customers feel relieved and in-the-know. Additionally, TEP encourages sharing helpful information with customers, such as:

  • Number of customers impacted
  • Acknowledgment of lost power
  • What time the outage began
Example of emergency communications alert message from an energy utility

TEP uses its outage map to keep customers informed. Within the map, customers can click on various outage areas and immediately find out:

  • Start time
  • Status
  • Customers out of service
  • Customers restored
  • Cause
  • Estimated time of restoration
Example of emergency communications outage map

“We really want to keep our resources in front of the customers, remind them of the summer storm season and drive customers to the outage map to reduce calls to the contact center,” Bord says. Additionally, TEP deploys newsletters and sponsors local TV weather spots to share information.

Research shows customers only want one or two updates regarding the estimated time of restoration. “Satisfaction declines if you do three or four updates,” Bord says. “It creates uncertainty and stress.”

Example of reporting metrics showing performance of emergency communications strategy

TEP also attributes its emergency communication strategies to its customer journey mapping progress. “We conducted journey mapping to look at the current and future states of outages and residential versus business expectations,” Bord says. “Journey mapping really brought our cross-functional teams together to have more of an indication and wider lens of looking at an outage.”

This also led to producing more extensive pre-emergency planning and communications for customers. “If an outage were to happen, it’s almost like creating a strategic playbook,” Bord says. “Everybody knows what, when, where and how to address that situation.”

As TEP works to advance its pre-emergency planning, the utility is also working on more customer-friendly messaging. “Sometimes, putting some of our utility speak or terminology on an outage map doesn’t mean anything to the customer,” Bord explains. “Is there a better way to phrase an equipment failure and if it causes an outage, what’s the best way to communicate that?”

Positive Outcomes for Negative Events

Both Burrell and Bord emphasized that clear, consistent and proactive messaging is critical. “People have too many things on their mind in an emergency,” Burrell says. “You want to make sure that you are specific, clear, easy-to-understand and consistent.”

Even when outages arise, Burrell encourages humanizing the situation and reminding customers that real people are involved. This helps to not just share a blanketed response with customers, but to bring a human element as well.

“An outage is a negative event, but it’s also a great opportunity for a utility to shine,” Bord says, “to show our customers how great we perform when there’s an issue so that we can really move the needle on customer satisfaction.”

Questline Digital can help your energy utility prepare an effective emergency communications strategy.

Today’s customers feel strongly about their payment preferences. With a multitude of options available to them, from autopay to Apple Pay, consumers expect the same choices from their energy provider. That’s why it behooves energy utilities to understand the importance of payment preferences and give customers what they want.

In Questline Digital’s webinar, “Utility Customer Payment and Self-Serve Opportunities,” Qwana Falkenberg, Customer Services Supervisor at Georgia Power, and Joshua Platt, Account Director at Questline Digital, discuss why customer payment options are vital for improving customer satisfaction.

“There are numerous ways to define customer payment preferences,” Platt says. “So why do we care about payment options and devote an hour-long webinar to the topic? We care about payment options because your customers care about payment options.”

Evolution of Utility Customer Payment Options

Customer payment preferences have evolved over the last few years just as the technology for making payments has changed. According to E Source, in 2018 customers’ top payment options were automatic payment, online payment through a utility’s website and check. In comparison, in 2022, customers’ top payment preferences were online through the utility’s website/portal or paying via mobile (text or app).

According to Falkenberg, 57% of U.S. consumers made their payment through an electronic method, while only 25% used traditional payment methods, like check, money order or cash. During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of consumers using mobile wallets for payments increased from 900 million to 1.48 billion worldwide.

“This speaks volumes on what customers are looking for when it comes to making their payment,” Falkenberg says. “The payment preference evolution is definitely on the rise.”

As expected, different generations prefer different payment methods. For example, Axerve finds that Baby Boomers prefer paying by cash, checks and debit cards, while Millennials and Gen Z prefer digital methods like Venmo and Apple Pay. With every younger generation, there is a greater preference for digital payments.

