Utilities Recognized with Chartwell’s 2023 Best Practices Awards
ComEd, CPS Energy, Duke Energy, PSE&G, PSEG Long Island, and SMUD have taken the top honors in Chartwell’s 20th 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, Program Marketing, and Serving Vulnerable Customers.
Gold Award winners will discuss their initiatives during EMACS – The Customer Experience Conference, Sept. 26-29 in Phoenix. All Best Practice Award winners and finalists will be recognized during an awards luncheon on Sept. 28.
The conference features more than 20 sessions focused on customer experience-related issues facing the utility industry, including the changing energy landscape, electrification, meeting the needs of business customers, and improving the customer experience for low-income customers and others. A special rate is available to attendees who register by Sept. 6.
Each year, the 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 six categories. This year’s winners and finalists include:
Billing and Payment Programs
- PSEG Long Island will receive the Gold Award for Billing and Payment Programs for the development of its Time of Use program. PSEG Long Island launched a voluntary Time of Use (TOU) program in December of 2021. Although the goal was to get 6,500 customers to switch to TOU by the end of 2022, nearly 14,000 customers had successfully enrolled by that time. Through robust data and continuous improvement, PSEG LI ensured a seamless customer experience and achieved 10% bill savings during the first summer by reducing peak usage. The billing system was also improved to give clear information on time-of-use energy usage and costs. Personalized messages resulted in increased customer satisfaction and a 150% increase in conversion.
- Con Edison earned the Silver Billing and Payment Programs Award for its Credit Card in The Field Project that changed the way the utility accepts payments from customers to provide more convenience, more options, and increased ease and satisfaction in doing business with the utility. Con Edison successfully expanded customer payment options to pay Collection Field Representatives (CFRs) to include the acceptance of Credit/Debit Cards. The extensive project included the development of a fully integrated swipe, insert, and tap Credit/Debit Card solution. With this option, Con Edison projects that 50% of customers will utilize the new Credit Card/Debit Card method by 2025.
- FortisBC earned the Bronze Billing and Payment Programs Award for its Beyond the Bill program, which created new paper and digital bill options that improved contact center performance and provided a fresh billing experience for its customers. The new designs have improved a key contact center performance indicator and effectively achieved the utility’s objective of providing a fresh and exceptional billing experience for all its customers.
- Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) earned the Gold Communications Award for its Clean PowerCity campaign. SMUD is on a mission to provide 100% carbon-free energy to its customers by 2030. This goal was introduced to customers in 2021 following the direction of SMUD’s Chief Executive Officer, and the results from the campaign’s first year exceeded expectations and created a solid foundation from which to develop the next phases of the campaign. In this second year, SMUD continued to tell the story of why this goal is important to both the utility and the community while showing how SMUD is working to achieve this ambitious goal and encouraging customers to join in.
- CPS Energy will receive the Silver Communications Award for the development of color-coded energy conservation levels to help residential and business customers conserve energy, avoid high bills, and support electric grid reliability by appropriately responding to energy demand projections. Earned, owned, paid media, and stakeholder engagement channels are used to communicate the daily energy conservation level.
Energy conservation efforts resulted in 282 megawatts of energy demand reduction from June through September 2022, which is enough to power 56,400 homes.
- Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) earned the Bronze Communications Award for its social media influencer campaign to generate awareness of BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program in a dynamic and engaging way. The team partnered with four credible, authentic, and diverse Baltimore-area micro-influencers who are homeowners and who use their platform to talk about their life and home. Each influencer participated in the Smart Energy Savers Program and shared their experience on Instagram.
- Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities received an Honorable Mention in the Communications category for the publication of its first children’s book, Levi the Lamb’s Big Day, which makes the topic of sustainability more approachable and friendly, with a nod to how utilities like ours are advancing a cleaner energy future. The book takes kids on an energy-filled adventure to locations like the Ohio Falls Hydroelectric station in Louisville, and a solar field in Harrodsburg. The book’s star, Levi, represents KU’s real-life flock of more than 100 sheep that manage the vegetation at the utilities’ 50-acre, 10-megawatt solar field.
- Chartwell analysts named ComEd as the Gold Customer Service Award winner for the development of its Email Welcome Series for new and relocating customers. The customer relationship needs to be built on trust and establishing that trust begins on day one. That is why ComEd developed an email welcome series for new and relocating customers. Customers receive the email series shortly after service is activated, and it lays the foundation for a superior customer service experience. It’s the first chance to make a good impression, build value, boost program participation, and create an enduring relationship. A welcome communication is also a good way to answer initial questions so that a customer is less likely to call the call center for assistance.
- Southern California Edison earned the Silver Customer Service Award for the development of its automated Voice of the Customer (VOC) program. The VOC program uses an automated process for administering surveys enabling SCE to collect vast amounts of data within 24 hours of a customer transaction. Dashboards modeling key measures are updated as surveys are completed, enabling operational teams to measure performance, identify emergent issues, and improve operational efficiencies.
- Hydro One earned the Bronze Customer Service Award for the development of its virtual reality training plan, which uses VR headsets to provide an immersive, safe, interactive environment for learning and training. VR headsets are used to transport Contact Centre and Field Staff virtually to the work site, providing a fully immersive, safe, interactive environment for active learning and training. Trainees enter a 360°, active learning environment, experiencing the sights and sounds at the administration centers and at a customer’s property, dissolving the barrier between virtual and actual reality.
