Power and renewables

It’s time to digitize energy efficiency program applications

It’s Time to Digitize Energy Efficiency Program Applications

Today’s customers expect digital experiences. Find out how utilities can delight customers & accelerate clean energy programs with online applications.

Digital technologies have reshaped the way that brands interact with customers. Cumbersome experiences have been replaced by sleek automation, streamlined interactions, and tailor-fit touchpoints.  

As emerging technologies push the bounds of what’s possible to deliver connected, always-on experiences, it becomes more important than ever to adapt to this new digital culture.  

To truly engage and delight customers—and expand participation in energy efficiency programs—utilities must provide the digital experiences customers and contractors have come to expect. And while there are many opportunities to do this, today I want to focus on the importance of providing streamlined, online energy efficiency rebate and incentive applications. 

Manual applications are frustrating and cumbersome 

The typical energy efficiency application process goes something like this. 

A contractor or customer goes to a utility’s portal to search for and download a PDF application along with an energy efficiency program catalog. To find the desired rebate program, the contractor/customer navigates multiple catalog pages to locate relevant program details and eligibility requirements. Which means a busy lighting contractor may be forced to wade through HVAC and other rebate programs, creating a time-consuming and frustrating experience.  

The contractor/customer must also read through eligibility requirements. This can be confusing and lead to questions. But to get help, the contractor/customer must call the utility and hope to find the right person. Or send an email and wait. Sometimes they take their best guess, but this can lead to mistakes--and mistakes can lead to delays and possible rejections. If the contractor has to track down a customer signature as part of the process, that can take even more time and energy.  

If the contractor/customer isn’t deterred by all the work, the application gets submitted. Then the waiting game begins, leaving the contractor and customer to wonder if the application was received, if it’s being processed, and how long it will take to get an approval – or worse, a rejection. This can lead to additional frustration. Plus, because the process is entirely manual, it can take a long time to get project approvals, which can lead to project delays.  

How EVOLVE streamlines the application process 

Streamlining the application process through the efficient use of digital technology vastly improves the customer experience by giving customers and contractors an automated way to navigate, complete, submit, and track energy efficiency rebate program applications. This increases the likelihood that customers will participate in clean energy programs.  

As a project manager at DNV, I oversaw the creation of an online application process within EVOLVE CX, which combines cloud-based portals and a customizable scorecard to deliver the personalized insights, solutions, and recommendations needed to motivate customers to increase their own sustainability and accelerate clean energy initiatives. Our online application process offers a much better experience than the manual one listed above, because it provides a fast, convenient, and fully digital experience as well as visibility into the approval process.  

Customers and contractors simply complete and submit their project information online--no downloading, printing, and mailing or emailing PDFs required. Because our online application stores customer and contractor information, it provides a personalized experience, surfacing only relevant applications. Plus, requirements are tied to the specific application, so users can simply click on a measure to see its requirements.  Contractors can also use the tool to calculate rebates on the fly, helping to close the sale. 

Another useful feature is online chat. If a user has a question, they can access customer service instantly. Finally, once an application is submitted, the customer or contractor can log in to see where the application is in the process. This gives them confidence that the application is being processed and an estimated timeframe for receiving their rebate check. Also, because the information is completed online with built-in validations, the risk of human error is lowered substantially.    

Customers and contractors are thrilled with our online application process and say that it reduces stress and helps them track their applications. Internal staff members say that it has streamlined processing. We have doubled the number of applications coming through as compared to 2019, which accelerates the overall success of our energy efficiency programs.  

Not only are benefits seen by customers and contractors, program managers are able to utilize the Google Analytics integrated in the online application.  This allows for program managers to see how long users are on the site, which pages they frequent the most and at what time of day, and user demographics. Program managers can then develop marketing strategies based on these analytics.  

Customers have come to expect digital experiences and utilities must adapt to meet these needs. Moving energy efficiency applications online is a great starting point that can deliver immediate impact.  

I’d highly encourage you to learn more about how EVOLVE Digital Solutions, including EVOLVE CX, can help you elevate the customer experience. And be sure to stay in touch by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.