Economic Shock Can Catch Consumers Unaware

Energy consumers want engagement and for utilities to provide solutions. As the industry goes through a rebranding period, many energy providers are looking to utilize their own expertise and resources to expand their offerings in synergistic ways.

Position Yourself as a Trusted Partner

Home energy analysis and energy efficient rebates programs are great ways to position your utility as a trusted partner, but they lack human touch and nothing makes them stand out from what every other energy provider offers. This is why utilities are turning to affinity partnerships to expand their service offerings.

You can differentiate yourself by offering education about electrical safety and energy efficiency – something of which 88 percent of homeowners approve – while simultaneously offering an optional emergency home repair plan to protect them from economic shock, or a large, unexpected expense.

Many Homeowners Are Unprepared

More than one-third of Americans have $500 or less in savings in the case of an economic shock, and that increases to 54 percent of those who have a total annual income of $50,000. A Charles Schwab study showed 60 percent of American live paycheck to paycheck, and The Pew Trust found 60 percent had an economic shock in the previous twelve months.

Economic shock threatens about one-third of Americans.

The Biannual State of the Home Survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, reports the financial impact of home repairs, the state of the American home and researches home ownership trends. In the fall edition, the survey found more than one-third of homeowners would prefer a deductible-free emergency home repair plan like HomeServe’s offerings. The number was double that of those homeowners who would prefer to pay a rider on their home insurance offering a deductible. In addition, 69 percent of homeowners would prefer their local utility to offer an optional emergency home repair plan from a third party.

Homeowners Are Worried About HVAC

In addition, the HomeServe Biannual State of the Home Fall 2019 survey shows 50 percent of homeowners had an economic shock within the past 12 months. HVAC systems accounted for the most needed repairs, about one-in-five, and nearly half of homeowners are worried about the state of their HVAC system. Many homeowners are shocked by the cost of HVAC repairs, despite the size and complexity of most systems and safety requirements.

One-in-four homeowners had an HVAC repair in the past year and nearly 50 percent are concerned about their systems.

In the past year, HomeServe has sought to address our customers’ concerns about HVAC breakdowns by purchase HVAC repair companies in Washington, D.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Grand Prairie, Texas. These hubs will enable us to better serve our – and our partners’ – HVAC customers.

Educating Customers is Key

Education about improving energy efficiency and safety is key, but HomeServe also offers education about service connection responsibilities. In a previous State of the Home survey, more than 40 percent of homeowners surveyed didn’t know they were responsible for maintaining their service connections.  A total of 18 percent were unsure who was responsible, while another 11 percent thought their homeowner’s insurance would cover the repair expense and 13 percent believed the utility was responsible.

Customers want utilities to offer optional emergency home repair plans.

If homeowners don’t know who is responsible for service connection maintenance, they will likely contact the utility if there is an issue. Then you will have the unenviable task of letting them know they are on the hook for thousands of dollars in an emergency home repair they may not be able to afford.

To learn how you can educate homeowners about their responsibilities and help them avoid economic shock, contact us.

Affordable Home Repair Plans Help Coles-Moultrie Electrical Cooperative Deliver Peace of Mind

Affordable Home Repair Plans Help Coles-Moultrie Electrical Cooperative Deliver Peace of Mind

Coles-Moultrie Electrical Cooperative has served as a rural community partner for nearly 80 years in Illinois. The Cooperative was exploring options for affordable home repair plans for its members when information on HomeServe USA, a new National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) member, arrived.

“After our initial call with HomeServe, we noticed a pattern. We noticed HomeServe’s most important goal was member – customer – satisfaction, much like our cooperative. They went into great detail about all the ways they can help our members, whether it be with an appliance or even wiring in and around the home,” said Samuel Adair, Coles-Moultrie Marketing and Member Services Manager.

The History of Coles-Moultrie

Coles-Moultrie was formed in 1938 to serve farmers. For-profit corporations wouldn’t undertake the expense of running electrical lines to rural areas, so their homes wouldn’t have had electrical service otherwise. The electrical cooperative is a nonprofit and governed by a board chosen from among its members. NRECA represents the interests of more than 900 electrical cooperatives across the country, and HomeServe is a silver member of the organization.

Coles-Moultrie recently had ended a water heater program the cooperative had offered its members since 1992, and, having spearheaded similar programs during his time at investor-owned utilities, Kim Leftwich, Coles-Moultrie President and Chief Executive Officer, proposed the cooperative look into developing an insurance program.

“As expected, many members were accustomed to the cooperative taking care of this appliance with little to no cost to them, so when this program ended, many members were upset with the fact they no longer had an ‘insurance’ policy on their appliance,” Adair said.

Just as the cooperative began considering its own insurance program, HomeServe USA’s service warranty programs were brought to the board’s attention as alternative affordable home repair plans.

“Our goal with this program is simple,” Adair said. “We want to give our members peace of mind, and we want to supply our members with a program where those who aren’t participating won’t worry about subsidizing other members.”

Peace of Mind Through Affordable Home Repair Plans

HomeServe offers a variety of affordable home repair plans that provide coverage for residential electrical lines, water and sewer service lines, gas lines and appliances by partnering with utilities, municipalities and cooperatives across the U.S. These aren’t typically covered by homeowner insurance or aren’t the responsibility of the providing utilities.

“There is no cost to the cooperative for this program,” Adair said. “What other program can you say that about? We are now able to provide our members with an insurance program that costs the cooperative nothing and, on top of that, all our Member Service Representatives need relay to the members is a phone number. A benefit to this program is having a program without having to manage a program. “

Coles-Moultrie will apply any benefits the cooperative realizes from its partnership with HomeServe to other programs, such as energy efficiency, with the goal that all program revenue return to its membership through other avenues.

“I believe our lower income members will benefit the most,” Adair said. “No one wants to buy a new (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system when it goes out, but some members financially can’t repair an air conditioning unit if it were to fail. With low monthly costs, they can have peace of mind with their 20-plus-year-old HVAC system.”

HomeServe works with its partners to help educate homeowners about their responsibilities for the repair of utility service lines. Many homeowners are unaware they are responsible for the portion of the service line between the utility’s transmission lines and their home.

“No cooperative wants to approach a member having an issue and say, ‘that’s on your side,’” Adair said. “The more educated you make your members about their responsibilities, the less often you have those hard conversations with them. With HomeServe, the cooperative now can give the member an option to help them avoid potential costs from faulty wiring in and around their home.”

HomeServe USA, a market leader in emergency repair service plans, received Gold Stevie Awards in 2015, 2016 and 2017 for customer service and has an A-plus rating with the Better Business Bureau. HomeServe serves more than 3 million customers and has partnerships with more than 450 municipalities, utilities and associations, providing electric, water, sewer and HVAC service through local contractors.

To learn more about how you can partner with HomeServe to bring peace of mind to your members, visit www.homeserveUSA.com.