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E Source Blog

Welcome to the E Source Blog! Our staff will share insights and observations about life at E Source, our events, our research, and other fun stuff.

July 15, 2013 | Justin Rickard - Research Manager | 2 comments

In a recent blog post, I explored the subject of loyalty through good, old-fashioned research: I asked my colleagues to provide examples of why they were loyal to certain companies. The common themes in their responses were:

  • A sense of trust,
  • Types of emotional connections, and
  • Pleasant experiences during company interactions.

It was a great exercise that started to peel back the layers, revealing the profound impact loyalty has on consumer behavior. But this research also brought to light a question specific to utilities. Namely, why are most utilities treating customer satisfaction (CSAT) as their BFF (best friend forever) when other industries are focusing on fostering loyal customers?

The trouble with just measuring CSAT is that it doesn’t give a complete picture of how customers feel about their utility. CSAT measures the rational experiences of customers, usually during a specific time or interaction, and loyalty is a gauge of the emotive qualities that can arise as a result of many interactions the customer has with the utility. Think of postcall CSAT surveys. In our report titled Designing ...

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July 5, 2013 | Kim Burke - Associate Research Director, Customer Experience & Marketing | 2 comments

Ahh, the offer of free food. That’s the e-mail subject line that tends to get the most people in our office out of their seats, bolting toward the lunchroom. But do you ever wonder how to grab the attention of small and midsize business (SMB) customers? If you’re a utility demand-side management program manager or business customer marketer, then that question probably has crossed your mind. SMB customers are traditionally one of the toughest segments to reach: They’re busy running their businesses, and they don’t have much time to think about how they can reduce their energy use and costs.

With that in mind, E Source convened a session at our spring Utility Marketing Conference to gain some insight into what SMB customers really think. The audience was treated to a frank conversation with business customers who represent the hotel, commercial property management, and restaurant industries.

What did we learn? SMB customers care about energy and how much it costs—being able to save money on their bill is important to them. However, most of the time they don’t read their bill! Consequently, bill inserts aren’t ...

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July 2, 2013 | Alexandra Behringer - Associate Director | 0 comments

Efficiency program administrators (PAs) rely on data to figure out if programs are meeting or exceeding energy- and demand-savings goals. And we hear from utility folks that they’re often faced with an overwhelming amount of data. In fact, “big data” is the trending buzzword for a volume of data so large and complex that it’s difficult to process using traditional software and database resources. Many utilities face the challenge of grappling with and interpreting big data, thanks to voluminous information collected by smart meters, as well as detailed demand-side management program- and portfolio-tracking efforts.

Despite the rich resources offered by big data, some program managers and PAs still wrestle with a lack of specific data needed to thoroughly analyze the impact of their efficiency programs. Examples include a historical paucity of data on retail lighting sales and regional unitary HVAC market share. Now, two new data resources are emerging that may address these data gaps and may be able to help you better understand the effects of your programs on efficient lighting and equipment sales.

First is the new Consortium for Retail ...

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July 2, 2013 | Adam Maxwell - Associate Director, Research Inquiry Services | 0 comments

Since joining E Source, I’ve gained a new perspective on the issues utilities face in the demand-side management (DSM) world. Regulators are constantly challenging the efficacy of programs, yet DSM goals continue to rise (albeit with flattening budgets). Programs have historically relied on technologies to save energy but now need to infuse elements of social psychology to cater to the growingly savvy energy consumer. This is a period of rapid change and conflicting messages in utility DSM-land, and is certainly keeping utilities on their toes.

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July 2, 2013 | Rich Goodwin - Product Manager, Customer Experience & Marketing | 0 comments

When I started out my career in 1971 as a customer service rep with PECO in Philadelphia, how our customers contacted us was pretty clear-cut and simple. They called us, wrote us a letter, or just walked in the front door. Staffing those channels wasn’t a major problem. But in today’s business environment, things are certainly different.

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July 1, 2013 | Alexandra Behringer - Associate Director | 0 comments

Residential HVAC equipment represents a critical opportunity for energy savings, since more than half of the energy use in homes is due to heating and cooling equipment. However, we know that poor HVAC installation practices—resulting in deficiencies in equipment sizing, airflow, and refrigerant levels, as well as duct leakage—can negatively affect achievable energy savings. As a result, increasing numbers of utilities are requiring that contractors follow proper or “quality” procedures for the installation of residential HVAC equipment.

To support the quality installation of HVAC systems, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) established a national minimum standard—the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ACCA 5 Quality Installation (QI)–2010 (HVAC Quality Installation Specification)—also referred to as the ACCA Standard 5 (PDF). In spite of the standard, we’ve heard from many E Source members that they often face challenges in implementing HVAC QI programs for residential customers, citing issues such as:

  • Low customer demand for QI services due to lack of awareness that ...

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June 27, 2013 | Justin Rickard - Research Manager | 0 comments

Forward-thinking utilities are beginning to implement proactive social communications with their customers. I hinted at this in my last blog post, where I provided some analysis from the E Source Utility Social Media Survey 2013 (XLS).

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Topics: Social media
June 24, 2013 | Jay Stein - Executive Vice President | 1 comments

You want an air-conditioning (AC) system for a low-rise commercial building in sticky, humid Houston, Texas? No problem. The air-conditioning industry has a product for you: a packaged rooftop unit with direct-expansion cooling, as described on a local HVAC vendor’s website in Houston. How about for a similar building in bone-dry Phoenix, Arizona? Again, no problem: a packaged rooftop unit with direct-expansion cooling, as described on a local HVAC vendor’s website in Phoenix.

What’s the problem here? Our one-trick-pony HVAC industry uses essentially the same equipment for cooling in a wide variety of climates. Yes, there are products available other than packaged rooftop units, but the packaged units dominate the market. Though the development of standardized products in the HVAC industry has certainly built up the scale of manufacturing—which has driven down prices—it’s also led to some inefficiencies in equipment operation. There are very different dynamics at play in cooling a building in a humid climate versus cooling one in a dry climate, and an AC design that ignores those differences by using the same equipment in both places ...

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June 21, 2013 | Justin Rickard - Research Manager | 0 comments

I engage on social media platforms every day for various reasons. Whether it’s providing relevant content to the E Source Utility Customer Experience Leaders Group on LinkedIn, checking out the cool energy-saving gadgets on the E Source Pinterest page, or posting random stuff on Facebook to family and friends (in the evenings after work, of course), social networking consumes a good portion of my waking hours.

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Topics: Social media
June 21, 2013 | Rachel Reiss Buckley - Research Practice Director, DSM | 0 comments

Smart thermostats—those that are Wi-Fi–enabled, have mobile platforms, provide usage history and HVAC maintenance reminders, offer demonstrated energy savings, and verify load reduction—are all the rage right now. There are myriad technology choices, plus many ways to structure utility programs. How do you determine what’s right for you? The E Source Forum, as well as E Source content, can help!

At the upcoming E Source Forum to be held September 17–20, 2013, we’ll have a session devoted entirely to this topic. You’ll hear from the following experts, who will provide actionable recommendations to those interested in smart thermostat programs.

Scott Jarman, consulting engineer at Austin Energy, is running a pilot program where customers purchase their own thermostat and then receive an incentive to link it to the utility’s demand-response programs. Not only will Scott share his experiences with this innovative program model, but he’ll also disclose his firsthand feedback on working with the various thermostat technologies and vendors (Ecobee, EnergyHub, and Nest). After almost a full year of testing, ...

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