The Little Utility Bill that Could…

A few weeks ago I received a new type of bill from my electric company.  It was the first time I found myself drawn into a bill – as if it was an experience.  I’d go so far as to say that this bill was actually a bit exciting.  This bill is shown below for your reference (you can click on the image to see the full size).

With this bill, I see this company has done two things:

First, they made a positive shift in thinking of how to approach their business, namely looking at it from an environmental perspective. In a traditionally environmentally un-friendly business, here is a company that has reframed their business approach.  They now see that they aren’t in the energy-delivery business, but rather the energy-saving business.  They don’t take money from the customer, they help the customer save money.  They don’t pollute, they help reduce pollution.  It’s good for the customer, good for the world and still good business.

At the end of the bill they provide you a few “quick fix” options, one of which takes the customer to their website where they offer energy-efficient services (presumably revenue generating).  Good for them.

Secondly, they found a unique way to engage customers in their new model. This bill pulls the customer in through:

  • Useable Information- Unless you are in the energy business, a kilowatt hour doesn’t mean much to you.  Put it into a graph comparing previous months and showing the trend of usage, and suddenly you can see and feel what it means and how it relates.  It even explains for the first time that 1 kWh is a 100-watt lightbulb burning for an hour – I had never heard that before.  The bill also tells me how much money I would have saved if I had been on par with my “efficient neighbors.”  Which brings me to my next point…
  • Comparisons and Grouping – It compares my energy usage to my neighbors and shows how I compare to “all neighbors” and “efficient neighbors.”  It even ranks my energy usage for the month out of 100 neighbors.  I ranked #10.  Cool!  We humans are naturally a bit competitive so if you happen to care about energy usage either because of finances or earth stewardship, then this comparison brings out the competition in you. How could I be more efficient?  I could get to #1 if I shut off my heat for a month in the dead of winter! (Kidding, but you get my point).
  • Interactivity – It makes energy usage and consciousness into a game. Each month I get to see my score – see how I do in comparison to those around me. If I want to get better then I better use less or improve my home’s efficiency through new appliances, better HVAC, or better insulation.  Implied in the bill is a challenge to reduce your costs and be a better steward of our natural resources.
  • A Message – Most bills just ask for your money.  This one had a message that I could buy into – it’s a marketing piece with deep meaning.  The message was – “Reduce your energy consumption, we can help.”  The undertone of the message assumes that you probably know why it’s important to reduce energy usage (pollution, conserve resources, etc)

How is this applicable to the business of you?

Your customers want to support and believe in you.  They want you to make a difference in the world.  In a way, every customer wants you to lead them in your area of expertise, much like you look to other specialists to lead you.  You can lead them better by giving them more information, showing how their involvement is making a difference, and maybe even throwing a bit of comparison in the mix to to make their involvement into a game.  Lastly, you can do all of this while keeping the welfare of the world in mind. It is all possible, just look at this bill to see how.