- Duke Energy earned the Gold Digital Experience Award for the development of its new mobile app chatbot. In response to a high volume of customers using the “Mobile App Feedback” feature to submit customer service-related inquiries, the Duke Energy Mobile App and Chatbot teams worked together to develop a chatbot to address top pain points. Released in April of 2023, the chatbot logged more than 280,000 user interactions and 104,000 chat sessions from 55,000 unique users in the first three months. Coupled with a redesign of the “More” screen, this feature has reduced customer feedback submissions by 90%.
- Exelon earned the Silver Digital Experience Award for the development of its ISUM (I Sign Up & Move) program to reimagine new service and move requests. When customers are moving into a new home, it can be an exciting yet stressful time in their lives. Move-in dates can change, and in these uncontrollable moments, Exelon identified opportunities to give customers more personalization, autonomy, and simplicity with the creation and management of their utility account. The utility implemented seamless account registration and introduced effective, real-time review and edit capabilities for stop, start, and move service requests. Since launch, Exelon has reduced customer effort, increased satisfaction, and seen a reduction in operational costs.
- Chartwell analysts named Tacoma Public Utilities as the Bronze Digital Experience Award winner for its new customer engagement portal, which leverages AMI technology to deliver a streamlined experience to residential and business users. TPU experienced extraordinary metrics over the portal’s first year: improving accessibility, delivering more than 100 language options, streamlining and simplifying high volume processes, enabling custom views for account managers, offering more online program enrollments, and providing robust, interactive usage graphs for metered services.
- Chartwell analysts chose PSE&G as the Gold Program Marketing Award winner for its “Welcome to the Saverhood” campaign. The campaign was launched in March 2022 to raise awareness of the utility’s energy efficiency programs by using a memorable and engaging look and feel across marketing efforts. To build on its momentum and maximize the number of customers reached, the campaign has extended through several mediums, including social media videos, TV spots, out-of-home (OOH) advertising, digital advertisements, printed collateral, and event displays and giveaways. This omnichannel marketing campaign spanned PSE&G’s service territory in New Jersey and employed a wide variety of tactics. Campaign highlights include more than 247,000 paid media conversions, 908 million paid impressions, more than 318,000 welcome kits delivered directly to residential customers, and 2.3 million website sessions.
- NB Power will receive the Silver Program Marketing Award for its Sure Connect service, which allows a homeowner to safely and easily power up key devices during a power outage for convenience and peace of mind. A portable home generator is becoming an increasingly frequent addition to the residential equipment set-up but can be cumbersome if a homeowner needs to run electrical cords to power items in their home. NB Power’s Sure Connect service allows a generator to be easily connected to the electrical panel so electricity can be supplied during a power outage. As a relatively new service, a need was identified around the lack of awareness of the service, and a campaign was put in place to raise awareness and increase subscribers to the service. The marketing campaign included digital, Google ads, SEM, Meta, email and radio.
- Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) won the Bronze Program Marketing Award for developing the Business ‘Ratio’ Campaign to convey the value of energy efficiency to medium-to-large size business decision makers. BGE’s Energy Solutions for Business (ESFB) Program, one of several commercial and industrial programs offered through the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program, offers technical services to help businesses evaluate options for improving energy efficiency and lowering costs, as well as financial incentives that can cover up to 75% of the cost for energy-saving upgrades. The EFSB ‘Ratio’ Campaign conveyed the value of energy efficiency to medium-to-large size business decision makers, strategically communicating the nature of the program and the benefits offered to businesses.
- Cobb EMC received an Honorable Mention in the Program Marketing category for its Holiday Lights campaign, which called attention to energy efficiency while generating excitement around holiday light displays, including one hosted by Cobb EMC. The idea for the season-long initiative was to create a holiday light map that guides members across Cobb EMC’s service territory to experience the “holiday magic.” With a budget of $50,000, Cobb EMC produced a digital light tour map, a physical light display at its office, and an event for opening night.
Serving Vulnerable Customers
- Chartwell ‘s team chose CPS Energy as the Gold Award winner for Serving Vulnerable Customers for its innovative approach to customer service and energy equity. According to U.S. Census data, San Antonio ranks as the most impoverished major city in the country. In a state of increasing pandemic-related arrears, customers were not responding to the standard channels of customer support or collections notifications and CPS Energy’s past due accounts rose to nearly half of its customer population. With many customers unaware of the availability of federal and other support, CPS worked to improve its customer service delivery and bridge its programs with regional nonprofit programs to build a community immersion strategy while emphasizing energy equity.
- Con Edison will receive the Silver Award for Serving Vulnerable Customers for its state-wide program to address historic increases in utility customer arrears and hardship caused by the pandemic. New York State approved a program in 2022 to financially assist the company’s most vulnerable customers, and Con Edison compiled a cross-functional team to develop a new process to identify, track, and provide relief to low-income households that had amassed arrears during the COVID-19 pandemic and the most recent bill surge. The program provided relief in a way that reached as many customers as possible, was applied expeditiously, and was as easy as possible for customers to understand.
- ComEd won the Bronze Award for Serving Vulnerable Customers for its Community Energy Assistance Ambassador (CEAA) Program, which created awareness of available assistance while engaging with the communities the utility seeks to serve. ComEd identified forty communities with the lowest median incomes in its service territory. Additional analysis showed that many low-income customers did not apply for resources that were available to them. ComEd, along with a community-based organization, Chatham Business Association (CBA), went to communities to foster relationships and educate customers about energy assistance programs, but quickly discovered that one of the most effective ways to create relationships with members of these vulnerable populations is to hire individuals who live and work within these same communities. As a result, ComEd created the Community Energy Assistance Ambassador (CEAA) Program, which created awareness, assisted customers where they live, and hired within the community.
If you have any questions about the awards or the upcoming conference, please email Keith Pierce, Senior Research Manager.
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.