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Your Customers Don't Trust Your EE Financial Messaging.

When it comes to inspiring the EE customer to participate in programs or to purchase an EE product, the typical industry message is rooted in the benefit of financial savings. And it makes sense.

Who doesn’t want to spend less on their energy bill?

But, KSV’s proprietary research tells us that the typical customer response to “savings” messages is rooted in distrust. Fundamentally, there is a lack of understanding and skepticism in why a utility would want customers to save money on their monthly bills.

Customers are thinking “How do I know I will actually save money, or actually be paid back for these expensive upgrades? And how long will that actually take?”

One residential homeowner is quoted “I’m just not sure if there will be a financial payoff to making the adjustments or that it would actually add value to my home.”

In a situation of uncertainty and distrust, how can you relieve these barriers?

One solution: Provide a guarantee.

92% of research participants state the lack of an energy and cost reduction guarantee as one of their top three barriers to EE program participation.

What guarantee can you provide? A reasonable payback period? Annual savings? Convenience?

Without a guarantee, you’re asking customers to trust you. Do better than that. Give them no option but to trust you, and be accountable for that. 

Building customer trust in your programs will only lead to increased customer satisfaction. And this is how you transform your energy company into an energy brand.

Lauren Bell / lbell@ksvc.com / 802.862.8261


What Resonates with the EE Customer: Saving Money or Wasting Money?

How do you inspire customers to participate in your EE programs? Do any of these sound familiar? "Lower your monthly bill!" or "Save on energy costs!" or "Save energy. Save money!"

We, as marketers, are communicating the benefit of financial savings to our customer. And for the most part, this message works.

So, we guide customers on ways they can save money program by program... But do they all really value this idea of savings?

The Consumer Federation of America reports that only 50% of Americans have good savings habits.

There's no denying that selling the financial benefits of participation or purchase can and do work. But is the message saturated, and uninspired?  

In a society of spenders, why do we constantly provide ways for our customers to save money? What happens if we talk to customers about the very opposite? 

While conducting proprietary consumer research, KSV asked utility customers all over the Northeast what inspired them more when it comes to taking action in EE program participation and/or purchase: Saving money? Or not wasting money? 

We were surprised to find an even split.

50% stated they were more inspired to participate and/or purchase when the result was financial savings. Is this an old habit response?

50% stated they were more inspired to participate and/or purchase when the communications were focused on not wasting money. Is this an opportunity response? 

Because we're spenders, one could argue that wasting money wouldn't resonate. (After all, we live in the Starbucks generation of $5 coffees.) But the truth is that customers want to spend their hard-earned money on things they want, not on the things they need.

Either way you spin it, your message is resonating. But if you find that your message is saturated, now could be your opportunity to reach that other 50% with just a simple change. 

Food for thought. Get in touch if you're interested in the full research report. We can even chat about it over a Starbucks. 

Lauren Bell / lbell@ksvc.com / 802.862.8261

Three Things to Consider with Energy Efficiency Messaging

Consumer Research Disrupts Conventional Thinking on

How to Get People to Embrace Energy Efficiency

Utilities and their marketing mavens may be speaking the wrong language to their customers, according to our recent proprietary consumer research.

You would think the chance to save money would motivate people to insulate their homes and replace energy-hogging appliances.

And you would be wrong.

KSV's research, conducted among families and businesses in the northeast U.S. earlier this year, tells us that the money people think they have to spend outweighs what they think they could save. What they really crave is comfort and well-being.

It appears to us that utilities are talking energy efficiency and potential dollars saved, and customers are seeking comfort.

That disconnect is a significant opportunity for utilities to retool their energy efficiency messaging.

Three things to consider...

  • Talk to the right customer, those ready to make a decision.
  • Stop talking about energy efficiency and start talking comfort.
  • Empower your customers with understanding.

There are four more such insights in our report, "What People Really Want to Know About Energy Efficiency." Reach out to Lauren Bell to get them.

Ashley Nicholls / 802.862.8261 / anicholls@ksvc.com

Part III – Residential Customers: The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media

We’re focusing on how your residential customers engage with energy efficiency across their own social channels. In order to increase their participation in your energy efficiency programs, we want to first understand how/if they’re talking about energy efficiency with their friends. Is energy efficiency relevant to their conversations? If so, how are they talking about it?  On a personal and homeowner level, energy efficiency content tends to be focused around two primary conversation types: exploratory and experience sharing. Users look to social media to ask their peers about processes, costs, and benefits, relying on their extended personal networks to supply information about offers, opportunities, struggles and worth to these types of changes.