  • Baby Boomers (1940s to 1960s): cash, check, ATM cards
  • Generation X (1960s to 1980s): credit and debit cards, PayPal
  • Millennials (1980s to 1990s): credit cards, prepaid cards, PayPal, Venmo
  • Generation Z (1990s to 2010s): prepaid cards, digital wallets (like Apple Pay)

Income also has a significant impact on payment preferences. The most common payment method for all incomes is autopay or through a utility’s website/portal. As income increases, the use of autopay increases. According to E Source, about 40% of customers who make over $75,000 a year pay their bill through autopay. In comparison, only 25% of customers who make under $25,000 a year utilize this method.

Lower-income customers are more likely to pay their bills via walk-in centers, phone or mail. However, with the price of postage continuing to rise, this may be changing. Conversely, higher-income customers are more likely to pay their bills through autopay and online.

“Higher-income customers typically have more money available to make ‘set it and forget it’ payments,” Platt explains. “They also may have more reliable technology access and are generally more tech-savvy.”

Focus on the Customer Experience

In addition to offering a variety of payment options, it’s important to create a quality digital customer experience. In fact, 58% of consumers want the ability to view their digital bills in multiple places. Unifying payment options under a common, easy-to-use interface has many benefits for energy utilities, including:

  • Minimizing steps to complete payment
  • Easing discovery of payment options
  • Facilitating autopay adoption
  • Increasing paperless billing enrollment
  • Improving payment reliability

This is where the importance of education comes into play. Platt shared the example of SoCalGas, which took advantage of video to help customers understand their bill and explain how to enroll in the utility’s My Account and online bill pay. Through video and other educational resources, utilities can play “show and tell” to help customers take advantage of self-serve options.

This seamless experience includes interactions with a utility’s customer service representatives. Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service Report shows that 35% of consumers rank an agent’s lack of knowledge as a poor customer experience. Additionally, the majority of customers agree that their time being valued is imperative to a good customer experience.

“Each and every one of us are customers,” Falkenberg says. “As we engage with agents with the companies we do business with, we want to know we are speaking with someone who is knowledgeable and can assist as well as educate us on our options. As customers, we are all busy people and time is of the essence.”

For the initial customer contact to be successful, understanding their request is imperative. If this part goes wrong, it erodes trust and negatively impacts the customer experience. According to Falkenberg, Georgia Power ensures every interaction includes education to ensure customers enroll in options that fit their unique needs.

Flow chart showing call flow for utility customer payment requests

“The initial customer contact is critical — it can either serve as a brand strengthener or a brand diminisher,” Falkenberg says. “The key is anticipating customers’ needs and delivering an exceptional customer experience.”

Bill Payment Options Abound for Utility Customers

For Georgia Power, payment options continue to grow based on customer feedback and preferences. Through their Online Customer Care options, the energy utility offers mobile app, autopay and online payments. For customers who prefer making a payment in person, the utility created partnerships with various vendors like Fidelity Express, PayGo, Walmart and Kroger.

Online Customer Care

  • Web                                                                           
  • Autopay or One Time (ACH)
  • Debit Card (BillMatrix)


  • Debit/Credit/BillMatrix IVR

Authorized Payment Location (APL)

  • Fidelity Express, PayGo Checkout, Western Union, U.S. Payments and Fiserv CheckFree
  • Cash
  • Debit Card (Walmart & Kroger only)


  • Checks
  • Money Order

Based on recommendations from a J.D. Power survey, Georgia Power eliminated payment fees in August 2020. The utility found that satisfaction was low among customers who had to pay an additional fee along with their bill. As a result, eliminating the fee had a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

Going forward, Georgia Power continues to grow its payment options and will soon be moving into the digital wallet space. Digital wallet options include:

  • PayPal
  • Venmo
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Amazon Pay

“Customers are telling us what they want,” Falkenberg says. “We are actively listening and anticipating their needs to further strengthen the relationship and deliver on our promise of exceptional customer experience.”

Creative e-Bill Promotions Boost Enrollment

For energy utilities, a continued challenge is increasing enrollment in paperless billing. According to Platt, 66% of customers receive bills by mail, but only 48% preferred to be mailed this way.

