Utilities recognized with Chartwell’s 2021 Best Practices Awards
Con Edison, Austin Energy, Consumers Energy, PNM and Southern California Edison have taken the top honors in Chartwell’s 18th annual Best Practices Awards.
The awards recognize excellence among electric and gas utilities with respect to projects, programs and service initiatives. The categories include Billing and Payment Programs, Communications, Customer Service, Digital Experience, and Program Marketing. Additionally, Chartwell presented the Outstanding Achievement in COVID-19 Leadership Award to two utilities.
Most Gold Award winners will discuss their initiatives during EMACS – The Customer Experience Conference, which will be held Oct. 25-28 in Phoenix. The conference features more than 25 sessions focused on customer experience-related issues the utility industry is facing, including the aftermath of COVID-19, digital transformation, data-driven innovation, and customer segmentation.
Each year, our award judges, who are all members of Chartwell’s research team, are charged with the difficult task of selecting the best entries. This year’s selection process was made even tougher, with more than 90 quality entries that were submitted across five categories. This year’s winners and finalists include:
Billing and Payment Programs
- Con Edison will receive the Gold Billing and Payment Programs Award for its bill redesign project, instituted to deliver significant changes to customer bills, letters and eBill delivery for Con Edison and Orange & Rockland Utilities. The updates improved the overall customer experience; created a modern, customer-friendly bill format designed to incorporate future customer preferences and mandated requirements; supported and encouraged digital engagement and self-service functionality; and resulted in more than $450,000 in annual operational savings.
- NiSource earned the Silver Billing and Payment Programs Award for its 2020 paperless promotion incentive campaign, which allowed customers who converted to paperless and remained on paperless through October 2020 the chance to win a cash prize equivalent to their natural gas bill for a year. NiSource increased paperless enrollments by 10% in 2020 – the largest single-year increase the company has seen since it began tracking enrollments – and realized more than $200,000 in annualized savings.
- Puget Sound Energy earned the Bronze Billing and Payment Programs Award for its 2020 Payment Platform Replacement Project, launched in partnership with new payment partner Paymentus. The project, which required multiple internal integration points within SAP CIS and web front end SiteCore, is designed to make the process of paying bills faster and easier for customers, and resulted in more than 30,000 new autopay signups; immediate adoption of the new PayPal payment method (representing approximately 44,000 transactions per month); and a dramatic improvement in J.D. Power customer service rankings.
- Omaha Public Power District received an Honorable Mention in the Billing and Payment category for the Customers First campaign, designed to create awareness of assistance options and resources to those struggling to pay their utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the targeted and sustained effort, there was no increase in the percentage of customers who fell behind on their bill in 2020.
- Austin Energy earned the Gold Communications Award for its EV Buyer’s Guide, an interactive experience that allows potential EV drivers to browse real-time inventory of locally available new and used electric vehicles and compare models based on their individual needs and budget. The digital resource also provides information about available financial incentives and tax credits, personalized for Austin Energy customers, along with a full list of Austin Energy Plug-In EVerywhere charging ports. Since its November 2019 launch, the guide has had more than 100,000 visits and unique pageviews, and nearly 6,000 EVs have been sold and registered in Austin.
- Hydro-Québec will receive the Silver Communications Award for the first phase of its Collective Energy campaign, designed to prompt Quebecers to reflect on three key areas related to the province’s energy future: the green economy, sustainable mobility, and responsible energy use. The first phase of the campaign focused on collecting ideas and feedback from the public through the Collective Energy website. More than 22,000 people took part in the online consultation, and more than 15,000 ideas were submitted.
- PSE&G earned the Bronze Communications Award for the “Protect the Ones You Love” gas safety campaign. Launched in the second half of 2020, the campaign addressed the gas safety topics of most interest to PSE&G customers. Campaign content reflected PSE&G’s diverse customer population and used traditional and non-traditional tactics. “Protect the Ones You Love” increased customer recall of key safety messages, drove customer website engagement and substantially moved the needle on the company’s J.D. Power Gas Residential scores.
- Enbridge Gas received an Honorable Mention in the Communications category for its Energy Advocacy Campaign, designed to position natural gas as an essential part of Ontario’s clean energy transition and raise awareness about the company’s advancements and investments in low-carbon energy solutions that leverage the existing infrastructure to advance a low-carbon transition more affordably and reliably. The campaign was tightly targeted to policy decision makers and influencers and achieved a total marketing reach of more than half a million.
- Chartwell analysts named Consumers Energy as the Gold Customer Service Award winner for its 2020 IVR improvements, which not only improved the customer experience but also increased IVR call containment and simplified the authentication process for outage and billing and payment transactions. The company’s cross-functional agile project team, MACGIVR (Making All Customers Grateful for the IVR), leveraged customer feedback, focus groups with customer service representatives, IVR data, and best practice research to improve the self-service channel.
- TECO Energy earned the Silver Customer Service Award for its Voice of the Customer Program, launched in 2020 with the goal of gaining a more holistic view of customers across multiple journeys and interactions. Multiple dashboards display pertinent data and insights that allow cross-functional teams of employees across the organization to understand gaps in customer satisfaction and prioritize strategic initiatives to improve the customer experience.
