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.

In Questline Digital’s Plugged In webinar, “How to Market Paperless Billing to Customers,” Senior Copywriter Breanne George and Creative Director Joe Pifher shared their insights and advice for creating successful promotions that encourage customers to switch to paperless billing.

In order to reach your program goals, your energy utility needs to understand your customers and their motivations. In doing so, you will be able to segment and promote your paperless billing program with effective messaging.

Use the right message to make them switch

In order to know what type of paperless billing campaign is right for your energy utility, you must first understand your customers. The right paperless message is personalized to your target audience.

Ask yourself this: How will paperless billing make your customers’ lives easier? To help answer this question, get to know your customers:

  • What are their needs, wants and interests?
  • What are their challenges or barriers to adoption?
  • What do their day-to-day lives look like?
  • What are their values and motivations?

George suggested a few ways to encourage the switch to paperless billing, based on successful campaigns she has worked on for energy utilities across the nation.

  • Showcase how paperless billing fits into your customers’ daily lives. This could be as simple as how your customers get to work. For example, if customers often commute on a train or subway, easy access on-the-go would be an important benefit to showcase in your paperless campaign.
  • Try easy and convenient enrollment options. Customers like simplicity – make signing up for paperless as easy as one-click enrollment and your conversion rates can increase dramatically.

Customer motivations drive eBill enrollment

Often customers who don’t switch to paperless billing have one of three reasons for not doing so. They may fear that…

  • Enrollment will take too long, and they don’t have the time
  • Going paperless will mean they won’t have statements for their records
  • They’ll be more likely to forget a payment if they switch to digital

To combat these concerns, your energy utility should relay the top paperless benefits for customers:

  • Simple – easy to manage and pay from anywhere
  • Convenient – saves time and fits the customers’ on-the-go lifestyle
  • Affordable – no need to buy stamps or worry about late fees
  • Eco-friendly – use less paper and reduce environmental footprint
  • Reliable – never forget or lose track of a bill again
  • Secure – safely manage statements and payments online

Business and residential customers have very different needs, so segmenting these audiences is encouraged. When it comes to paperless billing, business customers value:

  • Easy access to past bills and usage history
  • 24/7 bill availability when they are out and about
  • Less paper clutter in their office

Encourage multiple generations to switch to paperless billing

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the digital age of TikTok and Twitter, but when it comes to Millennials and Gen-Zers, George says email is still a viable option for these younger generations.

In fact, she shared that nearly 75% of millennials and 58% of Gen-Zers check their emails multiple times a day. However, they have a 12- and 8-second attention span, respectively, so it’s important to connect with these customers through storytelling rather than with overly promotional copy.

When it comes to older generations, Questline Digital often sees the biggest concerns related to payment security or having records on hand. George suggests “speaking to their concerns first.” Reinforce the safety of paperless billing and how it is often more secure than dropping a check in the mail. It’s also important to show them how to retrieve records of their past bills with a simple click.

Design best practices to boost campaign performance

The next step following great copy is great design. Pifher, Questline Digital’s Creative Director, shared the email best practices to consider for your creative campaign. These tips include having a message hierarchy, keeping a clear and active CTA and ensuring the email is mobile-friendly.

It’s also imperative for your energy utility to use the right imagery. You want the image to be relatable to customers, eye-catching and relevant. Pifher stressed the importance of looking at your specific audience demographics to determine the visual elements of your campaign:

  • People – age, gender, race, socioeconomic status
  • Region-specific – weather, transportation, landscape
  • Customer interests – sports, local spots, the environment, values and motivations

Pifher suggests utilities design around the inverted triangle strategy: grabbing a customers’ attention at the top, building anticipation in the headline and first few sentences and then taking them to the call-to-action. There should be plenty of white space throughout the design. Ensure the email is easy for customers to scan with the use of bullets or icons.

Incentives add value to eBill sign-ups

Pifher recommends testing incentives in your campaigns to encourage more people to switch to paperless billing. Customers often enjoy being rewarded, even if the incentive is small in value.

Questline Digital’s performance metrics show smaller, immediate rewards perform better than enter-to-win sweepstakes. However, it’s important to test large and small incentives with your target audience.

Pifher also says that by developing not just a single email, but also web banner ads, social posts, direct mail inserts and more, your energy utility is able to reach customers no matter which channel they prefer to use.

The impact of coronavirus on paperless promotions

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of people’s lives, including how they get mail or pay bills. Before the pandemic, a large push for paperless billing was the “on-the-go, anytime, anywhere” messaging. Now, Pifher says customers are looking for more convenient ways to pay bills and messaging has turned to “on the couch or in bed, anytime, anywhere” messaging.

