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.
At the 2014 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Summer Study last week, I was encouraged to see an increasing focus on utility customer engagement: Customer needs, wants, and experiences are becoming more and more important in this age of disruptive innovation for the industry. Increased engagement not only allows utilities to build a better relationship with their customers, it also helps them achieve efficiency goals. Although installing more-efficient equipment will always be a big part of energy savings, many utilities now recognize that motivating people to change their behavior can have a significant and persistent impact on energy usage.
I edited 35 E Source Account Management Assessment reports this year, which pretty much makes me an account management specialist. But you don’t have to be an expert to notice something oddly self-defeating in business account management processes. Why are we encouraging contact center reps to collect e-mail addresses from business customers, then hastening the reps off the phone so they meet their average handle time goals?
While answering Ask E Source inquiries, I learned about a product that takes a new approach to an old technology: electrostatic air filters. These filters, according to their manufacturers, capture particulates using filtering efficiencies as high as some hospital-grade air filters, all while consuming less energy. Significantly less energy. And just to clarify, filters themselves don’t consume energy, but they affect how much energy the fans that contain them consume. Much to my chagrin, despite this technology’s energy-saving potential, robust research on its performance is lacking.
At last year’s E Source Forum, I was an intern for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. Now I’m a research analyst for the demand-side management (DSM) team at E Source, and I’ll be hosting my first Forum session on Wednesday, October 1: “So Happy Together? Collaboration Among Electric, Gas & Water Utilities.” We’ll talk about whether the electric, gas, and water utilities that are partnering on joint DSM programs are happy about the arrangements.
Participating in the social media conversation allows utilities to respond to and engage customers quickly and efficiently, resolving issues, addressing complaints, and putting a human face on the utility. More important, when utilities don’t participate in the social media conversation, they cede control of and responsibility for brand, reputation, and customer experience. As Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media, recently wrote in an article for Inc., “Not responding to a customer’s complaint on Twitter is like hanging up the phone on him—with millions watching.”
Electric utilities have had decades to prepare, at least mentally, for the day when electric vehicles (EVs) would become a reality. That day has finally arrived, but I believe most utilities are falling into traps that are hindering rather than helping the market evolve—and therefore benefit utilities. What tactics can utilities engage in now to help create a new, intelligent EV market that creates consumer demand?
As an E Source content manager, I read dozens of reports, presentations, blog posts, newsletters, and web pages every week. So I know that the words we use are critical to getting the right message to the right audience. But do residential customers really respond to “energy efficiency”? Doubtful. The language we use to describe energy efficiency is often confusing, misleading, fear-inducing, or—horror of horrors—meaningless. But if we choose careful words with just the right nuance, we can stir emotions, change philosophies, and, most important, motivate action.
In 2009, my husband and I applied to the Boulder County, Colorado, ClimateSmart Loan Program—a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program. In 2008, Boulder County voters passed ballot issue 1A, approving the issuing of $40 million in bonds that would fund loans to residents and businesses so that they could make energy-efficiency improvements to their homes and facilities. We thought the timing was perfect to install a photovoltaic system, which is a popular solution in sunny Boulder County. So imagine our disappointment when our home energy-efficiency auditor informed us that the two massive cottonwood trees flanking our southern view rendered the technology impractical.
If you’re like me, you spend countless hours on Pinterest, pinning crafts and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that you know full well you’ll never get around to doing. Well, what if there were a way to create one of these DIY gems with some expert crafting help, while enjoying a tasty cocktail and networking with your peers at the E Source Forum? Enter Upstairs Circus, a new E Source Forum activity option.
Excellent customer service is a must for any utility that’s serious about customer experience. In fact, because your customer service department has the most direct interactions with your customers, it has a great deal of influence on customers’ perceptions of the company. It’s a good idea to first ensure that your customer service reps have the right attitudes; then you can equip them with the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources they need to serve customers well. After that, you can empower them to take care of customers. But don’t stop there.