CRM Portal Gives Low-Income Household Access to Green Energy

A non-profit energy company offers eligible customers the opportunity to subsidize their electricity with discounted, green energy, but they need a robust portal to manage all the information. 

The program started in the Northeast in 2020, offering low-income households the opportunity to subsidize their electricity (and their electric bill!) with cheaper and cleaner solar energy. Once a customer signs up, they will start paying two bills: one payment to their electric company which will reflect lower energy consumption plus a green energy discount, and a second payment to the non-profit for providing the solar energy. 

By paying two bills, the customer pays up to 50% less.

The Challenge

Initial system did not support a scalable customer support program

It is the non-profit’s responsibility to verify that all participants qualify, to coordinate the usage and discounts between the two energy bills, to manage payments for the solar energy bill and to effectively address questions and concerns from those in the community. 

The non-profit also has the desire to make this pilot program scalable so it can be a model for more communities across the U.S., making green energy more available, especially for low-income households. 

The program started with a system that missed several major objectives:

  • Customers had to submit information and wait for staff reviewed before they knew if they qualified for the program.
  • Billing adjustments and payments were estimated and recorded in a tedious process using multiple Google Sheets.
  • Payment processing was not automatic nor could customers see their previous invoices and payments online.  
  • Customer service was a messy, slow process. 

Missing these objectives were compounded by the participation of more utility companies, making it clear that this system was barely manageable for the 2,000 customers it already served and would not easily transition to other communities.

The Approach

Leverage Power Apps portal that is easy for customers and staff to use

The solution required technical depth to integrate several moving pieces into a portal that was both easy for individual customers to use and for the non-profit to manage. 

Root16 decided to use a Microsoft Power Apps portal in conjunction with D365 Customer Engagement to address the non-profits’ needs. The goal was to create a system that both the customer and the non-profit staff could easily access and use.

The portal they built can:

  • Better coordinate with different energy providers.
  • Facilitate the application process, allowing participants to submit an application with their most-recent utility bill to automatically see if they qualify for the program.
  • Generate customer disclosure forms once a participant is verified for them to sign and submit using Smart Agreement and saving signed forms to SharePoint.
  • Allow participants to review their application and bills.
  • Accept bill payment through an integration with PaySimple.  Provide visibility into historical payments and allow autopay setup through the portal.
  • Automatically create customer service cases based on email and phone messages, connecting customer services cases to individual customers within the portal.

In just six months, Root16 exceeded project goals and undercut the cost of competitors. The new system is more secure, allows customers to self-service routine needs and makes customer service more responsive and impactful.

The Impact

Registration happens automatically and customer service responds 30 – 50% faster

The customer portal for the non-profit energy company exceeds expectations. The system is self-sufficient by streamlining and automating registration and bill-pay, the portal saves the non-profit time and money. The automation of the customer service desk allowed staff members to resolve cases 20 to 30% faster.

The non-profit has 2,000 active customers. Expanding green energy throughout the United States and helping low-income households participate in cheaper and more sustainable energy solutions is more likely with functional systems in place like the one Root16 built.

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