EnergySavvy’s entire business is about bringing utility energy-efficiency programs into the 21st century.

The Seattle-based company started out with an online audit tool that helped utilities target customers for their energy-efficiency programs. It now offers an enterprise platform that brings the entire stakeholder chain -- from customers to contractors to the utility -- into one place.

There’s just one problem: the utility doesn’t always have a digital relationship with its customers. In fact, many utilities only interact with about 20 percent or 30 percent of their customers online.

That’s a considerable problem as some utilities look to overhaul their energy-efficiency programs and engage more customers. EnergySavvy has created a new product, Optix Engage Direct, which seems to be a bit of a throwback for an industry in upheaval.

The offering is mailed out to hard-to-reach customers, “but this isn’t your parents’ direct mail,” insisted Dan Zasloff, director of product marketing at EnergySavvy.

He said most direct mail campaigns that require a response get about a 2 percent response rate, at best. This energy survey, however, had an average 17 percent response rate with the two utilities that have used it so far, Minnesota Energy Resources and a large Northeast investor-owned utility.

“The response rate from Engage Direct was much higher than we expected and it drove a significant percentage of our customers to our website,” said Jim Phillippo, program manager at Minnesota Energy Resources. “We were able to engage traditionally hard-to-reach customers, including seniors and [those in] lower income [brackets], exactly the types of customers who may benefit most from our energy-saving programs.”

EnergySavvy is quick to point out that this is not an energy report like the ones with which Opower originally built its business. Instead, it is a paper version of the firm's online survey that is customized in order to be easy to use in paper form. Although the paper survey comes with a QR code and customized web address so respondents can complete it online, 94 percent of those who did fill it out completed the paper version.

“It opens a conversation with customers in an era when utilities need to up their customer experience and find their future,” said Aaron Goldfeder, CEO and co-founder of EnergySavvy. 

And, it turns out that people tend to like their utility more when they receive this sort of proactive interaction. In Minnesota, customers who filled out the paper audit were 18 percent more satisfied with their utility than those who did not receive the audit. 

After a customer mails back the report, he or she receives a personalized report about not only energy savings opportunities but also energy-efficiency or demand-response programs that could be a good fit, just as they would if they had done the survey online. EnergySavvy is one of the only players in the energy-efficiency market to focus on the entire project management of utilities’ energy-efficiency programs, rather than just segmenting customers to help utilities target potential participants. 

That approach has landed EnergySavvy more than two dozen utility and state clients, including Salt River Project, CPS Energy, TVA and PSEG Long Island (formerly LIPA).

Goldfeder noted that engaging different customer segments through various channels not only helps utilities meet energy-efficiency program goals but could also help them tap new revenue streams as regulators rethink utility business models.