Utility and service providers have long seen the value in providing rewards and rebates to their end users, often to encourage them to take advantage of energy-efficient products and in-home services.
These incentives can serve two purposes—encourage energy program participation, and create a positive customer experience that leaves consumers feeling satisfied. While today’s utility programs may help with a home’s energy efficiency, they’re often inefficient for your customers and your business.
Program communication and card design examples:
A big opportunity to differentiate
With the complexities that utility programs demand, the customer experience during a traditional rebate redemption is—at best—slow and burdensome. The typical process involves consumers buying an energy-efficient product, waiting for installation to be complete, then filling out taxing paperwork by hand and sending it in. After mailing off their materials, consumers must then wait for the rebate to be filed and processed—perhaps getting impatient and calling to check on its status more than once—and finally receiving a check in the mail several weeks later. And that’s if they bother to submit for a rebate at all.
Research earlier this year by Hawk Incentives1 found that when it’s all said and done, only 58 percent of respondents think rebates are easy to redeem and only 23 percent report being “very satisfied” with the process of mailing in a form to redeem their rebate. These complications can mean utility providers are spending a significant portion of their budget on program management, and not on things that drive energy efficiency.
But there’s good news! Advancements in technology, validation intelligence, and reward delivery make it possible to deliver an energy efficiency rebate the same day consumers qualify for a rebate—a win-win for your business and your customers. We recommend improving customers’ utility incentive experiences by incorporating elements of access, ease, reward choice and speed within your incentive program.
Provide customers with access where they expect to be met
Consumers have high expectations for how they want to receive their energy rewards, yet their preferences are not all the same. Our research found that 53 percent of respondents considered access—communication the way they like it— “very desirable” during the rebate process. By providing omnichannel reward redemption options, you can better ensure you’re meeting them in an environment that makes them most comfortable, which also helps to engage them while driving intended behavior.
Many of us have seen this model implemented by retailers who offer several different delivery avenues, such as in-store rewards like coupons for future purchases or email rewards. Consider offering delivery options such as email, in-field or even via mail to best suit each recipient’s lifestyle and preferences.
Create ease of participation
Don’t be overly burdensome in the information you collect along the customer journey. This data can include exhaustive customer experience surveys, lengthy product reviews, personal information requested for loyalty program enrollment, refer-a-friend opportunities and more. These questions can create unnecessary frustration during the reward redemption process and increase the likelihood consumers will associate your company with a negative customer experience. Instead, try to curate the reward redemption experience on their behalf so the process is as simple and painless as possible.
Offer reward variety
In the past, most utility providers used paper checks as rewards for their customers and didn’t provide any other options. But as consumer preferences evolve, they’re coming to expect more modern options that provide flexibility of choice. Our research found that 89 percent of respondents feel it’s important for them to receive the types of rewards they like. Consider offering options such as physical gift cards, egifts, universal incentive cards and others to provide a multitude of choices. One size doesn’t fit all as gender, age, lifestyle and many other factors can play a role in which reward recipients want, so provide your customers with variety so they can select the reward that best suits their needs.
Enable speed to completion
You can improve the odds of consumers associating a positive customer experience with your company by providing rapid rewards. For instance, technology now exists to offer near-instant rewards only minutes after consumers qualify for them, instead of the cumbersome process of mailing a physical check and waiting six to eight weeks. Now, after installing a product or in-home service call, technicians can complete the rebate submission process by entering the customer’s information using a mobile app in a process that takes fewer than 15 minutes. Then, the technician can provide the consumer with a physical reward card on the spot—providing instant gratification and simultaneously creating a positive reward redemption experience.
There are a number of ways to dramatically improve your customer experience while simultaneously increasing participation and reducing frustration, cost and customer service bills. By investing in the tools that enable you to offer your customers the right reward via the right channel quickly, you can increase the odds of creating an experience that helps keep your customers happy and engaged.
About Hawk Incentives
Hawk Incentives, a Blackhawk Network business, delivers incentive programs that build relationships with easy-to- use platforms, global rewards and comprehensive service and support. Our solutions include consumer, sales, channel and employee incentive programs. With a focus on access, ease, rewards and speed, we help create a better incentives experience that helps our clients grow their results. Hawk Incentives, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, is a division of Blackhawk Network.
1. The “Let’s Make a Deal” study is an internet-based survey commissioned by Hawk Incentives and completed by LegerWeb
between February 28 and March 12, 2017. The sample size included 2,001 respondents in the United States, ages 18+ at the 95 percent confidence level and would equate to + or = 2 percent margin of error had this been a random sample.