User-friendly online platform simplifies the rebate process, driving greater involvement and helping to improve customer satisfaction.
BACKGROUND: PECO SMART IDEAS INITIATIVE
PECO is a Philadelphia-based electric and natural gas utility serving 1.6 million electric and 500,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2009, the company launched PECO Smart Ideas, a suite of energy efficiency programs that are part of PECO’s support for Pennsylvania’s energy efficiency and demand response targets – Act 129. PECO Smart Home Rebates, just one of these programs, encourages customers to upgrade to high-efficiency appliances and heating and
PAPERWORK: A BARRIER TO PARTICIPATION
PECO Smart Home Rebates provided the option to apply for rebates with a paper form or online. However, customers found the paper forms for the program rebates to be time-consuming, and some even felt that the rebate did not justify the effort. And while more streamlined, the program’s online application portal only shifted data entry to a computer screen. Overall, PECO saw the number of rebates submitted level off, which posed an obstacle for claiming kWh savings from energy-efficient product sales. This led PECO to seek a more user-friendly solution that would improve the customer experience by simplifying the submission process while continuing to meet data collection requirements for program measurement and verification.
CREATING A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC EXPERIENCE
PECO collaborated with Ecova to develop a solution that would foster more participation in PECO Smart Home Rebates. Ecova, working with a leading user experience consultant, developed an online platform featuring a simplified, responsive and interactive experience.
PECO’s new My Rebate portal allows customers to upload, verify and track their PECO Smart Home Rebate applications and includes step-by-step instructions, real-time feedback and online help. The platform captures equipment data needed for evaluation, measurement and verification and incorporates a user-friendly format.
The portal allows customers to browse available rebates without the need to first log in, which reduces the number of early drop-offs. The platform filters and displays rebates relevant to the user, only requiring account information later once the customer is committed to completing the process.
Other features include replacing the majority of instructional text with an intuitive design framework—supported with help text on hover and visual progress cues—making it apparent to the user how to proceed. The workflow is tailored for the user, be it a residential customer or a contractor.
The most advanced feature is Ecova’s product model eligibility matching algorithm, which enables free-text model entries to be matched to a model number template, providing users with instant feedback results. The algorithm can process complex entries related to HVAC rebate applications, where three model numbers from the customer are required to reflect an eligible HVAC system.
The portal is driven through a backend integration with the Ecova Efficiency Platform—a cloud-based solution that consolidates utility energy efficiency program data and operational activities into one platform. The integration eliminates inefficiencies in paper processing and ensures that data—screened by built-in, real-time validations—goes directly into the processing system where statuses are automatically assigned and applications move through predetermined stages based on
utility processing requirements.
The My Rebate portal has exceeded expectations. Each month, an increasingly higher percentage of customers use the portal compared to paper rebates, which helps reduce program costs. Customers can more accurately submit information about their qualifying purchases and benefit with a 25 percent faster turnaround. The online tool also allows PECO to cross-promote other programs and has helped increase customer satisfaction for both residential consumers and participating contractors.
MY REBATE PORTAL RESULTS
- Number of online rebate applications has increased to more than
50% of the total rebates submitted.
- Rebate processing efficiency has increased, reducing labor and costs for
application processing by 29%.
- Payment times to customers has decreased by 4-7 days.
- More than 150 contractors submit rebates on behalf of their customers.
PECO SMART HOME REBATES, SMART GAS EFFICIENCY AND
SMART NATURAL GAS CONVERSION RESULTS
- In calendar year 2014, PECO customers saved over 84,000 MWh
through the Smart Home Rebates program.
- $6,279,346 benefitted PECO customers in 2014 in the form of on-the-shelf discounts
for ENERGY STAR® certified CFL and LED light bulbs.
- $6,059,975 was paid in 2014 to PECO customers in the form of rebates on ENERGY STAR certified appliances, electric HVAC, electric and gas water heating, and natural gas heating equipment.
“Ecova’s online solution has proven to be a tremendously beneficial strategy for engaging our customer base with the smart home rebates, making participation easier and reducing administrative costs.”
-Nate Gillespie, PECO Program Manager