The importance of “no touch” payments and a focus on decluttering paper bills became more important benefits of paperless billing for customers. In addition, the pandemic has simply shown the importance of adaptation — whether due to major pandemics or simply customer interests changing. The ability to shift focus at a moment’s notice is an important skill to have when developing campaigns. 

Successful campaigns require more than a simple email

As these insights show, there are many aspects to a successful paperless billing campaign. Between knowing your customers, segmenting messages based on their needs, motivating customers through diligent copy and creative design, connecting through an omnichannel approach and adapting for current environments, there is more involved to reach conversion goals than a simple email.

Equipped with these copy and design best practices, revisit your paperless billing campaign strategy to achieve your energy utility’s conversion goals.

Help more customers switch to paperless billing with an eBill marketing campaign from Questline Digital.

As the new year approaches, marketing teams everywhere are planning their communication strategies to reach customers in 2022. For energy utilities, this is no different. It’s a perfect time to reflect on what worked or didn’t work in the past and revitalize your marketing efforts for the year ahead.

In our recent webinar, “2022 Email Marketing Best Practices & Trends,” Bethany Farchione (Questline Digital) and Cynthia Price (Litmus) shared their forecast for design and marketing trends and how utilities can prepare to make the biggest impact on customers.

A Look Back at Last Year’s Email Marketing Trends

Farchione began the webinar by taking a step back to discuss the email marketing trends Questline Digital saw in 2021, including:

  1. Personalization and segmentation
  2. Automated campaigns
  3. Interactive emails
  4. Bold/bright email designs
  5. Multichannel marketing

“For 2021, the biggest thing we saw was a massive rise in digital adoption and digital communications,” she said. “What’s important as we move forward is maintaining and growing that engagement into the next year.”

She explained that personalization and segmentation became major influencers, impacting nearly every communication as utilities tried to better target their audiences. “These trends are not going away in 2022,” Farchione added. “We expect that they will continue to grow in importance, but we do see a handful of new trends being added.”

A Look Ahead at Email Marketing Trends for 2022

Farchione proceeded to look ahead to the major themes of 2022:

  • Email marketing will continue to be extremely important
  • The goal for utilities is to keep engaging with the digital customers they acquired in 2021
  • Focus on continuing to improve digital services and experiences

“A new study from DMA Consumer Tracker says that 96% of consumers check their email every day and over 70% of consumers believe that email is the best channel for company contact,” she said. “So, while email has been around forever, it’s still really important within the customer communication mix. When done right, it’s actually a conversation with your customers, which is really valuable and powerful.”

Farchione also shared the most important trends to watch in the coming year.

Top 10 email marketing trends of 2022:

  1. Create an improved after-sales experience
  2. Audit and understand your data
  3. Accomplish more with your newsletters
  4. Optimize for all platforms and preferences
  5. Create more interactive emails
  6. Ensure your emails are accessible
  7. Showcase user-generated content
  8. Utilize preference centers
  9. Hyper-personalize your email campaigns
  10. Adapt to changes with open rates and privacy

Create an improved after-sales experience

Farchione shared that customer journeys are becoming more important to pay attention to and targeting customers where they are in that journey matters. Research from McKinsey shows that customers are actually asking for, and want, an improved after-sales experience.

For utilities, building this improved workflow for customers will be especially important for program enrollment, onboarding and marketplace sales.

Farchione shared an example of a customer purchasing a smart thermostat and the importance for utilities to be part of that journey. “Following up with customers and having journeys for each interaction is essential,” she said. “How do they install the thermostat? Do they need maintenance reminders? Do they need suggestions for future purchases? How do they make the most of that thermostat? Customers are looking for guidance.”

Understand your data

Price reflected on the importance of segmentation and personalization for utilities and shared, “At the core of every great segmentation strategy is understanding and using your data effectively.”

She recommends an annual audit to understand what data points are available and specify what your goal is for understanding that data. “Start with the key data points that you think will allow you to build customer segments and dynamic campaigns that will really give you a more effective experience.”

Make more of your newsletters

Newsletters aren’t new, but now is the time to go all-out with them. They’ve seen a resurgence of popularity in the past year and for good reason — they provide the foundation for ongoing customer engagement.

“We recommend that utilities focus on creating specialty newsletters for different interests that their customers may have. And since they are a foundation for engagement, we recommend sending them monthly. Customers are accustomed to getting monthly newsletters and when done right, they look forward to them,” Farchione said.

“Newsletters are an amazing way to build trust over time,” Price added. “Goals with newsletters are often less specific than for other campaigns, and they’re a great way to build awareness and trust for brands in general.”