“It’s important to highlight benefits like convenience and ease of use — how paperless billing makes their life easier,” Platt says. “Remember, customers don’t care that your energy utility saves an average of $6 on printing and postage when they enroll in paperless billing unless you tell them why it matters.”

Ways to encourage e-bill enrollment:

  1. Showcase how e-bill fits into customers’ daily lives
  2. Consider an incentive or sweepstakes to capture attention
  3. Try easy and convenient enrollment options

Lincoln Electric shares on their website how they reinvest savings realized from paperless billing by planting trees in the utility’s service territory. The utility also installs solar-powered charging stations for mobile devices and electric wheelchairs in local parks. This message resonates with customers, demonstrating how paperless billing has a direct impact on their community.

Platt recommends incentivizing customers to go paperless, such as a bill credit or sweepstakes. For example, an investor-owned utility in the Southeast promoted paperless billing with a $5 gift card in exchange for enrolling in the program. Questline Digital research shows that customers offered a guaranteed incentive are more likely to respond than those offered a sweepstakes prize.

Energy Customers Want Payment Choices

In today’s world of personalization and infinite choices, payment options have a huge impact on customer satisfaction. From mobile app to mobile wallet payments, listening to what your customers want is key. When it comes to payment preferences, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why your energy utility needs a wide variety of payment options to meet the needs of all customers.

Questline Digital can help your energy utility boost customer satisfaction with a payment option communication strategy.

Questline Digital’s annual Energy Utility Benchmarks Report provides data and insights into customer engagement for energy providers across the country. In our recent webinar, “2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report: Data to Drive Your Utility Forward,” Brian Lindamood, VP of Marketing & Content Strategy at Questline Digital, and Nina Cummins, Account Director at Questline Digital, offered their expert analysis and key takeaways from this year’s report and the state of today’s energy consumer.

Drawing from the Data

The report includes data compiled from 367 million email messages sent on behalf of energy utilities in 2021. It invites the reader to draw their own conclusion from the data, inspecting what metrics matter most and where their utility stands among others in the industry.

The report’s key finding was that energy utilities successfully maintained the increased levels of customer engagement that were first seen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I suspected that I would be sitting here, a year later, explaining that engagement went down in 2021 because of the spike in 2020,” Lindamood said. “But it didn’t. Engagement was flat in 2021, but it was flat at record-high levels. That increase in digital engagement was not a blip, it’s a new and lasting expectation that customers have.”

Overall, municipal utilities achieved the highest open rate increase and co-ops gained the highest click rates of any utility type.

Example statistics from 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks

Update on Apple Privacy Changes

Due to Apple privacy changes, the 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report may be the last annual report to classify open rate as a major indicator of engagement.

Lindamood explained that the Apple privacy policy implemented in the latter half of 2021 had slight impacts on engagement at the end of the year, including:

  • 11% increase in open rates since September 2021
  • 34% of opens flagged as “machine read”

Lindamood expects the Apple privacy changes to make a larger impact in 2022. In the meantime, he suggests that the industry move toward analyzing other key metrics instead, including click click-through rates and conversion rates, for a more effective way of evaluating engagement.

“The bottom line is we can’t rely on open rates anymore. Period,” Lindamood said. “Much more important are click-through rates and conversion rates — the actions customers take after opening a message.”

Metric Breakdowns Per Category

The 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report addresses key data points for energy utilities to analyze and compare their own performance to others in the industry. Questline Digital’s speakers walked through some main highlights of the report, including:

  • Welcome Series
  • Program Promotions
  • Business Customer Engagement

Welcome Series

Welcome Series saw an extraordinary jump in open rates, with an overall 16% increase. This continues to prove that customers want and expect a warm welcome from their utility upon starting service. It’s imperative utilities make a good first impression and provide customers with need-to-know information like how to sign up for My Account, paperless billing and more.

Subject lines in particular play a large role in determining whether customers engage with a Welcome Series. Many of the top performing subject lines include the utility name, which consistently draws engagement from its readers.

“What we have seen in the past is that customers who engage with a Welcome Series tend to be a lot more active with follow-up communications,” Cummins said. “So really grabbing that customer when they first sign up for service is a way to get them in your fold.”

