HomeServe’s new App is completely free and enables customers to inventory every device and appliance in the home via bar code scanning, allowing instant access to manuals and warranty information, tune-up reminders, parts lists, recall notifications and more. In addition to allowing consumers to maintain their home equipment with ease, the App can also serve as a central source for your customers to maintain emergency numbers, request repairs and receive important utility notifications and messaging on energy efficiency, safety and more.
Are you looking to expand your marketing tools in the utility industry? Giving customers choices and the opportunity for interaction is well-documented to improve customer satisfaction, and that, in turn, improves ROI.
Recent market research indicates customers appreciate receiving recommendations by their energy providers, including during conversations with the utility’s contact center. You might look at this as another spin on giving them choices. Two-thirds of those who received a recommendation reported that it was highly relevant, and three-quarters followed that recommendation. Recommendations boosted brand trust by more than 80 points on a 1,000-point scale. Following a recommendation increased it by more than 90 points, and relevant recommendations increased trust by nearly 150 points.
Utilities are prompted by flattening demand and market disruptions to increase their offerings with value-added services. This provides a greater opportunity to provide recommendations and customer choice. Home repair plan programs allow energy providers to leverage their brand to move into a new retail space and expand offerings. Many utilities are using these marketing tools to enter this marketplace with affinity partnerships.
Home Repair Plans Provide Additional Marketing Tools
Fifty-nine percent of respondents surveyed said their opinion of their utility provider would improve if they offered a home repair service program. Utility customers who did have a repair plan through their provider rated that provider higher by 40 percent for gas and 36 percent for electric.
Since 22 percent of homeowners have no money set aside for repairs, an unanticipated repair could be financially devastating to your customers. Repairs are a fact of homeownership, and of the twenty percent of homeowners who had HVAC repairs, 11 percent who had water heater repairs and 10 percent who had electrical issues can attest.
HomeServe is a leading provider of utility-sponsored home repair plans that provide homeowners with a one-call solution without deductibles and call-out fees. Energy-centered offerings include affordable coverage for water heaters, cooling and heating systems, interior and exterior electric, interior and exterior gas, heating and cooling tune-ups. Preventive maintenance for heating systems is also covered. Customers have the ability to pick and choose what fits their needs and their budget, increasing customer satisfaction.
“An unexpected repair can take a real bite out of a homeowner’s budget, and, when you’re dealing with an electrical or gas issue, it also can be a safety concern,” Andrew DeCastro, HomeServe Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, said. “If a customer’s heating or cooling systems go out of service, their home might not be habitable, depending on the weather. With HomeServe, customers make one call to our call center and we handle finding a contractor and dispatching them quickly so the repair can be made as soon as possible. Our plans help homeowners avoid financial shock and safety issues so they can have peace of mind.”
Utility Customers Weigh In
Dorothy, a customer of a large utility in Houston, learned that her 15 year old gas service line was out-of-code and leaking. The job would require 50 feet of trenching and cost approximately $3,000. Luckily, the utility had partnered with HomeServe, and Dorothy had a gas service line plan.
“I signed up in July, I believe, never thinking this would happen, but it did, and I’m very glad that I had [the coverage],” she said. “When I called, the agent was very helpful, answered any questions I might have, reassured me that I was covered, which made me very happy. The contractor that HomeServe sent out was very helpful and ready to fix whatever it was.”
Shannon, a customer of a California utility, had a severe failure of her gas service line, requiring a complete replacement from home to meter – a total length of 250 feet, which would have cost her between $10,000 and $15,000, if she didn’t have a plan with HomeServe.
“When we found out there was a problem and the gas was turned off, we called HomeServe,” she said. “At that point, they proceeded to contact a plumbing company, who would come out and determine exactly what was wrong. There’s no out-of-pocket on the repair – the entire repair is being covered. I’m very satisfied with HomeServe. They really came through for us and saved us a lot of money. They stayed in contact with us, they were very friendly, very upfront, so I was very satisfied.”
Watch one customers’ experience with a gas line repair:
HomeServe has a network of 1,400 local contractors throughout the U.S., each thoroughly vetted for the safety and peace of mind of your customers. They are required to be licensed and insured, maintain an A rating with the Better Business Bureau, and achieve high customer satisfaction scores in post-service surveys. HomeServe’s award-winning 500-seat contact center handles claims with multi-lingual, live operators 24/7/365. To learn more about how you can offer your customer value-added home repair plans and add to your marketing tools through an affinity partnership with HomeServe, please contact us.
There’s a major trend happening in energy that is not measured in barrels or BTUs. Utilities are becoming much more focused on deepening their customer relationships. As state after state deregulates electricity, forcing utilities to compete with retail providers, and more efficient homes and emerging green technology flatten load growth, energy utilities have had to look within and figure out strategies to improve customer engagement.
And this customer base is changing. By 2025, Millennials will make up to 75 percent of the work force, as the next largest generation, the Baby Boomers, retire in droves. This means their buying power will only increase in the next decade. The 80 million Millennials in the U.S. currently spend $600 billion per year, a figure expected to increase to $1.4 trillion by 2020.
A Brookings Institute study identified key values of this generation that must be considered by companies wishing to successfully engage with them. These include an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, ethical causes, and stronger brand loyalty for companies offering solutions to specific social problems; a greater reverence for the environment, even in the absence of major environmental disaster; and higher worth placed on experiences over acquisition of material things. These can all make for better customer engagement.