Optimize for all platforms and preferences

Price explains that there is an overwhelming amount of data that shows that one bad experience in an email, whether a broken link or an image that doesn’t render, can turn off a consumer to a brand. “It can have long-lasting negative effects,” she said.

With the number of platforms available for users and the different requirements for each, it’s essential to test for quality assurance to ensure everyone receives emails as they were intended.

In addition, coding for dark mode needs to be at the forefront of development. Dark mode has become increasingly popular in the past few years. In fact, Price shares that over 80% of consumers who use Apple devices use dark mode. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your utility is checking how emails will look with dark mode rendering.

Example of dark mode email testing for different clients

Create more interactive emails

Interactive email continues to rise in popularity. In general, interactive content includes surveys, calculators or games. For email, interactive content simply means adding interest and movement so your messages stand out to customers.

“People like excitement in their inbox. They’re in their inbox every day so they need more visually exciting creative materials to keep their interest,” Farchione said.

Plus, the data doesn’t lie — interactive content is proven to generate five times more views than static content.

Ensure your emails are accessible

Focusing on email accessibility not only ensures that anyone is able to engage with the email, “it also makes the emails more pleasing and you see better engagement from all audiences when you use foundational accessibility techniques,” Price said.

She shared some tips to make emails more accessible:

  • Copywriting: Keep it concise and limit jargon
  • Design: Create a strong hierarchy, use white space and high contrast
  • Email code: Use semantic HTML and include alternative text for images

Showcase user-generated content

Data shows that consumers trust other consumers before they trust a brand. Because of this, both residential and business customers want to see the success of others. By including video testimonials or case studies, new customers can see firsthand experiences of the success of energy efficiency programs or marketplace purchases. Adding actual customer reviews directly in email is also a valuable way to prompt more action and improve click-through rates.

Utilize preference centers

Utilities obtain most of their customer data from contact information when they sign up for service. But what customers actually want and expect from utilities differs from this generic information. Preference centers are great tools for asking for details about a customer that might not be readily available when one signs up for service.

“With preference centers, you’re emailing them with content they actually want to get from you,” Price explained.

A few benefits of using preference centers includes:

  • Reduced unsubscribes
  • Showcasing email offerings
  • Increased engagement

Preference centers allow utilities to see which topics customers are interested in, or not interested in, and helps to tailor messages specifically for that individual.

Hyper-personalize your email campaigns

“Gone are the times of mass email messages,” Farchione said. “People want and expect content that fits their specific interests and needs.”

Hyper-personalizing communications makes customers more engaged and helps your utility reach its business goals. As Farchione pointed out, “Personalization drives performance and better outcomes.” In fact, data from Content Marketing World 2021 shows that 74% of customers are frustrated when information isn’t tailored to them.

Farchione shared an example of Questline Digital’s work with AEP Ohio on a segmentation strategy for the utility’s business eNewsletters. After adding targeted, industry-based audiences such as healthcare and education, the utility saw an 84% increase in engagement among its business customers.

Changes to open rates and privacy

Apple recently introduced Mail Privacy Protection, a privacy setting that hides IP addresses so senders can no longer see who opens an email, the time of open, location or type of device.

Although many utilities are concerned about these changes, Price reminds us to look back at the goals: “What was the goal of the actual email? The goal was never for customers to open it, the goal was for them to engage with it in some way.”

Price recommends expanding KPIs to better align them with long-term business goals. She suggests considering:

  • Email quality
  • Unique clicks
  • Account activity
  • Website visits

Prepare Your Marketing Strategy for 2022

As your utility looks ahead to the new year, consider these email marketing trends when planning your communications strategy.

Questline Digital can help your energy utility deliver more effective and engaging email communications.

For energy utilities, encouraging customers to adopt energy efficient lifestyles is an ongoing challenge. Both residential and business customers benefit from reducing energy, but it can be easier said than done to change long-standing behaviors. However, with the right strategies in place, utilities can make strides in their energy efficiency adoption goals.  

In our latest webinar, “Energy Efficiency Adoption Solutions,” Colleen Bullett (Questline Digital), Laurel Gerdine (Franklin Energy) and Mary Medeiros McEnroe (Silicon Valley Power) discuss the importance of EE adoption and how to promote energy-saving solutions to your customers.

Bullett kicked off the webinar with a round of statistics, including: In 2019, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kWh, an average of about 877 kWh per month.

In addition, Questline Digital’s 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report finds that customer interest in energy efficiency increased significantly throughout the pandemic. In fact, customers engaged with promotional emails from their utilities at an 18% higher open rate and 27% higher click-through rate.

