Time-of-use (TOU) can be a powerful tool to incentivize load-shift from peak to off-peak time periods, reduce cross-subsidies, and empower customers to better manage their energy bills. However, transitioning customers to a new Time-of-Use rate, whether it be opt-in or opt-out, is a hurdle all on its own. Once a customer enrolls in a TOU rate, it is up to the utility to educate and equip that customer with the information and tools to get the most out the rate–leading to improved customer satisfaction, deeper customer engagement, and increased participation in other programs.
Most customers haven’t thought about their current rate plan, so being on a new rate is uncharted territory. Many rates are complex, and customers have difficulty understanding when the best time to use energy is based on their plan.
Yet, after a customer adopts a rate, many utilities go radio silent. This is the most critical time for targeted customer communication to ensure customers stay on their rate and feel satisfied. Utilities can play a crucial role in helping customers adopt energy behaviors that optimize their rate.
There are three important stages in the rates customer journey where utilities need to engage customers that include: onboarding, building new habits, and optimizing rates.
Onboarding and Orientation
When first enrolling on a new rate, utilities first need to educate and orient customers to their new rate. Starting with the basics of when electricity costs more and when it costs less, and then going deeper to provide personalized analysis of how off-peak and on-peak consumption contributes to a customer’s total bill. A customer’s onboarding to a new TOU rate is also an important opportunity for the utility to cross-promote energy-savings offerings, such as discounts on rate-optimized smart thermostats and connected EV charging stations.
Rate Adoption and Building New Habits
After a customer adopts a TOU rate, it is important to act as a coach through ongoing communication that creates adoption and persistent habits. Utilities can provide guidance and coaching through outbound messaging and alerts. This helps customers adopt energy behaviors that align with off-peak periods and habituate these behaviors over time. With a little help from their utility, shifting energy use becomes the “new normal” for TOU customers, unlocking better bill management and savings opportunities.
Optimizing Rate Plans
Utilities can also help customers purchase smart thermostats on utility Marketplaces to help them program their thermostat or even enroll in a demand response or TOU optimization program directly in the check-out flow. TOU optimization enables customers to ‘set it and forget it’ by aligning thermostat settings with their rate. Utilities can even model “what-if” scenarios that show the rate impact of behavioral load shifting or even the acquisition of distributed energy resources like rooftop solar of an electric vehicle..
By engaging customers in every step of their TOU journey, utilities can help customers gain knowledge around something they typically know very little about–helping to boost customer engagement, satisfaction, energy savings, and even load shift.