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How utility customers are getting richer, smarter, and happier over time — in 3 charts

Last month, we cracked open Opower’s data warehouse to show how behavioral energy efficiency programs can get even stronger over time. We spotlighted Puget Sound Energy in particular, noting that their Home Energy Report recipients nearly doubled their annual energy savings over a period of five years.

Today, we ask: does the same trend hold for customer engagement? Do participants in a behavioral efficiency program keep engaging with their Home Energy Reports two, three, four years after they started receiving them?


Do Home Energy Reports get stale?

It seems unlikely for a couple of reasons. First, survey after survey indicates that worldwide, customers expect their utilities to provide personalized, easy-to-understand insights into their energy use. There’s no reason to think that expectation would disappear once personalized insights actually start showing up. Second, Home Energy Reports are scientifically designed to foster consistent, long-term engagement. The simple fact is that behavior change takes time — just look at the graph of customer savings above. That’s why it’s important to use goals, encouragement, rewards, and other tactics to make Home Energy Reports more interesting over time — not less.


But for the definitive answer, we looked at the data

Over the years, Opower has tracked customer engagement and satisfaction for more than 70 behavioral efficiency programs. We survey hundreds of recipients to discover how they’re interacting with Home Energy Reports, what they think of them, and how the reports change their perceptions of their utility. What we’ve found is exciting. In the early months of a Home Energy Reporting program, about 60 percent of survey respondents say they remember reading their reports. Over the next 12 to 24 months, that number grows to about 80 percent on average — and stays there, year after year.


Graph 1_final


In the chart, you can watch that trend play out for a single Midwestern utility running a long-term Home Energy Reporting program. We’ve surveyed customers in the pilot group for that program five times over three years. At first, a little over 50 percent said they read their reports. After two and a half years, more than 80 percent were tuned in. The key takeaway is clear: the vast majority of utility customers who receive Home Energy Reports read them no matter how long you run the program. That conclusion dovetails with two new independent evaluations that show HER participants continuing to change their behavior and increase their energy savings several years after they started receiving reports.


What about customer satisfaction?

Our survey data also suggest that customers’ appreciation for Home Energy Reports stays strong and constant over time. In fact, it may even increase. Across five surveys with participants in the HER pilot program at the Midwestern utility, the percentage of respondents who said they like their reports grew from 71 percent to 81 percent over a 30-month period.


Graph 2_final


The bottom line

Returning to our original question, the final answer is a firm no: behavioral efficiency programs don't get stale. They get stronger. As the data above make clear, program participants engage more with their Home Energy Reports over time — saving even more money, getting smarter about their energy use, and strengthening their relationship with their utilities.


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