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Engaging Low-Income Customers in Times of Crisis

September 21, 2020 | Low Income

Apogee Interactive in collaboration with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and Wells Fargo hosted a webinar on engaging and bringing value to low-income consumers. The event drew more than 100 registrants. The speakers reviewed the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy, utilities, and their income-qualified customers.

Wells Fargo’s Sr. Financial Advisor, Bod Evely started the presentation with some insightful information regarding how the COVID-19 crisis affected the US economy and especially, the low-income segment. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Due to poor health care, and jobs that do not allow low-income customers the opportunity to work from home, this group is more adversely affected by the pandemic and other natural disasters, leaving them vulnerable and unable to pay their bills.
  • In a June 2020 survey, the US Census Bureau determined that young adults and those with a low income, who suffered job losses during the pandemic, have little or no confidence that they can pay their next month’s rent or mortgage on time.
  • In April of 2020, the US unemployment rate reached 14.7%, the highest level since the great depression. Households with an income below $40K have been impacted the most by the pandemic. Among those who lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, 70% reported an income decline impacting their ability to pay debts.
  • 28% of all households and 52% of low-income are reporting difficulties paying bills. These problems are more highly concentrated among Black and Hispanic households.
  • Among households that are struggling, low-income families reported that they are either borrowing from friends or family, selling their possessions, or are unable to meet their expenses.

OPPD’s Sr. Product Specialist – Customer Advocacy Programs, Britton Gabel continued the presentation by explaining his role with OPPD, a public-owned utility, and detailing how OPPD is assisting its customers that are struggling to pay their bills. OPPD has five programs in place to assist customers who experience financial challenges, including income-qualified energy assistance, energy efficiency, low use – low bill credits, safe neighbor funds, level payment plans, and payment plan arrangements. Through these programs, OPPD is currently focusing on finding efficiencies, improving customer relationships, and achieving growth. OPPD is expanding its coverage and that of community-based organizations to ensure customers have easy access to these programs across their entire service territory. They are finding the most effective administrative models for program funds, improving processes, and collaborating with other utilities and the State of Nebraska to help their programs succeed.

Apogee’s Executive VP, Jim Malcom presented strategies that have proven successful for his clients using Apogee’s digital outbound communications platform for engaging and communicating with low-income customers. “When we are talking about how to engage, we look at ways that are meaningful to the customer. The message must be personalized and relevant, timely, and something that a customer can easily implement at a low cost,” Jim Malcom stated. Apogee delivers most of the content through emails with video or by text. Surveys taken by the customers at the end of the message proved the strategy works:

  • Net Promoter Score consistently being over 35, while the average industry standard is 15
  • 98% reporting an improved utility brand perception
  • 97% finding the bill explanation useful
  • 90+% reporting they would not contact their utility, after watching the bill explanation.

If you would like to listen to the presentation in its entirety you can download the recording here or contact info@apogee.net for more information.

About The Author

Kate Panaousis, Marketing Analyst, Apogee Interactive

Kate’s responsibilities include coordinating with the Marketing Department in developing the company’s marketing plan and positioning strategy, while she also provides market research and sales team support. She is a graduate of Panteion University of Athens, Greece with a master’s degree in Applied Economics and Management and a graduate of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Kate loves geography, traveling and outdoor recreational activities.

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