Low income customers tell utilities what they need

The results of a survey conducted by DEFG, a management consulting firm specializing in energy, reveals some interesting information about low-income utility customers — 43 percent (or four in 10) of which have trouble paying their utility bills.

The EcoPinion survey results suggest things utilities can do to make sure more of the bills get paid more often.

For example, the survey revealed that many low income customers (those households earning less than $50,000 per year) have smart phones and those that do are very interested in mobile applications that would provide them cost information that would help them with their household budget. These customers are also looking for apps that would educate them on energy conservation and make it easier for them to enroll in related programs offered by the utility. Such programs that would be the most practical and useful, according to those customers surveyed, are those offering extended payments and more frequent payments without fees.

The survey results reveal a need to look at payment assistance, payment arrangements and alternatives to both. Utilities need to examine all the costs (time spent, cost to serve, etc.) to determine the best path to getting customers back in control of their energy use.

“There is an opportunity for utilities to take an integrated and strategic approach to comprehensively reconsider payment assistance, payment arrangements and energy savings programs,” said Nat Treadway, managing partner of DEFG. “We support the need for utilities to experiment with new offerings. The smart grid can offer useful information to customers, and the challenge is how to package the information so that people find it useful, easy to use and practical to their daily lives.”

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