Who Should Your Customers Turn to When They Have an Electrical Problem?

Who Should Your Customers Turn to When They Have an Electrical Problem?

Your customers depend on electricity for their light, heat or air conditioning, refrigeration and access to their digital lives – your customers’ lives run on electricity!

Customers are so accustomed to having all this at the flick of a switch, so when the power goes out, most customers’ first call will be to their electric provider. However, there are common electrical problems your customers won’t contact their utility about – ones that might indicate they need emergency electrical repairs by a licensed electrician.

Most common electrical problems include light bulbs burning out quickly, flickering or going off abruptly; breakers tripping frequently or tripping and not coming back on; and light switches and electrical outlets not working properly.

Most light fixtures are designed for 60 watt bulbs – and many utility customers are unaware of that. Using a higher wattage bulb than a fixture is designed for can cause bulbs to burn out quickly and damage the fixture. That can cost between $129 and $179 per fixture to repair – a steep price for a little more light.

Flickering lights can be benign, merely indicating changes in demand on the grid or larger appliances needing more current, although the latter may mean a homeowner should install a dedicated circuit to feed that need – at a cost of about $292 for parts and labor. The cause also could be more serious, such as a failing switch or loose connection, requiring a professional.

When a breaker trips, it’s usually only a temporary overload, but it could be a more serious short circuit or ground fault. If it’s a short circuit or ground fault, it will cost approximately $179 to $212 to have a professional electrician replace each breaker. If the problem is serious enough to require rewiring the home, it will cost an average of $3,500 to 8,500 and can go as high as $30,000, depending on the size of the home and local contractors.

Outlets and switches usually don’t work because a breaker has tripped or a short circuit – or it might simply be a faulty outlet, which can be replaced at a cost of $81 to $98, parts and labor, for an outlet, or a cost of $42 to $103 for a switch.

According to HomeServe USA’s State of the Home survey, a third of homeowners have $1,000 or less set aside for home repairs, with an additional 18 percent indicating they have no savings for any kind of emergency home repair. In addition, 57 percent of homeowners with household incomes under $50,000 have $500 or less or no funds set aside for unexpected repairs. An unexpected expense can be a burden on a homeowner, and one that would be particularly difficult for the newest wave of homeowners – millennials.

Millennials now are the nation’s largest demographic, outstripping Baby Boomers, and they are buying houses, with 36 percent of them homeowners, according to the Census Bureau. While some millennials have embraced the DIY lifestyle, many others are more DIFM, or “Do It For Me.” Even among those who see themselves as handy, their expertise trends more toward technology than home repair – and many are unaccustomed to hiring skilled tradespeople such as electricians.

More millennials are buying homes, but don’t have the money or know-how to do basic repairs – and this is where a service provider can step in and save the day. When a utility customer has a home electric problem, it opens an opportunity for their electrical provider to position themselves as an expert and trusted advisor who can help their customers navigate the issue. By providing an optional home warranty program, a utility provider can cut through the hassle of finding a qualified and licensed contractor and save customers the unexpected expense of an emergency repair.

To learn more about how HomeServe can help you become a trusted partner to your customers, contact us.

Alternative Energy Sources are Inaccessible to Many Low Income Americans

Alternative Energy Sources are Inaccessible to Many Low Income Americans

Solar panel prices have seen a sustained drop – more than 70 percent since 2009 – but it costs approximately $15,000 or more to have a solar array installed, or $7 to $9 per watt produced, putting it out of the reach of some of those who would most benefit– low income Americans.

Owners of single family homes are using their roof space to install solar panels, which are relatively inexpensive, but many low-income Americans are either apartment dwellers or live in rental properties and don’t have permission to install the panels.

Small-scale, on-site power sources, or distributed generation systems, have seen a dramatic increase in interest and implementation, especially in the solar energy field, increasing globally by 50 percent in 2016. Those customers using distributed generation systems connect to the electrical grid both for power when their solar panels aren’t producing enough energy to meet their needs and to sell energy back to the utility when their systems are producing more energy than needed. Net energy metering, or the process of selling excess energy back to a utility, could result in even further utility cost reductions for low-income Americans.

Although the cost per watt has come down from $76.67 in 1977 to 60 cents, the upfront costs still are keeping solar power out of reach for low-income Americans. It is estimated that 80 percent of those who want solar power can’t install panels on their homes.

Other groups are working to make solar energy accessible to low-income Americans through approaches such as group discount programs, leasing and community solar gardens.

Some organizations are using greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade – taking the funds factories and power plants use to buy carbon credits – and reinvesting them in clean energy, such as GRID Alternatives. Solarize, founded in 2009 in Portland, Ore., collectively bargains on behalf of groups of home or business owners to lower the cost of installations, reducing the upfront costs for solar energy.

Solar gardens, a community-owned solar array using net metering, is an alternative to installing panels for those who are low-income or who live in a heavily shaded area. Solar gardens pool the costs and the benefits, making it an attractive option for those who can afford to buy-in or “subscribe.” The upfront costs can be raised through crowd funding or through a third-party financier power purchase agreement.

