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NAILED IT: DMNews spends a few minutes with Patrick Howard, director of marketing for CheckFree

Q: What were the Con Edison Company’s goals in encouraging more of its customers to adopt electronic billing?

A: Con Ed, which is a regulated utility servicing 3.2 million electric customers in New York City and Westchester County, came to us early last year and said it wanted to drive e-bill adoption with its customers in order to achieve cer­tain goals in terms of cost reduction. The cost to produce a paper bill and deliver it can range from 70 cents to $1.20. In contrast, delivering a bill electronically can cost less than a postage stamp.

Q: What was the message of the campaign?

A: The message of the campaign was “Go green with e-bills.” If a customer signed up for the online billing, Con Ed would contribute $1 to a local, nonprofit tree-planting fund. The campaign also reinforced the safety, security and simplicity of e-bills. With electronic billing, customers can avoid postage costs. It’s also much faster to pay online and more convenient. [The] online [environment] is not immune to ID theft or fraud, but when people are transacting online, they are more likely to catch any fraud sooner and losses tend to be less. Con Ed really championed the program — it got behind it across the board. It hit all the different channels and took the message to the consumer any way it could.

Q: Can you tell us how the cam­paign worked?

A: We worked with Con Ed on a variety of ideas. It was really a collaborative effort. We didn’t stop with one tactic. We used a variety of eight to 12 tactics, all tied to the same theme and message. E-mails were sent to Con Ed’s customer base. We sent direct mail postcards. We did radio advertising, as well as messaging on invoices. We issued a press release and had messag­ing on the Con Ed Web site and on mycheckfree.com.

Q: What were the results of the campaign?

A: It started in May 2007 and is still going on. As of January, 42,000 households had signed up for the e-bill. To put that number in per­spective, that was a 57% increase in e-bill activations over the same period in 2006. It was pretty signifi­cant growth.

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