If the user has already gone through an energy efficiency program, the natural next-step is to share their experience on social networks, especially popular when regarding home upgrades. This content is often posted in hopes of gaining positive feedback from their networks and peers (“Your house looks great, Sarah!”), but also to help others make similar improvements to their homes and lives. With these types of posts, energy and cost savings tend to take a backseat at the beginning, with the topic instead focusing on the ease or difficulty of the switch itself. Later on however, the savings will play a headline in sparking further conversation.

More than ever, customers are also using social media as an outlet for customer service frustrations and praise. They want their friends to know if their ENERGY STAR appliance changed the entire look of their kitchen, or adds convenience to their day, etc. They also want friends to know if it doesn’t work properly or if they never received their promised rebate. When it comes to service or audits, the expectation is that poor reviews will receive faster resolution.

Our Thinking: Social engagement with personal and homeowner energy efficiency content tends to be quite high, with users answering the questions and supporting the interests, efforts and experiences of their peers. Whether or not this positive engagement leads to further outreach or action however, is still up to the efficiencies (or potentially, deficiencies) of their personal networks to decide.

Also see:

Three Pillars to a Social Media Strategy to Boost J.D Power Scores

The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media (Part I – Industry)

The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media (Part II - Small and Large Business)

One tactic to keep customers engaged in their EE customer journey.

shutterstock_157952597First Party Data. Is it invasive to use this tactic to create personalized connections with your customers?

Or, does it actually provide value by ensuring the messages customers encounter deliver a benefit from your brand?

Real quick, let’s define what we mean by first party data. It is personally identifiable data like email records, physical addresses and purchase history. It is information that is collected by a company in the course of serving its customers.

What does this mean for utilities when they are marketing energy efficiency to their customers?

It means utilities have a HUGE opportunity to acknowledge where the individual customer sits in their EE customer journey.

The journey is a long one when we consider the need to be made aware of the benefits, to be inspired to do research and finally to take action. And action can mean different things for different customers. LED bulbs are an easy entry point while appliance purchases require a greater need and willingness to invest. Utilities support this journey through offerings like rebates and audits, and should be capturing that 1st party data to inform personalized messaging going forward. This personalized messaging will not only push your customer to act, but also push them to participate in the next program, product or offering.

Through recent proprietary research and customer interviews, we know that customers’ most frequent response to energy efficiency is: “I just don’t know where to begin.”

First party data allows you to leverage data intelligence and place relevance in the paths of your customers. It allows you to personally show them not only where to begin, but also where to go next.

It’s time for utilities to embrace the fact that they have powerful data at their fingertips and that this data can sharpen their communications approach befitting the most important part of this relationship: the customer.


The proprietary research mentioned was conducted on the barriers, benefits and motivations to participating in energy efficiency programs across Residential, Small Business and Large C & I audiences in the Northeast.

Get in touch, and we'll share the full report!

Adaptors vs. Solution Seekers

shutterstock_14192422669% of research participants state they find themselves adapting to inefficiencies in their homes and/or businesses rather than seeking solutions. Here’s what they said:

You have to educate someone about inefficient areas so they pay attention 

to it. They just assume some costs are constant and part of their daily lives. People just get used to it. They think it’s outside their realm of control.

- CEO, Global Software Company

“It’s all about ease and it’s become our habit to do the least expensive thing.”

                                                            - Small Business Owner, Healthcare Professional

“You come into the house and you put a sweater on, and you just kind of leave it at that.”

                                                            - Homeowner

KSV Customer Insight: People are normalized to everyday inefficiencies in their homes and/or workplace. It is only when these inefficiencies cause a disruption

in expectation that they are noticed.

So, how do you increase participation in programs that customers aren’t even aware they need?

Be the disruption in your customer’s expectation.

How do you that? We can help!

We recently conducted an in-depth research study on the barriers, benefits and motivations to participating in energy efficiency programs across Residential, Small Business and Large C & I audiences in the Northeast.

Get in touch, and we’ll share the full report!

Lauren Bell



Are you talking tech?

imgresUtilities are working hard to inspire their customers to take action on energy efficiency. There is great opportunity for these power providers to leverage consumers love for technology in this effort. Consumers covet technology across multiple daily experiences. It empowers, simplifies, enhances, excites, connects and creates efficiencies across so many needs and wants. Every day we are engaged with technology. The technology conversation is a great insertion point for utilities. So how should they do it?

