Lubbock Power and Light (LP&L) is third largest municipal electric utility in Texas. LP&L serves more than 101,000 electric meters and owns and maintains 4,300 square miles of power lines and three power plants in and around the City of Lubbock, Texas.
The Challenge: Customer Trust
For municipally owned utilities, responsibility and transparency are the foundation of customer trust. In 2013, LP&L felt that foundation crack when customer frustration over surprise rate increases, billing mistakes and perceptions of disinterest on the part of the utility boiled over.
Citizens created an “I hate LP&L” Facebook page, picketed in front of the utility’s office and were calling for a boycott. LP&L believed their best step was to conduct an advertising campaign to improve their image and likability.
The Hahn Agency answered LP&L’s call in a counter-intuitive way, advising the utility that the last thing they needed was an advertising campaign. Our point-of-view was this: Utilities and many other public services, are judged on a continuum with Character at one end and Competency at the other. When Character is under attack, Competency can provide a way to balance the scales — and LP&L had a great Competency story because it operated responsibly and efficiently.
Hahn worked to find and elevate LP&L’s Competency stories, all involving the good work happening inside the utility and how that worked translated into a very efficient utility. The plan included:
Generating positive media relations by emphasizing proactive and regular media outreach. To support this, we developed a new message platform, conducted spokesperson training and designed a media relations editorial calendar.
Re-engaging the community through social media and neighborhood and community meetings. We identified opportunities for LP&L’s leadership team to take the stage (or a seat at the table) at friendly, informal settings to break down “us” vs. “them” attitudes.
Sharing information. Knowing the most frequent customer touch point with the utility is the monthly billing statement, our team bench-marked 17 statements from across the country to identify best-in-class features. We designed a new statement to highlight the most relevant usage and billing information in an easy-to-read layout, with trend graphs and charts to help customers understand their usage patterns.
Powerful Pointers Content Series
Our team created “Powerful Pointers”, a web and social media-based content series featuring animated videos and info-graphics to help customers save energy and money.
New Customer-Friendly Website
We designed and launched a new customer friendly, easy-to-navigate website with the most common customer needs — report an outage, manage my account, and help me move — featured front and center.
The campaign worked to quickly re-balance sentiment. Customers appreciated the new billing statement, the website became a space for LP&L to demonstrate transparency and progress in all aspects of its operations, including infrastructure projects, technology upgrades, customer care and more.
Greater accessibility through the media and in the community brought the effort to life, and initiatives like Powerful Pointers dramatically increased website and social channel traffic while Facebook turned into an effective customer service tool, with LP&L responding to and resolving customer issues quickly.
Community trust and support for LP&L returned in a big way. The utility recently marshaled significant ratepayer support for its bid to join the ERCOT grid in Texas — a major, long-term move designed to reduce power costs and increase the use of renewables.