Before they launched SmartHubTM in October of 2012, the employees of Northwestern REC, Cambridge Springs, Penn., were able to take it for a test drive. CEO Mike Tirpak noticed that his bill was going up, and had no idea why. Using SmartHub, he was able to watch his usage and track it down to a broken sump pump.
“He ended up with a crack in his sump pump, and it was leaking, so it was running all the time,” said Linda King, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development for Northwestern REC. “He couldn’t tell, because he wasn’t home. Within a couple weeks, he tracked it down.”
Northwestern went live with SmartHub in mid-October of 2012, and since that time have been using it to help educate their Membership about their electric use and promote electronic bill payment methods and paperless billing.
Between the launch of SmartHub and mid-December, King said Northwestern had seen a 200 percent increase in Members going to paperless billing and nearly 250 SmartHub app downloads.
“Not everybody has the mobile device,” King said. “We were anticipating a lot of our younger members to go that route, but the electronic payments and paperless bills are what we’re excited about. We were stuck at around 300 Members participating in that, which isn’t very good. When we launched SmartHub, we turned that option on to help them turn their paper bill off, and now we have about 1000 people.”
The education piece is crucial to Northwestern’s SmartHub deployment. While they’re using the tool to help Manage high bill complaints, now they’re able to show that consumer exactly what’s going on with their home’s energy.
“What’s helpful is that we can either talk them through it on the phone and explain it to them or let them spend some time with the app,” King said. “We had a dehumidifier issue with a member. They had three dehumidifiers in their basement, and they couldn’t understand why their bill was so high. We could show them by the hour when they were cycling on and off.”
Northwestern is working with NISC to distribute push notifications for their “High Fives” time of use billing program over the summer and looking for other ways to use the product to help their customers.
“I think it’s a huge tool,” King said. “Every month we have a project meeting at work, and we’re all coming up with different ways we can use it for the members.”