- BGE earned the Bronze Customer Service Award for a new workflow that seamlessly routed callers seeking billing assistance from its IVR to live SMS text chat. Developed in partnership with AGENT511 and Oracle, the solution allowed CSRs to proactively mitigate any congestion associated with customers calling to establish payment arrangements or inquire about bill assistance programs as the COVID-19 moratorium deadline for service terminations approached in late 2020.
- PNM received an Honorable Mention in the Customer Service category for its holistic Voice of the Customer program, which included an innovative closed-loop feedback mechanism to further close the satisfaction gap and increase ease of doing business, resulting in significant progress in customer perceptions of PNM and increased satisfaction.
- PNM earned the Gold Digital Experience Award for its upgraded New Service Delivery Application Process, developed in partnership with Clean Power Research. The start-to-finish program includes visual workflows, 24/7 online access, automated communications, and standard processing of all new service applications. Within six months of the project’s launch, PNM saw significant increases in customer satisfaction.
- Entergy earned the Silver Digital Experience Award for its refreshed mobile application, developed in partnership with Mindgrub. The mobile app features functionality such as one-touch outage reporting, real-time outage maps, pay with a single swipe, a customizable dashboard, energy usage information, the ability to set and track usage goals, and personalized notifications. Within two weeks, the app was downloaded or updated more than 1 million times and received more than 6,000 five-star ratings in the in-app rating system.
- Chartwell analysts named San Diego Gas & Electric as the Bronze Digital Experience Award winner for its implementation of a new CIS and self-service platform, launched in 2021 in partnership with Smart Energy Water. Since their launch, the updated systems have enabled an increase in customers enrolling in paperless billing and outage/billing alerts, as well as increased operational efficiency.
- Southern California Gas received an Honorable Mention in the Digital Experience category for its Way to Save tool, a platform developed in partnership with Smart Energy Water that provides personalized information to customers based on their energy profiles. Since the platform’s 2020 launch, more than 150,000 users have interacted with the Analyze Usage function to help identify ways they can save energy.
- Chartwell analysts chose Southern California Edison (SCE) as the Gold Program Marketing Award winner for its Charge Ready Transport program marketing campaign. The Charge Ready Transport program is designed to help non-residential customers install the charging infrastructure needed for electrifying medium- and heavy-duty fleets such as delivery trucks, cargo vans, transit buses, tractor trailers, and more. Through May 2021, the targeted, multichannel campaign has helped SCE trend 36% ahead of its forecasted lead generation goal for the year.
- Pacific Gas & Electric will receive the Silver Program Marketing Award for its utilization of data science and propensity modeling to identify customers who were likely eligible for its Medical Baseline program, designed to give customers who use medical devices at home a higher baseline for energy usage, which can result in lower bills. Customers enrolled in the program also receive additional notifications and backup power resources in the event of Public Safety Power Shutoff. As a result of PG&E’s targeted marketing, the program saw a 28% increase in enrollment year over year.
- BGE won the Bronze Program Marketing Award for its Connected Rewards program marketing. The launch of the new demand response program was postponed when COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, leaving BGE to reevaluate its marketing strategy. Upon the program’s launch two months later, the utility positioned Connected Rewards as a way to both put money back into customers’ pockets and lower peak energy demand. After just one summer season, the program boasted more than 16,000 customer participants, with more than 20,000 connected smart thermostats.
- FortisBC received an Honorable Mention in the Program Marketing category for its Innovative Technologies Recruitment Campaign, developed to target FortisBC customers through a blended social media and print strategy and create awareness of and interest in pilot programs. The campaign exceeded targets, obtaining more than 3,000 participant signups within three months, reducing future pilot recruitment timelines by 60% and eliminating communication expenses for future projects.
Notable Achievement in COVID-19 Efforts
- Consumers Energy will receive the Notable Achievement in COVID-19 Efforts Award for its Shareholder Gift Funding effort, which made a total of $12 million available to customers experiencing hardship due to the pandemic. The Energy Assistance team identified three ways to help customers, including direct payments to those with a good payment history but who became past due in 2020; expansion of the CARE+ program for customers who do not qualify for federal or state assistance; and Good Faith Credits available to CSRs to allocate at their discretion based on conversations with customers. The effort ultimately allowed Consumers Energy to assist more than 40,000 customers and enroll nearly 1,300 customers in CARE+.
- CPS Energy will receive the Notable Achievement in COVID-19 Efforts Award for its Customer Outreach Resource Effort (CORE), which enabled the utility’s Energy Advisors (CSRs), Community Engagement team, and Key Account Managers to proactively contact residential and commercial customers through outbound calls to connect them with utility assistance resources that CPS Energy offers and identify additional city and county resources that provide support for utility bills and other needs. As of June 15, 2021, CPS Energy had completed a full year of outreach, with a 62% success rate in speaking with customers called as part of the CORE campaign. Of those customers the team has spoken to, 90% signed up for a payment arrangement and/or received agency assistance referrals.
If you have any questions about the awards or the upcoming conference, please email Suzanne Haggerty, Chartwell’s Senior Manager of Customer Engagement.
Based in Atlanta, Chartwell, Inc. is a specialized information provider for the utility industry. We provide strategic research and facilitate issue-targeted forums for collaboration among industry peers. Our wide range of services ensures that our members have access to the best, most timely information available to make their business decisions. For more information, visit www.chartwellinc.com.