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How to Make a Rate Transition a Great Customer Experience

By Alex Lopez on

Women charging EV while looking at her phone

In Uplight’s recent Rates webinar with GridX, utilities said that not one of their customers really understood what rate structure they were enrolled in while 40% of customers sort of understood their rate, 40% had no idea, and for 10% it wasn’t even a priority.

This points to one of the three main challenges that utilities have around rolling out new rate structures: low awareness. participation, and response. The other two are low participation and response.

  • Low Awareness: Nearly half of residential customers are not sure what type of rate plan they currently have, yet when offered as an option, over half of residential customers are interested in advanced rate options, like TOU.
  • Low Participation: 62% of residential customers have access to time-varying rates, but only 7% are enrolled in one. Even where utilities have rolled out default TOU rates, most customers aren’t sure if the default TOU rate is best for them. 
  • Low Response: Even once a customer is enrolled, they may still not understand or take actions to shift their load–decreasing the effectiveness of the rates. 

How to succeed with TOU rates

At Uplight, we believe that a successful TOU rollout is as much about engaging with customers as it is about finding the optimal TOU rate design. Utilities need to motivate customers, at scale, to take actions that lower bills and are good for the grid–all through a connected customer experience. To empower customers to succeed on TOU rates, utilities need to meet three objectives:

  • Build awareness of available rate options, including comparison of the customer’s current rates with other rates available.
  • Inspire confidence that your customer can succeed on a TOU rate. Techniques, such as Shadow Billing can reveal if a customer is a structural winner and could lower their bill simply by switching to TOU. What-if analyses, such as “what-if I ran the dishwasher at night” or “what if I got an electric vehicle”, demonstrate the bill control that customers unlock when they switch to TOU. 
  • Motivate action, because enrolling in a TOU rate is just the beginning. A thoughtful and engaging TOU onboarding experience will help your customers understand their TOU rate periods. And ongoing rate coaching helps the customer build smart energy habits to better manage their bills under their new TOU rate.

DERs are driving rate awareness

Increasingly, customer adoption of distributed energy resources (DERs) like EVs and battery storage, is sparking interest in TOU rates, but the customer journey from DER adoption to rate enrollment is often unintuitive and lacks personalization. Generic marketing materials and static rates websites make it difficult for customers to understand why TOU might be a great choice given their new EV purchase.

Connecting the rates customer journey dots

What is one example of a more effective residential rates journey? After a customer purchases an EV, Uplight’s EV detection algorithms detect a change in energy usage patterns. The utility sends the customer a Rate Education Report that includes personalized rate recommendations and savings estimates based on actual consumption data. The customer visits the utility website to learn more, and sees rate comparisons with shadow-billing and “what-if analyses” that simulate bill impacts of charging during off-peak hours under available rate plans.

This tool makes it easy to understand which rate the customer would save money on, and they enroll in a whole-home TOU rate along with a smart thermostat and a TOU optimization program. The utility continues to follow-up after this with usage information and tips in Rate Coach emails to ensure the customer can get the most out of their new rate. 

The best part? Once a customer is engaged with their utility and paying more attention to their energy use, they are more likely to engage with more programs and offers. 

Learn more about what we discussed and watch the full webinar on demand if you missed it! 

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