The COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly every aspect of our lives on a global scale. Its impact not only reached people, but it also changed thousands of businesses and numerous industries in a short period of time. Many businesses were forced to close completely while others struggled with new regulations. Some businesses, if they were lucky, were able to pivot to survive in the new normal of the world.
The utility industry was among those affected by the pandemic as well as its restrictions but has proven to be one that has been able to pivot and achieve success despite new obstacles. Many utilities were quickly faced with a challenge: how do their programs move forward during a pandemic?
Above all else, their customer base (families and homeowners) began seeking trusted voices wherever they could for reassurance and guidance on what to do next. They no longer resonated with a sales pitch or service-related communication. With uncertainty all around them, they needed their utility to provide them with ways to manage their growing utility bills from being at home more than usual.
As utilities everywhere adapted to suit and become a trustworthy advisor to their customers, seeing the positive results has made utilities rethink their overall approach when it comes to their customers. While these new relationships were fostered in a time of need, many utilities should intend to keep these new approaches moving forward to continue to bring convenience and ease to their customers on a daily basis.
In-Home Energy Assessments Go Virtual
Many utilities offer in-home energy assessments. During these assessments, auditors enter a customer’s home to evaluate the energy efficiency of the home and make recommendations for improvement. Some of these improvements include weatherization tips, changing all lightbulbs to LED, adding aerators to kitchen and bathroom faucets, and more.
With the pandemic restricting physical interaction, many utilities acted fast to make these assessments virtual. With the implementation of video calls, the energy assessment programs could continue without stepping foot into a customer’s home. Once a call was completed, the auditor was able to then order the necessary product through a special ordering portal created by EFI to send the customer a customized kit of energy-efficient products that they could install to start saving.
While this new process was created as an alternative to comply with government restrictions, it is also allowing utilities to reach more customers than ever before and should become a best practice moving forward. Many customers appreciate the ease and convenience of technology and may be more inclined to participate in a virtual assessment if they have busy schedules or are uneasy about inviting strangers into their homes.
Utility Marketplaces See Spike in Activity
With “stay at home” orders implemented all over the country, how homeowners shopped changed drastically. No longer able to shop in their favorite brick and mortar stores, customers began to embrace online shopping for groceries, meals, office and school supplies, and products to improve their home.
Utilities saw the home improvement trend as well as customers’ need to find ways to save energy and money on their utility bills and provided them with a resource to do so by offering fantastic prices on energy-saving products for their home. Utility customers were able to conveniently shop for LED bulbs, smart thermostats, Advanced Power Strips for their new home offices, and more, and have them delivered straight to their door. In fact, so many homeowners took advantage of the great deals and promotions on their utility’s marketplace that EFI saw a 20% YoY growth in April 2020 when compared to April 2019.
Seeing how supported these offerings have made their customers feel during these trying times, utilities everywhere are making plans to continue providing the same level of guidance as part of their everyday practice. It is sure to positively evolve the utility/customer relationship moving forward, allowing customers to rely on their utility more and for utilities to reach more homeowners and help them save energy.
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We are very excited to be able to combine the convenience of online shopping with the importance of energy and water efficiency. Customers can have a personalized shopping experience and know they are purchasing high-end products that will help them save energy and water.Steve Z. General Manager
We had just moved to our new home and really needed to shore up the heating system, figure out how we could afford new windows (they were original), and find out why our heat never stayed in the house. We worked with MassSave and EFI to assess our home, qualify for, and fulfill a heat loan. We were up and running with a new heating system, with a zero interest heat loan in about a week! This couldn't have been easier, and, to be honest, more needed. Thank you EFI and MassSave!Ryan D, Mass Save Marketplace Customer
We’re excited to partner with EFI! Using our existing programs, customers have saved millions of dollars in energy costs over the years. The PPL Marketplace certainly will add to those savings.Mary Ann M. Manager of PPL’s residential EE programs
We worked with EFI to create a product marketplace to offer our customer base an easy to use shopping portal. Our goal this year was to move 500K bulbs across all of our jurisdictions, and the EFI's marketplace and marketing expertise ensured that that number was hit by Q3. These guys know what they are doing, its just that simple.Ron S. Manager – Planning and Evaluation
I am always very happy with your service. I am proud that you want to help us save energy - I bought a ton of light bulbs. Thank you for being one of the few services I use that I can feel good about!Tracey Kitchens - Marketplace Customer
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