Program Promotions

Rebate promotions had a sharp increase in engagement last year. Between 2020 and 2021 there was a 188% increase in CTOR for appliance rebate promotions.

Cummins explained that this increase is due to a desire for customers to develop more energy efficient homes. In fact, research finds that 56% of consumers find it “very important” to have an energy efficient home, but only 9% think their home is energy efficient.

“With a rise in home improvement projects during the pandemic, consumers were turning to their utility for advice and guidance to replace old appliances and the appliance rebate recycling programs helped to lead them there,” said Cummins.

Example statistics from 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks

Business Customer Engagement  

The 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report revealed a split in business customer engagement: Key Account engagement decreased while Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) engagement increased.

  • 17.7% decrease in open rate for Key Accounts
  • 10.8% increase in open rate for SMB

As all business customers faced new challenges during the pandemic — with many large businesses still determining return-to-office plans — SMB customers more often turned to their energy provider for support and guidance.

“This is at least in part due to the different ways businesses have responded to the pandemic,” Lindamood said. “Small business customers needed a lot of assistance, especially early on in the pandemic. And in addition to the government support programs that were available, they may have been reaching out to their utility for payment programs, efficiency advice or other ways to save. Large businesses didn’t qualify for as much of the federal aid that was available, and yet many are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.”

Lindamood suggests using segmentation to communicate with Key Accounts customers by industry type. This ensures these time-strapped customers receive targeted, relevant information, which can make a large impact on engagement and performance metrics.

Example statistic from 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks

Data to Drive Your Utility Forward

Questline Digital’s 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report provides a guide for measuring and comparing digital engagement performance across the industry. The data can assist your utility in understanding how to build stronger connections with customers and evaluate the success of your engagement strategy.

Learn more about Questline Digital’s 2022 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report.

To help solve problems and transform the customer journey, energy utilities need to think like their customers.

In our webinar, “The Ins and Outs of Utility Customer Journey Mapping,” Zach Hardison, VP of Solutions Innovation at Questline Digital, and Brent Baker, VP and Chief Customer Officer at City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri, provide insights on the importance of customer journey maps and why they are essential to helping energy utilities transform the customer experience.

“Customer journey mapping is a design framework that helps us solve customer problems with the customer in mind,” Baker says. “We often go into the utility mindset on how to design something, but customer journey maps really help us elevate our minds to what it is like to be our customers and to develop processes with the customer as our focus.”

What Is Customer Journey Mapping?

Customer journey mapping is a visual workflow that outlines a step-by-step experience that customers have with a brand, service or product. According to Hardison, a customer journey map highlights a customer’s actions, emotions and behaviors within an experience:

  • Actions: This includes any actions that the customer is taking or any actions that your energy utility is taking
  • Emotions: How your customers or employees may be feeling about a particular pain point along the journey
  • Behaviors: How your customers are behaving or moving through an experience

“Customer journey mapping allows you to think like your customers to better understand how they feel about your utility as a company, brand and experience,” Hardison explains.

A customer journey map has many benefits for energy utilities, including:

  • Strategy and resource planning
  • Identifying customer pain points
  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Identifying operational efficiencies

Hardison notes that customer journey mapping is an excellent tool for strategy and resource planning. It allows you to identify an experience that’s difficult for customers as well as the specific pain points. For example, a customer journey map can tell you where customers get hindered in a process, such as signing up for paperless billing, receiving outage text alerts or enrolling in an energy efficiency program.

“I see customer journey maps as a catalyst to bring a more customer-focused culture into an organization,” Baker says. “From the utility perspective, a customer journey map helps us to be relentless at solving customer problems. The journey mapping process can bring diverse groups together to solve problems differently than they had before.”

Quotation from Zach Hardison Your customer journey map should always be actionable

Customer Journey Mapping Examples from Other Industries

To showcase the effectiveness of customer journey mapping, Hardison and Baker shared a variety of examples from other industries. For example, several years ago, Ford Motor Company designers were strategizing how to make opening a car door low effort for consumers. They utilized customer journey mapping to walk through the specific steps that would be required for customers to open their car door using a smartphone app.

