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Customer Research: Outbound Alerts for Business Customers

By Non-residential Data Team on

Christmas tree in empty office

For business customers, paying attention to their energy use takes secondary priority to running a business. This busy segment is more likely to engage with their energy data, make behavioral or programmatic changes to save energy, and reduce their bill if they receive proactive outbound communications. 

Since there are different types of outbound communications, Uplight wanted to determine what types of communication business customers want to receive and when. We specifically focused on when users want to be notified of abnormally high usage and bills, what kind of insights they want to receive in a mid-cycle bill notification, and if holiday shutdown tips are effective. 

Uplight conducted three interconnected studies in summer, fall, and winter 2021 to uncover these insights to help inform future product design. We first surveyed 200 highly active business users to ask them which of three different types of data visualizations they would prefer to receive related to their usage forecast at a mid-point check in. 

Second, we interviewed a range of different types of business customers that triggered an anomalous high usage alert within the past year to understand how often customers wanted to be alerted to anomalous high usage and how to set appropriate thresholds for “high” usage unique to each individual account.

Last, Uplight conducted a pilot study in the field to determine the effectiveness of recommending that businesses shutdown their facilities during holidays when buildings are less likely to be staffed and occupied. Uplight tested various types of shutdown content to over 1,000 users over Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

From this research, we found that: 

Business customers want more data

100% of utility users preferred the option with the most data. Users wanted to know how the models function and what factors are considered. We are continuously speaking to a more data literate business user, and it is important that recommendations are based on market leading data science.

Customers want high usage alerts sooner

Customers would like proactive alerting of high usage days earlier than the end of the month so they have time to course-correct. Most expressed a greater concern about persistent high usage rather than high usage on a single day. Therefore, alerts that are triggered by multiple higher than average days will be more effective. 

Customers know what triggers large changes, but not smaller ones

In some cases, customers knew what event had triggered the extreme, inconsistent event shown in their energy usage graph. However, smaller spikes in usage were less likely to be detected and could provide useful insights for customers. 

Customers are interested in holiday notifications

Uplight saw consistently high open rates for email (between 20-30%) for all holidays.

We are still actively evaluating whether there are measurable impacts in terms of shutdown percentage based on prior shutdown performance for the facility. Stay tuned for more on this. 

Outbound alerts provide value to business customers and help them avoid higher than average bills. Customers that Uplight interviewed expressed a clear interest in more data earlier in the billing cycle. They preferred data broken down by facility, as well as more images to easily see the big picture. Utilities can use alerts as powerful ways to capture engagement and motivate action for businesses.

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