Six questions for our Instant Rebates expert
At the heart of most energy programs is an energy customer who wants to save money and energy, and a utility that wants to make that customer happy – of course while also hitting its business goals. The Instant Rebates team at CLEAResult brings the utility, manufacturer, retailer, technology, data, opportunity and consumer together to meet both customer and utility needs – instantly. We asked Heather Gates, Product Manager for Instant Rebates, to talk about her team, what they do, and how they’re helping utilities manage the changing and growing expectations of energy customers.
CLEAResult: To start off, can you briefly describe what the Instant Rebates team at CLEAResult does?
Heather: Sure! In a nutshell, we make it possible for energy utilities to give their customers discounts on energy-efficient products instantly, during online or in store purchasing experiences.
Discount and rebate programs have been around for a long time; how is this different?
From a customer perspective, traditional rebate programs can be less enticing because the customer would first have to pay the full up-front price of the energy-efficient product, and then they’d have to fill out a paper or electronic form to request the rebate. There’s a waiting period for the rebate check, and there’s also the chance that they don’t actually qualify for the rebate. Today’s customers expect immediacy; instead of waiting, the customer knows upfront and is allowed to make the choice of where and when to make their purchase. That’s an over-simplified explanation, but it’s the gist of how Instant Rebate programs differ for customers.
How about for utilities; how do Instant Rebate programs differ for them?
Again, it’s an over-simplification, but at its core, the biggest differences can be seen in program participation and customer satisfaction levels. Instant Rebate programs make it easier for customers to save, so there are more customers participating, and they’re saving money up front so they’re more satisfied. Instant Rebate tools enable real-time – in less than 90-seconds – customer eligibility confirmation, so there’s no ordeal later on about disqualification. The technology allows for flexibility in product choice, and the customer can shop in store or online – customers today want choice and convenience, and these add up to an improved customer experience.
On top of increased customer participation and satisfaction, the utility still benefits from consumer data collection, and their customers know just where the incentive comes from.
I understand Instant Rebates relies heavily on CLEAResult’s manufacturer and retailer relationships – can you explain how these relationships benefit the programs?
Great question. Our relationships with national retailers and manufacturers are critical to the success of many programs. We have the ability to work closely with key partners to get more awareness around energy saving products and the utility offerings. By leveraging our partnerships, we are able to closely coordinate utility marketing with existing market efforts and promotions to better engage the customer.
Manufacturer and retailer relationships are also critical to mid/upstream programs – can you explain how Instant Rebates differ from mid/upstream programs?
This is a very common question in understanding utility program design. Mostly, the differences lie with who receives the incentive. For upstream programs, incentives are paid to manufacturers, so they can pass the savings along as product markdowns, all the way to the customer. For midstream programs, the incentive is paid directly to the retailer and they pass the discount to the customer. Instant Rebates leverage these concepts but provides eligibility BEFORE the customer makes the purchase, reducing free ridership, and allows the utility’s data needs to be met. Plus, the customer now sees exactly who the discount is coming from – they know they have their utility to thank for that. There are many design strategies we explore with our clients to help determine the best option: Instant Rebates being the newest.
What else do you want utilities to know about Instant Rebate programs?
There’s a lot to be said about comparing program designs, and about the breadth of knowledge and understanding CLEAResult has on how best to meet varying client needs. Program implementation has many routes and Instant Rebates is one that helps overcome a lot of critical utility needs. Also, there is a growing focus in the technology and utility space related to data security. Beyond that there is much to do with marketing and outreach driving the success of Instant Rebate programs.
We'll talk more with Heather and her extended team about data security, marketing and outreach regarding Instant Rebates. Stay tuned for those topics in a future post. For now, learn more about Instant Rebates on our website.