Utilities recognized with Chartwell’s 2022 Best Practices Awards

ComEd, Con Edison, Hydro One, PECO and SMECO have taken the top honors in Chartwell’s 19th 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.

Gold Award winners will discuss their initiatives during EMACS – The Customer Experience Conference, which will be held Oct. 17-20 in Orlando. All Best Practice Award winners and finalists will be recognized during an awards luncheon on Oct. 19. The conference features more than 20 sessions focused on customer experience-related issues facing the utility industry, including the changing energy landscape, digital transformation, addressing COVID-19 arrears, and improving the customer experience for low-income customers. A special rate is available to attendees who register by Sept. 2, 2022.

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

  • PECO will receive the Gold Billing and Payment Programs Award for the Meter Defender, an Internet of Things (IoT) device that mounts to a meter and provides 24/7 tampering notifications, enabling the Revenue Protection team to respond rapidly. Meter Defender, which PECO developed and launched in 2021, enabled the utility to drive a 425% improvement in returning repeat theft accounts to active billing status and doubled the number of accounts corrected with a single field visit.
  • PSEG Long Island earned the Silver Billing and Payment Programs Award for its High Risk Arrears Robotics Process Automation functionality. Tasked with achieving aggressive financial metrics by the end of 2022 in the wake of COVID-19 arrears, PSEG Long Island’s collections team built and implemented a collections email bot that has driven $78.1 million in payments, sending more than 800,000 emails across 10 collection campaigns while freeing representatives to assist with other collection tasks.
  • Consumers Energy earned the Bronze Billing and Payment Programs Award for multiple system enhancements, including the automation of net metering billing and streetlight billing processes. Consumers Energy’s Customer Billing team leveraged automation in 2022 to achieve more than 8,000 hours in annual labor savings and $283k in annual operational savings.

Communications

  • ComEd earned the Gold Communications Award for its Personalized Reliability Reports, developed in 2020 to educate residential and small business customers about their personal outages and reliability performance and help improve customer satisfaction. In 2022, ComEd enhanced the report by partnering with Apogee Interactive to introduce a Personalized Reliability Report Video to eligible residential customers via email. After watching the video, customers indicated they had increased understanding and a more favorable impression of ComEd.
  • Enbridge will receive the Silver Communications Award for the first phase of its multifaceted Damage Prevention Campaign, launched in 2021 to reduce digging accidents. The campaign, which targeted residential customers, municipal stakeholders, contractors and builders, featured messaging on a variety of channels in several languages and achieved a year-over-year reduction in digging-related damages of 15% despite a spike in home renovation projects.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) earned the Bronze Communications Award for its Rate Plan Options campaign, designed to educate and support customers during an 18-month rolling transition to time-of-use rate plans. The campaign, which was targeted at the over 2.5 million residential customers who would need to become familiar with TOU rate plans and decide whether this type of plan was right for their household, increased customer awareness and understanding of TOU rate plan choices.
  • Consumers Energy received an Honorable Mention in the Communications category for its 2022 Senior Check-In outreach strategy, designed to protect vulnerable older customers at risk of being disconnected by offering them guidance and resources. Through targeted, multichannel outreach, Consumers Energy helped 83% of senior customers with arrears avoid being disconnected and received more than 14,000 payments totaling $5.2 million.

Customer Service

  • Chartwell analysts named Hydro One as the Gold Customer Service Award winner for Level UP, a continuous improvement initiative that restored customer faith, boosted staff morale and rebuilt Hydro One’s reputation externally. In early 2021, Hydro One’s customer team identified key impacts and challenges to customer service resulting from the global pandemic and the unfamiliar shift to a remote environment. The team moved quickly to develop Level UP, which resulted in a 25% increase in CSAT and a 12% improvement in call handle time.
  • Con Edison earned the Silver Customer Service Award for its customer data analytics program, which harnesses the power of predictive analytics and machine learning to respond to each customer’s unique preferences and needs while improving operational efficiency and employee experience. The program brought together and modeled data from 14 previously disparate systems to create a holistic view of each customer, aggregating more than two years’ worth of data across key customer interaction channels. The program has helped Con Edison achieve significant operational efficiency improvements in performance management and training.
  • ComEd earned the Bronze Customer Service Award for its Low-Income Pre-certification CIS tool, which gives CSRs visibility into all programs that a customer is eligible for on one screen, enabling them to consistently offer all energy assistance options available. The tool has helped ComEd achieve an increase in CSAT among residential customers who speak with a CSR and a reduction in customer arrearages.

Digital Experience

  • Con Edison earned the Gold Digital Experience Award for its Virtual Assistant program, which leverages artificial intelligence to expand the utility’s customer communication channels. Con Edison’s chatbot, nicknamed Watt, offers English-speaking and Spanish-speaking customers a self-service option to complete transactions initiated on the website or in the IVR. Watt has reduced CSR calls as it provides Con Edison with frontline customer support that automates many of the interactions currently performed by CSRs.
  • Exelon earned the Silver Digital Experience Award for its IVR Seamless Digital Handoff functionality, launched in 2022 to seamlessly transfer IVR calls for payment arrangements to the web. Eligible mobile users in the IVR receive a text with a link to their phone browser, which carries, or “hands off,” the authentication from the IVR so that they arrive already logged into the web transaction flow. Since launching this functionality, Exelon has seen a decrease in users abandoning the flow and experienced a drastic reduction in operational costs.
  • Chartwell analysts named ComEd as the Bronze Digital Experience Award winner for the 2021 implementation of its Smart Assistant Manager (SAM), which improved awareness of and access to financial-assistance programs options for customers struggling to pay their bills. The online self-service tool allows customers to privately self-identify assistance and savings options that best meet their needs, reducing calls to the contact center.

Program Marketing

  • Chartwell analysts chose Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) as the Gold Program Marketing Award winner for its My Energy Target campaign, which combines data analytics, rewards-based engagement, and customized tips to help members save energy. The program leverages AMI data and building energy modeling to generate a unique energy savings target for each participating household. The campaign engaged 17,000 members in 2021 with summer energy targets, helping 33% of members meet or exceed their energy targets and saving 746 mWh of energy.
  • National Grid will receive the Silver Program Marketing Award for its “Choose the Right Light” campaign, developed with Mower. The campaign used customer-centric storytelling to amplify awareness and educational content to prompt the sale of more than 3.5 million LEDs in a single year and enable the utility’s Residential Energy Efficiency Lighting program to exceed its annual energy-savings goal by more than 150%.
  • Salt River Project (SRP) won the Bronze Program Marketing Award for streamlined outreach efforts to distribute Emergency Rental Assistance Funds to eligible customers in 2021 and 2022. SRP, which was granted $10 million of the $36 million allocated statewide in 2021, moved quickly to identify and notify eligible customers. As of June 2022, more than 6,000 customers had qualified for the program and SRP had distributed approximately a third of the available funds.
  • PSE&G received an Honorable Mention in the Program Marketing category for its multichannel Payment Assistance Outreach campaign, developed to ensure that customers struggling to pay their energy bills were aware of the payment options and financial assistance available to them. The campaign, which targeted specific customer segments, resulted in an 80% increase in average daily deferred payment arrangement enrollments and a 25% increase YTD in assistance program applications submitted.

If you have any questions about the awards or the upcoming conference, please email Katherine Lerner, Chartwell’s Customer Engagement Specialist.

ABOUT CHARTWELL

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.

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