Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, more people are working from home than ever. In fact, 42% of the U.S. labor force now works from home full-time. What does this mean for your customers’ energy consumption?
According to CBS News, California residential energy use has risen 15% to 20% during the pandemic and New York energy use is up 4% to 7%.This is comparable to the International Energy Agency’s projections, noting that working from home could increase energy consumption by as much as 23%, “depending on regional differences in the average size of homes, heating or cooling needs and the efficiency of appliances.”
As customers spend more time working at home, they are using home office electronics throughout the day along with increased use of lighting, heating and cooling — even using kitchen appliances instead of the breakroom microwave at work. Of course, this all leads to an increase in home energy bills as well.
Payment options and efficiency advice for work-from-home customers
Questline deployed more 72 million COVID-19-related messages on behalf of energy utilities during the initial months of the crisis. Those performance metrics painted a clear picture of the information customers wanted from their energy utilities.
Based on this insight, Questline developed two key recommendations for connecting with work-from-home customers:
- Provide useful energy efficiency advice so customers can take control of their bills.
- Proactively communicate billing options to customers who are unfamiliar with assistance programs.
At the beginning of the crisis, email newsletters were the most reliable way to reach customers, as most utilities suspended program promotions and other non-essential communications. eNewsletters delivered record levels of engagement in March 2020, with a 37% average open rate — 65% higher than the same month the previous year. One of the most popular content topics throughout the spring was energy efficiency, especially saving energy in a home office.
When energy utilities resumed marketing campaigns in the late spring and early summer, energy efficiency and paperless billing campaigns were the top performers. Energy efficiency messages achieved a 26% average open rate, surpassing the benchmark rate by 11%.
There is a more worrying trend lurking in the shadows of the work-from-home surge: The economic shutdown caused by the pandemic has left 30 million Americans without jobs. Some dual-income households have even faced the prospect of losing income from one family member while another continues working from home, driving up energy costs. Many of these people are facing financial hardship for the first time and may not be familiar with your utility’s billing options and payment assistance programs.
A major investor-owned utility in the Southeast sent a payment reminder email to more than 86,000 customers early in the crisis. The message provided an option to make partial payments and linked to the utility’s COVID-19 resource page. The email experienced extraordinary engagement rates with a 41% open rate and 5,850 total clicks.
A permanent shift in home energy use
As many companies continue to allow employees to work from home, it is clear that work culture is changing. For example, Google employees are working from home until at least summer 2021 and Twitter staff can do so permanently. Even when the pandemic ends, a survey by the Harvard Business School found that one in six workers is projected to continue working from home at least two days a week.
Despite growing questions about a continued work from home future, it is apparent that this is just the beginning. Your energy utility needs to continue to prepare customers for the increased costs that come with their home office, whether through payment options or energy efficiency tips.
The future of our work-from-home world may be unknown, but what is known are the numerous ways your energy utility can help your residential and business customers. Be a trusted resource as customers continue to work through the struggles of a pandemic.