According to Bullett, there are many reasons to convert utility customers to energy efficient lifestyles, notably environmental and economic benefits. EE adoption plays a powerful role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing utility bills, creating jobs and addressing energy equity. With an aggressive commitment to energy efficiency, utilities could help reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 57% by 2050.

“It’s more cost-effective and efficient for energy utilities to encourage customers to change energy patterns instead of spending money on new technologies, updating generators and other costly measures,” Bullett says.

Research finds that 56% of consumers find it “very important” to have an energy efficient home. However, only 9% of those consumers think their home is energy efficient. Moreover, 47% customer say “the money I can save” is a top indicator of whether they will purchase energy efficiency products or not. Environmental concerns drive 44% of customers to invest in energy efficiency.

These are the top reasons why customers are averse to adoption:

  • “The costs are too high”
  • “Unsure about real-world benefits and performance”
  • “Too many barriers to adoption”
  • “Waiting until others adopt first”

To overcome these barriers, Bullett recommends sharing success stories in the form of case studies and content marketing. These solutions address the knowledge gap and help customers to better understand home energy audits, time-of-use (TOU) rate plans and other programs. Energy utilities should use content marketing to encourage customers to change behaviors, such as charging their electric vehicles at night or installing ENERGY STAR appliances. Content marketing is key to showing customers how they can easily implement these changes into their everyday lives.  

With a large base of commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, Medeiros McEnroe shared how Silicon Valley Power promotes energy efficiency programs to this hard-to-reach audience. The municipal electric utility, located in Santa Clara, California, has over 40 large data centers and numerous tech companies in its 18.4-square-mile service area.

Residential customers make up about 85% of the utility’s customer base, but only represent 6% of energy usage. That’s why Silicon Valley Power focuses its energy efficiency efforts on C&I customers. Medeiros McEnroe reinforced the importance of understanding your business customers in order to promote the right energy efficiency technologies.

Energy utilities need to ask the right questions:

  • Are they a local, regional or national company?
  • What do they do?
  • What are their business drivers?
  • What are their pain points?
  • When are their funding cycles?
  • Do they have metrics for decision-making?
  • Who are the energy champions at the organization?

When energy utilities reach out to C&I customers, they need to understand the return on investment for an energy efficiency program or technology. In other words, will this solution help increase productivity and improve the company’s bottom line? Medeiros McEnroe encouraged utilities to think beyond how much a business will save on their electric bill. For example, what are their climate goals? What is the ROI equivalent to increased product sales?

To encourage energy efficiency adoption with C&I customers, Medeiros McEnroe recommends using targeted program promotions with multiple touchpoints, including emails, postcards and two-page fliers. Silicon Valley Power also takes advantage of site visits and training with trade allies. When the utility promoted an energy efficiency incentive program with hotels and motels during the pandemic, site visits and trade ally training were key to achieving high program participation.   

In addition to promoting the energy benefits of a particular solution, it behooves energy utilities to talk about the non-energy benefits as well. Medeiros McEnroe shared an example of an energy efficient deep fryer demonstration at the Food Service Technology Center. The energy efficient deep fryer came to temperature faster, resulting in oil lasting longer than traditional fryers. This was quantified by the amount of French fry orders made per year, the amount of oil saved each year, etc. The non-energy savings were significantly more than the energy savings. Medeiros McEnroe strongly encourages quantifying the non-energy benefits of a solution to customers as a way of speaking to what is most important to them.  

It can be just as challenging to encourage EE adoption among residential customers. Franklin Energy, which serves 500,000 residential customers annually, has experienced success with energy efficiency education and promotions. According to Gerdine, the utility’s commitment to energy efficiency adoption has resulted in a reduction of 1.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions in 2020.

To impact program adoption for residential customers, Gerdine emphasizes promoting convenience and simplicity. “We live in an Amazon world and consumer buying motivations have dramatically changed,” she says. An Accenture study found that 57% of consumers would switch retailers if they did not offer new, fast and flexible delivery options. For energy utilities, this means taking a hard look at their processes and determining what needs to change to meet the expectations of today’s customers.

“If you are not providing an easy way for customers to enroll or participate in an energy efficiency program, adoption will not be successful,” Gerdine notes. “Customers expect a streamlined sign-up process – if it’s too complicated, they will simply avoid it.”

For example, Franklin Energy had been using paper applications for years for its home weatherization program targeting low-income customers. The utility recently implemented an online application capability, mostly for use by program allies (the main channel for participation). The results were immediate with 30% to 50% of weekly applications submitted online.  

