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.
The rule: stay genuine.
Having worked at organizations that collected thousands of customer surveys per day, I know how hard it can be to take action on each and every one. In fact, doing so is nearly impossible—and certainly not cost-effective. However, taking action on the themes that surface is doable and should be mandatory. If it weren’t mandatory, your business would erode one of the most important attributes in your relationship with your customers: trust.
I’m excited to introduce a new data resource here at E Source that I hope many of our members will find useful. The new Measure Profile provides a centralized, comprehensive set of data points on different energy-efficient technologies and equipment for which utilities commonly provide incentives through their demand-side management (DSM) programs.
Our first Measure Profile on residential advanced power strips (APSs), also known as smart strips, has just been published. This research is timely, since plug loads comprise as much as 15 percent of the electricity consumed in US homes. Smart strips allow consumers to counteract this increasing electrical load by automatically interrupting power to controlled devices.
With the aim of making program design and planning easier for DSM program administrators (PAs) and managers, we collected data on residential smart-strip programs, incentives, and savings from utility program websites, technical reference manuals, and program evaluations. The Measure Profile will help PAs assess and compare a number of APS measure and program characteristics, including:
- Product and program types ...
During June, E Source had a competition for its employees, challenging them to get to and from work using green transportation. As a naturally competitive guy, I decided to jump in and do some biking to work—and I was playing to win. Which I did.
Though winning was good, what I didn’t realize was how much more downtime I was getting to do some deep thinking. During these June bike rides, I kept thinking about how absolutely complex customer experience (CE) is becoming. Correction: How complex it’s being perceived due to all the noise it’s generating. I’ve been in the field now for several years, and much of the complexity is stemming from the words “customer experience” getting abused and misused more than the quarterback position for the New York Jets.
Let me elaborate on this “misuse” by explaining a typical day in the life of a CE professional:
- 9:00 a.m.: You’re in your office trying to figure out how to package up a CE strategy that will actually gain buy-in from your boss’ boss by Friday. Luckily, you just got assigned this role a few months ago, so you ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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.
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.
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 ...