Case Study: Bills, (Paper) Bills, Go Away
Strand estimates that 11 percent of Progress Energy’s power consumers receive electronic bills, with the majority of customers still getting direct mail.
Progress Energy wants to increase that e-bill percentage. So the company chose to figure out how to do it in June 2008 by mailing 10,000 customers information about the e-bill option. At random, 33 percent of those recipients simply learned about its convenience and Progress Energy’s belief that using electricity instead of paper to view the bill would be better for the environment. Another third of the recipients had the bonus of knowing that if they signed up by July 19, 2008, Progress Energy would donate $1 to a renewable energy nonprofit group in their areas. The final third learned they could donate $5 to the charity through signing up by July 19.
Strand says 490 of the 10,000 recipients, or 4.9 percent, turned on
e-billing. So the test proved Progress Energy was on to something. To reinforce the message to its new e-bill users, Progress Energy sent a one-time “thank-you” e-mail to its customers through the financial institutions. (The e-mails were facilitated by the banks, which didn’t release their depositors’ e-mail addresses to Progress Energy.)
“Those are very good results, by any standard,” she says, adding that the company has used the analytics a couple times since the 2008 test. “We actually are not pursuing the direct mail option as much as using e-mail.”
Direct mail is too costly for e-bill campaigns, Strand says.
Progress Energy used the benefits message in an e-bill push the company e-mailed to 500,000 customers in early spring 2009. (The company removed the donation incentive, as the higher conversion rates still didn’t justify the increased costs.) Strand says about 4 percent or 5 percent of recipients opted in to e-billing, so she’s planned another e-mail campaign to take place during the summer.