However, solar gardens require a lot of groundwork and cooperation between communities, legislators and utilities. In addition to the upfront costs, a garden manager should be designated to oversee the sale of shares and the operation and maintenance of the solar garden. If a community partners with a utility, this responsibility can be handled by the utility.

PoisGen is a solar panel leasing company – unique for focusing on low- to middle-income homeowners – operating in Louisiana and New England. Generally, a solar panel lease works like any other – a homeowner agrees to lease the panels for a period, usually between 10 and 20 years, and to purchase energy from the leasing company. There may be a down payment, and the leasing company is responsible for the care and maintenance of the system.

However, those who lease their solar panels usually miss out on federal tax credits and state incentives for those installing their own panels. Those benefits include the ability to sell Renewable Energy Certificates to electric utilities. In addition, if a homeowner sells their home, they must either transfer the lease to the new owners or pay to terminate the contract. Leases also are primarily available in sunny states with generous incentives.

As solar energy becomes more popular, innovators are finding new and creative ways of harnessing solar power. Xcel Energy has partnered with the Colorado Energy Office to develop community solar gardens for low-income households as part of a settlement. The Obama administration proposed installing enough solar panels on federally subsidized housing to generate 300 megawatts of electricity by 2020, and third-party owners are leasing skyscraper rooftops in urban areas to build solar farms.

Another important factor in ensuring low-cost, safe energy in low-income households is up-to-code electrical wiring in good repair. While there are programs such as Habitat for Humanity’s A Brush of Kindness and USDA Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants, such programs have income, age or area eligibility requirements, and many citizens lack the savings for an emergency repair, according to HomeServe USA’s Biannual State of the Home Survey Summer 2017 edition. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed didn’t have any money set aside for an emergency – and not all of those will qualify for repair assistance programs.

HomeServe offers low-cost warranty programs for interior and exterior electric lines as well as other systems in the home. HomeServe utility partners may qualify for royalties that can be applied to low-income assistance or renewable energy programs. Contact us at businessdevelopment@homeserveusa.com or call 1-888-777-1175 to find out more about how our program can benefit your customers.

HVAC Contractors of Excellence: HomeServe Energy Services

HVAC Contractors of Excellence: HomeServe Energy Services

Reprinted from Contracting Business. Click here to view original article.

No customers slip through the cracks at HomeServe Energy Services, one of the most technologically-adept HVAC contractors at work today. HomeServe Energy Services (HES) dispatches reliable heating and cooling experts to more than 1,000 communities in 26 counties across New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

If every HVAC business took the time to sweat the details like HomeServe, the vast majority of the industry’s problems would be solved.

From its attention to service, to recruiting and training, to applying state-of-the-art scheduling technology, HomeServe Energy Services of the South Jersey region does what customers want, and what the company must do in order to prosper.

HomeServe Energy Services is a subsidiary of HomeServe, a leading provider of repair service plans. Since 2003, HomeServe has protected homeowners against the expense and inconvenience of water, sewer, electrical, heating, cooling and other home emergencies by providing affordable coverage, and a quality service.

HomeServe serves over 3.4 million homeowners in the U.S. and Canada, and dedicates itself to being a customer-focused company providing best-in-class emergency repair plans through leading utility partners and directly to consumers.

HomeServe Energy Services (HES) provides reliable heating and cooling experts that service over 1,000 communities in 26 counties across New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, from five “depot” sites supporting metro New York, southern New Jersey, Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts.

With almost 200 technicians (including certified refrigerant handling technicians and NATE-certified technicians), HomeServe provides emergency heating, cooling and water heater repairs as well as tune-ups and new equipment installations.

This past September, HomeServe acquired South Jersey Energy Service Plus, LLC’s (SJESP) residential HVAC and plumbing contractor operations. SJESP, an indirect subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, Inc. currently serves as one of southern New Jersey’s leading HVAC and plumbing solution providers. This transaction has enabled greater operational efficiencies in the region for HomeServe, while creating a more streamlined customer experience for the nearly 62,000 South Jersey households currently served by SJESP under HomeServe warranty and service contracts.

Meeting the Talent Challenge
HomeServe and HES leadership teams realize the importance of quality employees, even more so in recent years, with the diminishing ranks of available and trained technician talent. For that reason, they reward employees for their service and continue to help them develop their HVAC IQs.

“We want to make sure we give the technicians confidence, so that all they need to focus on once they arrive on site is to take care of the customers,” explains HomeServe Energy Service Vice President Mark Crook. “We give them all the tools they need. We have meetings with technicians, and are constantly picking their brains to ask what they need, what will help them be more successful in front of the customer? We use their comments to help design training so they’re successful. Some training is standard, such as training in high efficiency testing. Then we also talk to technicians individually, an ask what training they would like in order to feel better about their skills,” Crook says.

“We have several different tracks for training based on the tech’s experience level which are further personalized based on needs,” explains Crook. “For example, we have a path for our apprentices working to become General Technicians, as well as advanced technology tracks for our more experienced techs. Additionally, we utilize tech scorecards that track key performance metrics that help us determine if further coaching or training is needed for a particular tech.”