By having a voice in the tech revolution that is defining contemporary times. The utility voice should be present in the "internet of things" conversation. This is where customers can be engaged in two things that excite them.

1. Emerging technology

2. Improving how they experience their homes

Here is an example of a utility (Reliant) that is doing just this by partnering with a high profile product (Nest).

Pretty cool, right?

Sure LEDS and high efficiency furnaces are rooted in evolved technology, but those purchases are not exciting. They are not toys like a mobile phone controlled air conditioner or thermostat is. Communicating around things like “you can turn your AC on from work when you are readying to head home.” Tech is cool and so is feeling like your mobile phone is a remote control capable of making your return home more comfortable and less expensive.

The energy efficiency conversation between utilities and customers is evolving from “you should do this” to “this is the benefit of doing it”. Given the love for and dependence on technology exhibited by today’s consumer, utilities need to develop a strong voice around technology enabled energy efficiency. Make it fun, make it about participating in a young yet promising tech revolution that is keeping people connected to controlling their home energy use remotely.

ENERGY WIRE: The Top 10 Industry News + Marketing Opportunity

1.) In an international energy efficiency scorecard, the U.S placed 13 out of 16 countries—lagging behind Germany, China, South Korea, the E.U and India. 2.) Increasing energy end-use efficiency is the largest, least expensive, most benign and most neglected way to provide energy services.

3.) The EIA expects a 3.1% increase in the average annual residential electricity price this year.

4.) In 2015, residential electricity prices are projected to increase an additional 2.4%.

5.) The Northeast region of the U.S is expected to see the sharpest price increases in electricity.

6.) In 2011, U.S. electricity use was more than 13 times greater than electricity use in 1950.

7.) During the first half of 2014, total consumption of electricity was 2.5% higher than during the same period last year.

8.) Residential and commercial sectors increased consumption during the first quarter of the year as a result of colder temperatures in the eastern half of the United States.

9.) Total electricity consumption is expected to grow 0.6% during the second half of 2014, resulting from a 5.1% year-over-year increase in cooling degree-days and projected improvements in energy efficiency.

10.) U.S. energy intensity has fallen 2.5% per year, owing more to improved efficiency than to changes in consumer behavior.

Marketing Opportunity: 

Energy consumption in the United States continues to increase and the shifts in weather patterns are affecting energy demand.

The imminent rise of energy prices in conjunction with new EPA guidelines may be the catalyst for customers to invest resources in energy efficiency, but there are other benefits too. The far ranging benefits of energy efficiency are widely untapped, leaving customers unaware of their existence.

In recent qualitative research, we uncovered that 88% of research participants, across C & I and residential audiences, stated that the non-financial benefits of energy efficiency would motivate them to make improvements to their homes and/or businesses.

Why? Customers are typically not given a guarantee of savings or ROI, so they don’t have trust that spending money will later save them money. The non-financial benefits such as, health, comfort, productivity, and stability, actually resonate with customers, so start educating them.

Reach your customers with marketing communications that cut through the clutter. Stop talking about saving money, unless you’re guaranteeing it.


America and the Environment: Six trends that define what we’re thinking

climate-change-300x280 2Every year, Joel Mackower of GreenBiz performs a truly important and valuable public service by summarizing most of the past years research on how we feel and think about the environment. It’s easy for those of us who passionately follow the issues to lose touch with mainstream America’s point of view. Though it has to be said, in a time where our politicians don’t pay much attention to the public’s point of view, it probably matters less that we wish that it did.

While the year has been filled with extreme weather events and an increasing consensus within the world’s scientific community, we’re not taking climate change more seriously, despite the given fact that our military and armed forces express no doubt about the severe impact climate change will have on the planet. We are buying more “green” stuff, but that rarely translates to a lighter footprint on the planet. Some of our largest global companies are finally getting serious about sustainability, but they are not yet impacting their consumers.

So the highlights of Joel’s review find –

Trend number 1: Climate change is getting worse, but we don’t seem to notice

“There has not been much change in Americans’ climate and environmental values over the past two years,” based upon ecoAmerica’s VALS-based climate and environmental values research series. The study found that sadly, traditional environmental values were trending “very slightly downward” in 2013 from prior years.

“Americans are less inclined to believe in economic and technological benefits of solving environmental problems. The association between environmental protection and economic growth also dropped, from 82 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2013. This may be a result of an active campaign by climate deniers to undermine support for climate solutions.”