Another example is the promotion of a large home energy assessment program. During the pandemic, the utility collected Covid-related information in the sign-up process. While the goal was to protect the health of customers and team members, the program execution created a barrier to sign up that significantly impacted adoption. In fact, the added complexity resulted in a 40% increase in the scheduling page bounce rate. To solve the problem, the Franklin Energy team removed the questions and asked them as part of a follow-up process. With this quick fix, the bounce rate returned to normal levels.

“The main lesson here is to make sure you consider the impact of your actions on the sign up process,” Gerdine says. “Remember the old ‘keep it simple’ rule to drive adoption and participation in programs.”

Partnerships are another huge resource to influence energy efficiency adoption. In the midst of Covid-19, community became a huge channel to provide energy efficiency solutions to low and medium-income customers. In addition, the emergence of new program designs and increasing complex technologies has shined a light on the value of engaging communities. Gerdine recommends that energy utilities work with key stakeholders to drive adoption among residential customers.

“It really takes a village to drive energy efficiency adoption and this will continue and become more important moving forward,” Gerdine says. “We began to use new community channels to reach customers where they are.”

Questline Digital can help your utility increase energy efficiency adoption among residential and business customers.

Interactive content is not a new concept, but it can be daunting for many companies to understand, let alone produce. However, it’s not as difficult as it appears to develop interactive content.

In our latest webinar, “Using Interactive Content to Engage Customers,” Matt Irving, Brian Lindamood and Robert Abbott share best practices and benefits of using interactive content to increase engagement and grow customer satisfaction for energy utilities.

What is Interactive Content?

Interactive content is easiest to understand as a two-way experience. It requires and encourages active participation from the user. In fact, customers are more likely to learn and remember your message when they actively participate. This type of content is more conversational because it allows the user to decide what path to take. Questline Digital Creative Director Matt Irving explained, “Your click is your voice.”

Customers now expect interaction. We live in an on-demand world, where consumers are constantly “choosing their own adventure.” Irving shared that 81% of marketers agree that interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content.

There are a few key factors that make interactive content so powerful:

  • More rewarding – Customers want to have fun
  • Human nature – We love to interact
  • Social sharing – Encourages customers to share with friends
  • Competitive advantage – Helps break through noise in the content space

Benefits of Interactive Content for Energy Utilities

Beyond the theoretical reasons to use interactive content, there are very real benefits. In general, interactive content can help marketers:

  • Generate first-party audience data
  • Gain insights on consumer interests
  • Increase engagement
  • Optimize lead generation

For energy utilities in particular, interactive content can help them stand out by:

  • Teaching complex topics
  • Increasing program awareness
  • Improving customer experiences
  • Learning customer preferences and behaviors

Interactive content is also proven to build relationships by building brand awareness and deepening customer loyalty. This type of content doesn’t need to be complex in order to meet business goals.

“We measure customer relationships in decades, and maintaining customer satisfaction with their utility throughout that lifecycle is so important,” said Brian Lindamood, Questline Digital VP of Marketing and Content Strategy. “When an experience is entertaining, as well as informative, it really makes the customer not just more interested, but more likely to engage with it. You’re showing the customer that you care about their needs and interests. … You’re literally interacting with them while also demonstrating that your utility is a helpful resource for them.”

Tips for Producing Interactive Content

Robert Abbott of Context Digital shared helpful insights on both the technical and creative sides of developing interactive content. As with anything, producing this type of content could incur added costs and resources, but it’s a worthy investment. Customers will recognize and appreciate the investment in their entertainment and education.  

Abbott stressed that it’s one thing to have the idea for an interactive content piece and it’s another thing to build it. All teams need to be aligned in figuring out the best solution that meets the goal. In the end, the product needs to be produced with the audience in mind. “Always consider what your audience needs or wants,” Abbott said.

Some other tips that Abbott shared, included:

  • Consider if you have a compelling reason to use it – Don’t create interactive content just for the sake of creating it
  • Don’t always reinvent the wheel – Use content you already have and repurpose it
  • Decide on how to measure success – Clicks and engagement rates are important, but consider quantitative metrics as well
  • Match the format to its intended function – Make sure the type of content is created for the right goals
  • Consider partnering with interactive content providers – You don’t have to do everything; allow experts to guide you to create a better experience for customers

Interactive Content is King

There are numerous types of interactive content to consider when producing new assets, including:

  • Calculators
  • Quizzes
  • Polls/Surveys
  • Games
  • Infographics
  • Clickable images
  • Interactive video

Each format has its own specific benefit to improving engagement or enhancing the customer experience. It’s up to your energy utility to research what hurdles your customers are facing and which format can best solve their problems. Put customers first and the content will follow.

Connect with your energy utility’s customers and build engagement with an interactive content strategy from Questline.