As every quality owner or manager knows, the balance between training and in-field work can be difficult to balance. For that reason, Crook says, HomeServe devised a “technician capacity planner,” that helps them match resource needs to the anticipated service and installation demand for each upcoming year.

“That planner also accounts for the amount of training hours we determine are needed for the year,” Crook says. “We structure our training calendar based on where our model recommends training should occur without impacting customer service levels, with much of the training typically in the traditionally slower shoulder months of the late winter, early spring period.”

HomeServe has developed a program with Lincoln Technical Institute, Lincoln, N.J., that allows students to gain real-world experience in the HVAC field by providing them with the opportunity to shadow HomeServe certified technicians.

HomeServe has developed a program with Lincoln Technical Institute, Lincoln, N.J., that allows students to gain real-world experience in the HVAC field by providing them with the opportunity to shadow HomeServe certified technicians. The program is designed to give students from the HVACR program at Lincoln Tech the ability to add valuable field experience to their classroom curriculum, as well as provide them with a mentor in the HVAC field.

“We started with Lincoln Tech in 2016 as part of our commitment to find ways to support our industry,” says Crook. “We interview a group of near-graduating students that meet our program criteria for GPA and attendance, and then select a few to shadow our techs. These students travel to our depot after class and ride along with our tech mentors for approximately four weeks.”

In this way, Crook says the students derive real-world repair and customer service experience that’s not available in the classroom, which undeniably helps in preparing them for HVAC careers.

“Based on feedback from the mentoring techs, we have then hired students as full time Apprentices once their internship ends,” Crook says.“HomeServe’s reputation and focus on customer service are exemplary and played a big role in why we chose to partner with them in offering our students this valuable opportunity,” said Scott Shaw, Lincoln Tech’s President and CEO. “By partnering with HomeServe, we are providing our students with the hands-on experience that shows them the real value of what they are learning in the classroom and motivates them to get the most from their education as they work toward graduating and finding jobs with organizations that offer the promise of a long career,” Shaw says.

HomeServe’s contact center and repair management departments use innovative technologies to deliver the best customer experience possible. The goal is to have a convenient, easy, fast and all-inclusive process. Within our Chattanooga-based, 400-seat contact center, the Repair Management Group is staffed 24/7/365 with live agents ready to serve our customers whenever they need assistance.

• Click Route Optimization Software. HES uses innovative software to optimize technician scheduling and dispatch. It helps techs arrive on time as promised, and compensates for variables such as appointments that go over the expected amount of time due to unexpected problems at the home, heavy traffic cancellations and other snags. Even the best planned schedules invariably change as jobs start or end slightly out of line from what was scheduled. Instead of this time simply being “lost”, Click Route software enables real-time integration of updates coming from the field for intelligent schedule optimization that allows the company to gain back those minutes, which aggregate into hours of gained productivity each day.

Technology Provides Feedback
HomeServe implemented two platforms that use speech analytics to monitor and optimize call center interactions. In addition to significant customer service utility, these programs serve to enhance the HomeServe marketing message.

• A platform called “Rant and Rave” enables and captures customer feedback on call center interactions through an opt-in program. Survey opportunities are presented to customers through channels such as email, automated outbound contact, and SMS text throughout their journey as a HomeServe customer.
• CallMiner: This platform analyzes calls based on individual words, patterns, tone of voice, extended silences and many other data points. It provides insight on language used–product information, compliance/sales terms, customer service measures–empathy, ownership, dissatisfaction, etc. It measures average handle time, silence, hold language, etc.; automates quality monitoring process, and data can be used for training and refinement; and, based on frequency of specific words or phrases, trends can be anticipated and proactive steps taken to further improve customer service.

The practice of “giving back” to the community is common in many great companies. However, Crook says HomeServe is the first provider in the industry to introduce an initiative to help with hardship funding in service areas.

“The ‘HomeServe Cares’ program leverages the company’s existing service infrastructure and financial resources to assist disadvantaged homeowners who are faced with a service emergency and don’t have a service plan or the funds to cover an emergency repair,” Crook says.

Congratulations, HomeServe, for designing and maintaining a culture of HVAC service, training and recruiting that is second to none. We welcome you to the ranks of the Contracting Business ‘Contractors of Excellence.’

HomeServe’s Biannual State of the Home Survey Winter ’18

HomeServe’s Biannual State of the Home Survey Winter ’18

NORWALK, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Many American homeowners simply are not prepared for the unexpected cost of a home emergency. This lack of preparedness is further compounded by the fact that many American homeowners do not understand what their homeowners insurance covers – or doesn’t cover. Unfortunately, this means far too many homeowners would encounter a major financial strain if faced with a home repair not covered by their insurance, such as a break in the water pipes on their property.

The survey found that many American homeowners aren’t financially prepared for a home repair emergency. A third of homeowners (32 percent) have only $1,000 or less set aside for home repairs, while an additional 18 percent reported having no savings set aside for a repair emergency. And the findings were even more concerning for homeowners with more limited financial means. Of those homeowners with household incomes of under $50,000 a year, 57 percent reported having $500 or less or no funds at all set aside for a home repair emergency.

Click here to view our Biannual State of the Home infographic.