Trend number 2: We’re not willing to do much about climate change

Also according to ecoAmerica, 71% of Americans say they are “somewhat” or “very” convinced that climate change is happening, and 76% believe that humans “definitely” can or “might be able to” reduce climate change’s impacts. However, “These statistics seem encouraging for climate solutions advocates — but they obscure a more complicated reality,” say the authors:

“Amidst the Americans who are convinced that climate change is happening are two different groups of people with different attitudes and motivations. Most Americans are only “somewhat convinced.” They don’t associate climate change with their other priorities and are not inclined to support action. Only the “very convinced” are willing to take action. This group tends to be made up of higher-resourced Americans with greater wealth, health and education.”

Trend number 3: We’re confused

Americans don’t seem to know whether the environment is getting better or worse, according to Gallup’s annual environmental pulse-taking. Gallup found that 50 percent of Americans think environmental problems are getting worse and 42 percent think they are getting better. Compare that to 2008, when 68 percent thought the environment was getting worse and 26 percent thought it was getting better. That suggests Americans are more optimistic about the fate of the Earth than they were six years ago.

Trend number 4: We’re confused, but not totally

Overall, says Gallup, Americans remain more negative than positive about the environment. They are less likely to see environmental quality in the U.S. as “excellent” or “good” (44 percent) than to see it as “only fair” or “poor” (55 percent). More broadly, Americans are not very concerned with the climate, at least compared with other issues.

Trend number 5: We like to buy “green” stuff, but not as much as those in other countries

Surveys about consumer attitudes toward buying green products and services continue to be optimistic, continuing a trend that has persisted for twenty-five years.

More than half of shoppers in twenty-four countries say they “care what efforts brands are making to help the environment,” according to Ipsos OTX, the global innovation center for market and opinion research firm. Those most likely to agree they would be willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products are from: Indonesia (59 percent), India (59 percent) and China (58 percent). Just under a third (32 percent) of U.S. consumers agreed, tied with Russians.

Trend number 6: Don’t mess with our food

Environmental issues get personal when it comes to food. Americans say they are “willing to sacrifice variety and dollars in order to eat more consciously,” according to the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker. Although family satisfaction reigns supreme (97 percent), shoppers consider health and nutrition (93 percent) and sustainability (77 percent) important factors when deciding what to buy.

ENERGY WIRE: Your Bi-Weekly Energy News

  1. KSV_3522_14_EnergyTop10_7_10 (1)Google owned smart thermostat company, Nest, bought Wi-Fi video surveillance company, Dropcam for $555 million. Hinting at Google’s plans to expand its line of smart products to control the entire home.
  2. Honeywell and GE have also developed competing thermostat and cooling systems, which use similar tracking technology as Nest to optimize energy usage.
  3. Apple has developed a software platform, known as Homekit, which allows iPhone &iPad users to use their devices to control the entire ecosystem of their home through remotely connected products.
  4. Android is in the process of developing a home management software platform of their own, known as Nearby.
  5. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android control a combined 94% market share in the smartphone software industry.
  6. Startup companies such LIFX are developing remote lightening systems that can be programmed to turn off automatically or adjusted remotely via phone.
  7. There are currently a number of third party applications available for mobile phone and tablet users that allow individuals to track energy usage, and develop strategies to conserve power.
  8. An EPA study has shown consumers could reduce their energy usage 10-30% using programmable thermostats.
  9. By 2018, the research firm IHS Technology predicts, people will have installed 45 million smart-home services.
  10. 58% of online U.S. consumers are familiar with home automation while 61% are interested in learning more about these solutions.


Emotional levers are the driving force behind smart home technology purchases. Marketers, utilities and energy service providers have an opportunity to tap into an increasingly important, and emerging field, with resonance. The way to achieve this is through an honest recognition of the innate underlying desires amongst energy consumers. The majority of these emotional triggers may appear straightforward— security, safety, comfort, peace-of-mind, connectivity and convenience. However, a surprising lever is the desire to be perceived as having a pulse on emerging smart technologies.

The primary barrier, outside of cost, to energy efficiency program participation is a lack of awareness—both in terms of inefficiencies in ones’ home and/or business as well as a lack of awareness regarding programs that would enable an increase in efficiency.

Smart home technology rectifies this by providing consistent feedback and comparisons to energy consumers by monitoring their consumption. No longer can consumers turn a blind eye to energy guzzling appliances, electronics OR their very own practices. Lack of awareness, as a barrier, can be overcome. The feedback provided by smart home technology forces reflection, which lays the groundwork for change in both energy consumption behavior and desire.