Direct load study: Customers want control

BERKELEY, Calif., April 22, 2002 — Quantum Consulting (QC), a load management consulting company, has released the results of a major study, “Survey of Residential Direct Load Control Customers: A National Benchmark.”

This nationwide study surveyed participants, past participants and non-participants, providing insight into what customers want and how utilities can structure their programs to deliver higher customer satisfaction and greater program participation, while increasing program cost-effectiveness.

Customer acceptance of direct load control (DLC) programs and willingness to participate runs high. Nonparticipants we interviewed stated they are willing to enroll air conditioners (50%), space heaters (22%) and water heaters (33%).

Participants stated they would like to enroll more appliances in the program. However, a poorly run program can affect retention; an additional barometer of success, and a critical factor in program retention, is customer satisfaction. QC has found that customer satisfaction with the utility can increase by having a positive experience with utility program participation. The information collected in this study has yielded a “wish list” of customer preferences to help utilities structure programs that can both be more cost-effective and increase customer satisfaction levels.

The strongest message sent by respondents in this study is that customers want to be in control of their energy decisions, from how much they spend on energy to when and how they use energy. Customers participate in DLC programs because they want “lower energy bills” which are achieved through the participation incentive received as a bill credit. Utility customers were very clear on the choices they have relative to direct load control programs.

They want:

* money, not energy efficient products as the incentive
* bill credit, not cash incentives
* the option to override the interruption
* advance notice of an interruption
* to feel valued by the utility for their participation
* to have personal contact with the utility when signing up for the program
* the process of signing up to be smooth and easy with minimal points of contact
* the equipment installation to be “hassle free” and occur in a timely manner
* equipment that is easy to use and understand

This study has detailed information to help utilities structure their programs so that they are more cost-effective, deliver greater impacts and result in higher customer satisfaction.

Quantum Consulting has over 15 years of experience with residential direct load control. QC worked with EPRI to write the book on DLC duty cycle analysis and has conducted evaluations on DLC for utilities across the country. QC continues to perform the most comprehensive DLC evaluation in the U.S. for Florida Power and Light. The full results and recommendations from this national study are available for sale. Interested parties may visit the company’s web site (www.qcworld.com).

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