The designers found that a digital solution actually hindered customers and made the experience far worse. The customer journey map became the genesis for a much more user-friendly and easily accessible solution. Ford’s hands-free Liftgate allows customers to open it by kicking their foot underneath the vehicle.

Hardison shared how Starbucks took advantage of customer journey mapping to create more channel options to meet customers’ preferences. The world’s largest coffee chain wanted to find a solution for customers who enjoyed the experience of going to a coffee shop and interacting with the baristas but desired a more streamlined experience.

Ultimately, Starbucks created their drive-through window with this customer base in mind. For a subgroup of customers who are less extroverted and more tech-savvy, the mobile app order came into fruition. With customer journey mapping, Starbucks was able to create the right experiences to meet the unique needs of their customers.

Example of customer journey mapping from Ford

How Do You Create a Customer Journey Map?

Creating a customer journey map starts with these five steps:

  • Identify the experiences you want to analyze
  • Identify the users in the experience — primary, secondary, etc.
  • 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

If you already have an experience you want to analyze, Hardison recommends identifying the users and breaking them down into specific personas, such as tech-savvy customers or those who own an electric vehicle. Identifying your primary users provides a better understanding of who your energy utility should be building experiences around.

“It’s also helpful to have one-on-one interviews with your customers to get their direct input. During these conversations, customers will tell you what you want to hear and probably what you don’t want to hear,” Hardison says. “Either way, you’ll receive a highly objective view of your company and experience.”

For Baker, customer journey mapping was essential to improve City Utilities’ power outage experience and emergency service requests — two moments of frustration for customers. The utility set up a cross-functional team to develop the customer journey map and expedite improvements. Through this process, they were able to recognize what was most important to customers. For example, how often do customers want to be texted during an outage and what information do they want to receive?

“We experienced some resistance on providing an estimated restoration time to customers,” Baker says. “It requires a lot from our operations group to stop what they are doing to provide restoration updates. However, we discovered these communications are very important to customers.”

Quotation from Brent Baker From the utility perspective, a customer journey map helps us to be relentless at solving customer problems

Making Progress with Your Utility Customer Journey Map

Once you have a customer journey map, your energy utility can identify the possibilities:

  • Prioritize your pain points
  • Define your desired outcomes
  • Identify your metrics and success measurements
  • Make the customer journey map actionable

According to Hardison, it’s essential to prioritize your pain points in alignment with your primary user or target demographic. This helps you to understand what you are going to do first, second and third. What pain points do you want to alleviate the most? What are you willing to hold off on? It’s also important to understand the level of effort to reach your desired outcomes.

“If something is painful but a high effort to solve, you might want to reconsider if you do that first or not,” Hardison explains. “If something is painful and low effort, that will usually jump to the top of the list. This is a good exercise to go through to identify what solutions you’re going to implement.”

After defining your pain points and desired outcomes, the next step is identifying metrics and success measures. As your energy utility implements change, it’s key to have a process in place to measure improvements over time. This ensures you have the data you need to communicate regarding ROI and the progress you’re making toward long-term goals and objectives.

“Your customer journey map should always be actionable,” Hardison says, “It’s not just a pretty picture you hang on your wall and call it done. It’s a springboard and catalyst to robust projects and definable action.”

Quotation from Brent Baker We often go into the utility mindset on how to design something but customer journey maps really help us elevate our minds to what it is like to be our customers and to develop processes with the customer as our focus

Utility Customer Journey Mapping: A Catalyst for Change

From major brands to small businesses, companies worldwide are taking advantage of customer journey mapping to address customer pain points. This framework helps your energy utility build the momentum necessary to make positive changes. With an actionable journey map, the possibilities are endless to improve the customer experience.

“It really gives us an ability to have a conversation about making changes,” Baker says. “I found early on during my time in customer service, it was often difficult to explain the real benefits of making changes for customers. Oftentimes, it looked like cost impacts, not benefits. The journey map really helps you understand what it’s like to be a customer of your business.”

Learn how a customer engagement strategy from Questline Digital can address the pain points on your utility’s customer journey map.