The first truly “digital generation,” Millennials spend 90 hours a month using smartphone apps, and they have the greatest interest in smart homes, with 86 percent willing to pay up to 20 percent more in mortgage or rental payments for smart home technology, such as smart thermostats, according to a Wakefield Research study. They are also are interested in green energy, with 56 percent indicating a desire to incorporate solar panels, according to an Accenture consumer survey.
Digital Tools for Customer Engagement
Utilities are benefiting from offering tools for digital engagement including smartphone apps for bill paying and usage management, text and email messages, and a secure and accessible website experience. For example, offering an app that enables residential customers to view energy consumption in their homes results in better informed and more engaged customers who can help make grid operations more efficient.
As a utility’s core business of delivering power and maintaining infrastructure requires vast resources, partnerships with third party providers are enabling utilities to offer value added services and new products to help strengthen customer relationships.
Value-added services can fall under three main categories: energy services, home services and information services. Energy services can include items as simple as surge protection, lighting, weatherproofing or as complex as energy storage and electric vehicle charging.
Home Energy Management
Information services include home energy management systems, energy reports and real-time usage information that enable customers to manage consumption and costs through real-time data. Millennials, in particular, want their utilities to increase smart technology and renewable energy options. The above-referenced Accenture study also indicates that over 60% of millennials within the next 5 years want to sign up for a digital application to track energy usage and control home elements.
Home services is a developing market that includes home inspection, landscaping, emergency home repair plans and bundled services, such as home security systems. According to research conducted by HomeServe, those customers who received an emergency home repair plan through their utility rated their provider higher than those who didn’t have policies. In addition, 59% of utility customers surveyed who don’t currently have a policy responded that their opinion of the utility would be improved if they offered repair plans.
The time for utilities to raise the bar on engaging with Millennials is now. As technology continues to evolve and customers are looking for more than power, utilities have a great opportunity to deeply connect with this generation.
HomeServe, a leading provider of home repair service plans, partners with utilities across the nation to offer utility customers affordable protection from potentially expensive repairs of electrical lines, water heaters, HVAC systems and water and sewer lines. To learn more about a partnership with HomeServe,contact us.
A new article in T&D World predicts renewables, smart home monitoring, AI and IoT will have a massive impact on how energy and utility companies address the market in 2018.
Smart Home Monitoring
Smart home monitoring with smart meters enables customers to track and calculate their energy consumption and make changes to conserve and reduce costs. As the proliferation of this technology continues, consumers will be in a stronger position to demand more flexibility in service. HomeServe is cited as an example of companies that provide that flexibility.
“One example of companies leveraging this demand for increased flexibility is HomeServe, a one-stop digital service company providing emergency and energy services to the home. Through its monthly digital subscription model, the company supplies services to over 7.8 million homes in the UK and over 3 million homes in the US—including energy services, boilers and meters through third-party suppliers. HomeServe itself owns no energy assets, but with its strong customer service and simple payment models generating powerful loyalty and revenue, service providers like HomeServe could soon become energy providers as customer-centric energy provision booms.”
In addition to desire for increased flexibility and smart home monitoring, there are other trends that are leading utilities to consider offering home protection programs to customers.
No Savings Set Aside for Unexpected Emergencies
As part of its latest State of the Home Survey, HomeServe, a leading provider of repair service plans, discovered potentially worrisome trends about consumer saving and spending habits. The twice annual survey, now in its fourth edition, reports on the financial impact of home repairs and energy use facing Americans. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from March 6-8, 2017, among over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
Nearly 1 in 3 (31 percent) Americans don’t have at least $500 set aside to cover an unexpected emergency expense
Americans believe car repairs (52 percent), medical emergencies (49 percent) or home repair emergencies (42 percent) could cause an unexpected expense for them in the next 12 months
If they had an extra $1,000, the top 3 things Americans would put the funds toward are paying down credit card debt or loans (24 percent), building personal savings (19 percent) or taking a vacation or trip (16 percent)
Aging Americans Wish to Remain In Their Own Homes
According to U.S. Census data, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to rise 35 percent from 2010 to 2020, and a growing trend for this population is “aging in place.” A comprehensive study on this subject by AARP explains, “this means to grow old in the home where one raised children or in another non-institutional setting in the community. During a lifetime, people develop connections to place and form relationships with neighbors, doctors, hairdressers and shopkeepers. They become intimately familiar with the route to downtown, the rhythm of summer concerts at the band shell park, the best places to get a coveted burger and personalized greeting. These associations, of value to both the individual and the community, cannot be quickly or easily replicated in a new environment. In essence, they can play a pivotal role in successful aging.”
Home Warranties Address Safely Aging in Place
Proactive attention to a problem – a person with a plan is more apt to call for service on a small problem before the issue becomes worse, and potentially dangerous. Once on-site contractors can check other systems to ensure there are no additional issues and if any are discovered they can be fixed immediately.
Expeditious response – while it may take days for a contractor from the phone book to arrive, a home protection plan company has a defined and short response time
Careful screening/vetting – home protection plans provide consumers access to fully-vetted, licensed and insured local contractors. This dramatically reduces the risk related to allowing a stranger into one’s home, particularly for elderly people living alone.
A partnership with HomeServe brings your customers smart home monitoring and emergency home repair plans that deliver best-in-class service from rigorously vetted local contractors. Learn more about how a partnership can benefit utilities and their customers at www.homeserveutility.com.