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Utility Customers Recognize Energy Efficiency Efforts

Posted by Steve Smith

Customers appreciate their utility's energy conservation initiatives, even if they don't participate in them. That's the conclusion of a report from the State Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action). But the key is to make sure that utility customers actually know about these programs. In essence, the more familiar they are with a utility's energy efficiency efforts, the more their satisfaction increases.

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And the survey says …

The report cites studies from J.D. Power and Associates that measured business customers' satisfaction with gas and electric utilities. The studies looked at six factors that are common in a business-utility relationship: billing and payment, corporate citizenship, price, communications, customer service, and field service.

One survey found that just 32 percent of customers were familiar with their utility's energy efficiency programs. But those informed customers were about 11 percent more satisfied with the utility's pricing structure than the customers who didn't know about the energy efficiency initiatives. They were also happier with their utilities' corporate citizenship, "due to customer perceptions of their gas utility's energy savings programs and concern for the environment."

Specifically, customers who characterized themselves as "very familiar" with a utility's energy-efficiency programs scored 752 on a 1,000-point scale rating their overall satisfaction with their utility's pricing structure. Those who were "somewhat familiar" scored a 644. But customers who were "not very familiar" scored a 602, and those who were "not at all familiar" scored just 536 points.

Why? Here's what the SEE Action report concluded: "Customers who understand that they have access to tools to help them manage their overall bills would logically be more satisfied than customers who don't know how or where to find help. In a time of increased upward pressure on utility rates, giving people assistance in managing bills through energy efficiency should be an important motivation to regulators and utilities."

What businesses specifically look for from their utilities

Analysts who looked at the survey results found that commercial customers of a utility that views energy efficiency as an integral part of its success scored that utility higher on "reasonableness of electric rates," "showing concern and caring," "being easy to do business with" and "working to control their costs."

But a utility that didn't value energy efficiency as much ended up in the third-lowest quartile of customer-service rankings when compared with peer utilities. In an effort to boost its ranking, the utility developed a customer-satisfaction strategy that focused on improving awareness and knowledge of programs that help customers manage their energy bills.

The utility began by targeting energy-efficiency programs to specific customer segments. The customers were then sent brochures and interactive and video postcards that informed them about the programs. Follow-up research found that these customers were more likely to think that their gas and electric rates were reasonable, and were happy with the utility's efforts to help them save money.

Based on the J.D. Power survey findings, the SEE Action report concluded that "consumer advocates should add 'customer satisfaction' to the list of reasons why well-designed energy-efficiency programs are an appropriate use of ratepayer dollars."

AM Conservation Group has many energy efficiency programs that can help you connect with your customers. 

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