CASE STUDY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH WASHINGTON GAS
Background and Summary
Washington Gas is a regulated utility providing natural gas service to more than 1.2 million customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. The company provides energy to residential, commercial, and industrial customers. The clean-burning natural gas supplied by Washington Gas is the fuel of choice for more than nine out of 10 new home buyers in the D.C. metro area.
In March 2020, COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Soon after, as businesses shut down and people faced layoffs, 32 states, and Washington, D.C. implemented moratoria on utility shut-offs. These legislative acts were put in place to protect the health and wellness of citizens and left Washington Gas unable to perform any collection activity.
Outstanding utility bills were deferred for 12 or 24 months, leaving a gap in revenue for Washington Gas.
In November 2020, Virginia released COVID relief funds for customers to pay their utility bills. Washington Gas needed a way to quickly and effectively communicate with people that the funds were available and obtain signed attestations from eligible customers.
Washington Gas approached Tilli, its communications, and payment processing provider, to develop a multichannel communication approach to 1) make customers aware of the relief options available to them, 2) obtain digitally signed attestations to provide proof to the regulatory authorities, and 3) help them receive those funds to pay their outstanding utility bills.
Tilli wanted to meet customers where they’re at, offering multiple communication options, including customized direct mail, personalized email, interactive voice response (IVR), ringless drops, and SMS. As a result, Tilli was able to launch its first phase approach within two weeks of getting the requirements from Washington Gas.
After receiving digitally signed attestations, Washington Gas was able to assist 30,000 people by applying available funds to their delinquent accounts. The project was considered a massive success for the company. It highlighted the need for multiple avenues of communication and superior customer service in the utility industry.
Tilli created personalized messaging as required by Washington Gas across multiple channels, which allowed customers a choice on how to respond to the credit relief messages.
In the first phase, Washington Gas was able to send 60,469 emails to customers who qualified:
- 1st email on December 10, 2020 — 24,853
- 2nd email on February 10, 2021 — 18,922
- 3rd email on February 22, 2021 — 16,694
In the second phase, Washington Gas introduced IVR and SMS texts in addition to email. In total, 88,486 outbound calls were made, 121,083 texts and emails were sent:
- February 18 and 19, 2021 — 21,378 outbound calls made with IVR
- February 22, 2021 — 5,304 SMS messages sent
- February 23, 2021 — 4,057 outbound calls made with IVR
- February 24, 2021 — 12,519 SMS messages sent
- May 10 — May 28, 2021 — 57,898 emails sent
- May 19, 2021 — 18,808 outbound calls made with IVR
- May 26, 2021 — 16,668 SMS messages sent
- May 27, 2021 — 12,780 SMS messages sent
- June 1, 2021 — 11,856 SMS messages sent
Each method of communication gave customers different avenues to fill out the attestation form needed to receive the COVID relief funds. Based on Washington Gas’s requirements, Tilli electronically set up a web attestation form to collect information along with a digital signature capture to make the process seamless for the customer. A personalized QR code was developed for easy conversion to the web attestations form for electronic signature and submission for the print customer.
The customer sentiment was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Both Tilli and Washington Gas were able to see the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia communities through the attestations. There was thankfulness and relief. This project helped 30,000 people find hope in a difficult time.
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