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Are Field Audits Dead?

May 6, 2020 | Blog

Are field audits becoming obsolete? Will they become extinct or are they just evolving to a more virtual form? These questions are on the minds of many energy professionals, especially those whose jobs are affected. This became clear on April 16th, when an Apogee Institute webinar titled “Are Field Audits Dead?” drew almost 300 registrants. The presentation was delivered by CEO, Susan Gilbert, and Chief Software Architect, Joel Gilbert, Apogee’s founders, who expressed their lifelong passion for energy stewardship and shared their expertise on field audits.

The presentation highlighted the evolution of technology since the early days of onsite visits when energy auditors were crawling through hot attics carrying clipboards instead of iPads. Now auditors have access to thermo imaging, remote access, and virtual conversations that allows utilities to reduce costs and lower liability.

Today, more customers are resistant to onsite visits and inconvenient appointments. Innovations in energy analysis applications takes away those barriers. These improvements are more cost-effective and uncover opportunities to enhance the customer/utility relationship.

Advanced energy analysis software combined with customer data makes auditor’s work more efficient by:

  • Targeting homes that are good candidates for programs
  • Proactively identifying homes with unusually high energy use by the HVAC or other systems
  • Reducing travel and time in the field
  • Lowering costs while increasing customer engagement
  • And ultimately, creating an ongoing dialogue with customers

Delivering a high level of service can’t be done by simply matching a customer with a contractor and hoping for the best.  And it can’t be done with deemed savings.  Excellence in this new formula requires communicating in laymen’s terms, giving customers accurate, conservative savings potential for recommendations, and helping them go the next step with more information about programs and implementing the measures.  Not surprisingly, studies show that customers who on their own or with phone assistance conduct an online energy audit are 5 times more likely to opt into the utility’s programs.

Post audit, outbound communication delivering relevant and consistent information to customers is the basis for a truly engaged customer base, plus it improves the utility’s brand perception and drives up Net Promoter Scores.

Examples:

  • Mid-cycle energy alerts can help avoid the high bill before it happens by suggesting changes the end-user can make before the next bill arrives
  • Targeted video bill explanations that include the customer’s personal energy use and generates relevant, monetized energy savings tips and program information
  • Energy videos remind customers of pre-cooling, pre-heating or Beat-the-Peak events

Bottom line: Energy audits are not going away, but the way they are going to be done is evolving. In this new era, maintaining a high level of customer trust is paramount, and that requires using technology that builds their confidence that what they are being told is accurate and not exaggerated.

Apogee is focused on helping utilities embrace this change, take advantage of new ways of interacting with customers, and to smoothly move to a new era of audits becoming more virtual and more impactful.

Susan and Joel Gilbert’s careers span the early days of training residential, commercial, and industrial energy auditors and doing consulting work for almost every major US utility and their national associations, EEI, EPRI, APPA, and NRECA.  They were leaders in developing the first online energy analysis tools, many of which are in use today by hundreds of utilities and their customers from coast to coast.   Recognized for its unmatched accuracy, Apogee’s time-tested analytical engine, known as AMES, is RESNET® accredited at the highest level and capable of delivering a HERS home rating.  The company’s award-winning outbound messaging platform, ENVOY, uses this decade’s top two trends in customer engagement: Personalization and Video, the combination of which is wowing customers driving up program cost-effectiveness.

View the full presentation here.

About The Author

Karen D. Morris, Marketing Manager, Apogee Interactive, Inc.

Karen manages Apogee’s marketing resources service as well as Apogee’s own corporate marketing efforts. For the past 20 years, she’s worked closely with utilities across the country to help them better market their energy efficiency programs through online initiatives. She brings timely and informative webinars to energy professionals through Apogee Institute as well as directs Apogee’s user groups.

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