by George Roach, Consolidated Edison Co. of New York
Consolidated Edison Co. of New York (Con Edison) began its green initiative in 1995. Like many businesses, Con Edison’s initial focus on going paperless started with electronic payments. The world’s largest and most complex energy-delivery company has been successful; 50 percent of current Con Edison customers pay their bills electronically via phone, online and auto debit.
Getting customers to the next level of green–electronic bill presentment–however, has been tougher for Con Edison and businesses across all industries until recently. Con Edison is enrolling some 7,000 customers a month, or about 84,000 a year, in electronic bill presentment.
Con Edison has been working to eliminate common barriers to widespread electronic bill presentment adoption, such as overly complicated online enrollment, website glitches and lack of awareness about the environmental, cost-savings and security benefits of electronic billing and payment.
Con Edison has been a charter member of the PayItGreen coalition since it was formed in 2007 by NACHA–The Electronic Payments Association–to educate consumers and businesses about the positive environmental impacts of electronic bills, statements and payments. (NACHA is a nonprofit representing nearly 11,000 financial institutions to encourage efficient use of the ACH Network for safe, secure, electronic payments.)
Leveraging tools developed as part of its PayItGreen membership, Con Edison launched an integrated Power of Green campaign employing:
- A Power of Green section on Con Edison’s website
- Social media efforts via Power of Green on Facebook and Twitter
- Online, print, radio, transit and stadium ads
- Direct mail postcards
- Bill inserts
- Customer newsletters
- E-mail outreach
- A lottery awarding two iPads to customers enrolled during the timeframe
- Social responsibility programs, such as contributing $1 to the Million TreesNYC initiative for each person who enrolls in electronic bill presentment.
Fueling the Power of Green With the Power of You
Con Edison is always looking for innovative ways to drive awareness of the environmental benefits of an all-electronic billing cycle. In 2009, the utility added PayItGreen’s Power of You interactive video e-mail campaign to its arsenal.
To encourage widespread use of the campaign by billers and drive a significant increase in consumer adoption rates, PayItGreen and NACHA’s Council for Electronic Billing and Payment (CEBP) designed the Power of You campaign to be a low-cost ($5,000) turnkey marketing program that any biller can adapt easily to help increase e-bill adoption among their customers. The campaign includes:
- An industry award-winning two-minute video.
- An e-mail template with a 13-second embedded video and suggested language. Utilities may infuse it with their own style and direct where customers who click through will land.
- Access to Accudata predictive modeling. Accudata scores customer data to target customer segments most likely to be receptive to messages about electronic bill presentment. Con Edison first ran the Power of You campaign in December 2009 using Accudata’s scored customer data with a resulting 10 percent enrollment of e-mail recipients. In a second campaign sent to a larger, unscored group of customers in July 2010, Con Edison saw only an 8 percent enrollment. In beta tests, Accudata’s enrollee predictability model accurately predicted more than 75 percent of actual enrollees. Accudata also found that the probability for adoption is higher if a consumer buys through the mail, uses credit cards, has a higher income or is a single male with no children; and decreases among older generations and those who have lived longer at the same residence.
- Negotiated pricing for video streaming.
Multiple messages get the best results, so the utility supported the Power of You campaign with other customer-facing tools, including its Power of Green Web pages and on-call messages.
Though Con Edison’s annual churn rate of 15 percent means that 100 percent saturation is unrealistic, the utility continues to develop innovative ways to encourage customer conversion to electronic presentment.
Save money. Eliminating the printing, postage, labor and equipment costs associated with paper billing can result in significant cost savings.
Increase customer satisfaction. Promoting your utility’s green practices and giving customers avenues to reduce their carbon footprints can elevate your utility’s standing in the community. Converting customers to electronic methods can increase customer satisfaction.
Help the environment. By switching from paper to electronic billing, statements and payments, the average U.S. household in one year would:
- Save 6.6 pounds of paper.
- Avoid production of 171 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Avoid releasing 63 gallons of wastewater into the environment, and
- Avoid using 4.5 gallons of gasoline for mailing.
To learn more about your utility’s potential environmental and cost savings, use PayItGreen’s calculators at http://payitgreen.org/business/greencalculator.aspx.
George Roach is a systems specialist at Con Edison. He has been at the helm of Con Edison’s electronic payments efforts since 1995 and instituted the public utility’s electronic bill presentment program in 2007. Roach was nominated by Bill Gates and inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s 2000 Computerworld Permanent Research Collection in Washington, D.C. He also won the 2009 NACHA George Mitchell Payments System Excellence Award.
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