Thoroughly Modern Metrics: 4 Utility Stories of Optimization via Data

Modern business intelligence (BI) tools are helping companies across industries optimize many aspects of their operations. As these tools become increasingly powerful and user-friendly, the benefits of faster, more insightful reporting and analytics will accrue to those who are best able to benefit from these insights.

For utilities, the combination of digitalization and modern metrics tools enables real-time analytics tracking with much greater precision, providing a clearer lens into key business drivers.

This paper highlights four examples of how utilities can use modern metrics tools to improve their customer engagement outcomes.

1. OPTIMIZING EMAIL OPEN RATES

Utilities are adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions in many aspects of their operations, such as email campaigns. Among the many benefits of SaaS solutions is the fact that learnings and best practices from one deployment can be applied to all customers on the platform. For example, utilities can use modern SaaS metrics tools to track their performance against that of their peers, thereby enabling cross-utility benchmarking on many key performance indicators. This results in data insights that might otherwise go unnoticed and unaddressed.

CASE STUDY | Low Email Open Rate

Problem

In partnership with a SaaS provider, a large investor-owned utility (IOU) sends its customers monthly summary and similar-home comparison emails as part of a large-scale residential energy efficiency (EE) program. While the IOU’s email open rates were in line with Questline industry benchmarks, they were falling short of the open rates from similar programs run by their SaaS partner:

Without the benefit of a SaaS solution, the IOU would likely have been satisfied with email open rates that fell in line with the rest of the industry. After benchmarking against similar partner programs, however, it became clear that the utility could do much better.

Solution

The metrics system automatically alerted the project team regarding the low email open rates. The team reviewed key utility email elements and compared them with corresponding elements from similar EE programs. The comparison quickly identified two email elements that did not leverage best practices:

Over the next two weeks, changes were made to both the sender domain name and the email title, making both clearly recognizable as coming from the utility.

Results

Within two weeks of implementing the changes, the monthly summary open rates increased from 29% to 41%, and the similar home comparison open rates rose from 24 percent to 33 percent.

2. ACCELERATING ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS

In the past, addressing communication problems often required a patchwork of tools and resources from multiple functional groups across an organization. As a result, identifying the root cause of these types of problems (let alone solving them) meant mining various data feeds manually and conducting multiple rounds of research, trial and error, and diagnosis – a painstaking process that could take weeks, if not months. However, modern metrics tools can pull from many data feeds to resolve problems quickly and efficiently.

CASE STUDY | Email Deliverability

Problem

Many utilities send out tens of thousands (or more) of emails daily. Modern metrics tracking systems can monitor the lifecycle of each email, from sending and delivery to open and click-through. Among other things, this can help alert the utility to email delivery issues, as shown in the real-world example below:

Solution

Upon receiving the alert on the low delivery rates, the utility can use the metrics solution to cross-reference delivery success rates for the affected domains against a number of data feeds, such as sending dates/times and email type. In this case, within a matter of hours the utility had identified the third-party email-delivery service as the root cause of the low delivery rates.

Results

Within two weeks of receiving the original alert, the utility had worked with the email delivery service to implement the appropriate fixes, and delivery numbers returned to expected levels.

3. MODERNIZING CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

In today’s digital world, where customers expect a more personalized experience, gathering timely customer feedback–ideally what they’re looking at when they’re looking at it–is critical to optimizing customer engagement. Companies setting the standard in customer engagement, such as Netflix, Facebook, and Spotify, use variations of the thumbs-up/like option to create more immediate feedback loops with their customers.

Compared to conventional methods of gathering feedback (surveys, etc.), the “like” method enables vendors to receive targeted feedback on a single experience–information that they can then use to continue fine-tuning the user experience. Utilities can take this same approach with their digital communications, enabling end-users to provide thumbs-up/down feedback as part of each personalized message.

BEST PRACTICE | Increasing Interactions

Modern metrics systems can be used to drive greater engagement by first measuring, then improving personalized communications. One of the more effective ways is to include calls-to-action (CTA) in messaging. Given the ability to measure click-through rates across recommendation, message, and program types, it has been found that, across all programs, including a CTA in at least one personalized program recommendation can increase click-through rates by 2x or more, demonstrating that the specific program and associated CTA are meaningful to the customer.

4. REAL-TIME MEASUREMENT & VERIFICATION

The current measurement and verification (M&V) process used by utilities to measure savings from EE programs can be a lengthy and expensive one. Typically, utilities hire third parties to conduct the M&V to avoid any conflict of interest arising from the vendor evaluating its own performance.

There are other shortcomings to the current approach. Because of the  previously mentioned time and expense, evaluations are infrequent (often just once yearly), which inhibits program optimization. The resulting lack of timely visibility into savings trends restricts any course corrections and iterations necessary to achieve desired savings goals.

BEST PRACTICE | Accessing and Acting on Data

Modern metrics tools can augment current M&V practices by utilizing a real-time metrics approach that incorporates the same industry-standard M&V methodology. This increased visibility into critical data enables the utility to run more frequent evaluations, iterate as needed, and course-correct to optimize each program. It also provides a greater degree of control over the M&V process for the utility and greater familiarity with the levers that drive successful programs. This increased involvement by utilities in the M&V process also enables them to have more targeted and insightful conversations with regulators, ultimately leading to more successful programs. 

SUMMARY

Across industries, modern business intelligence tools are turning unused data into a valuable asset. For utilities, that means a significant step forward in critical areas such as customer engagement, root cause analysis, program performance, and more.

By modernizing their metrics and analytics capabilities, utilities can gain clearer visibility into critical operations and better understand how those operations compare to cross-utility benchmarks. This gives them the entire picture of where they stand, and where they can improve, creating a clear path on their journey toward industry leadership.

About the author: Ilén Zazueta-Hall is vice president of products at Bidgely. An advocate of user-centered design, her product philosophy is informed by over 15-years of professional experience ranging from consumer electronics to communications hardware to enterprise systems.

 

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