Energy Utilities Optimize Citizen Services with Mobile Apps

Nebraska’s app manages food statewide

Nicole Brumbaugh knows the importance of listening to what customers have to say. Brumbaugh manages retail technology, billing and customer service at Nebraska Public Power Districtwhere she has worked for 22 years.

Established in 1970 through the merger of three Nebraska utilities, NPPD today serves the vast majority of counties in the state. In 2018, as the utility prepared to update its web portal, the organization’s leaders decided it would also be useful to offer customers a mobile app. At the time, they were adding advanced metering infrastructure that would allow the utility to collect usage data remotely, Brumbaugh says.

“With AMI, we knew we would have access to a lot more information than ever before. An app would be a way to share it with our customers, and it would give them another self-service option,” she says.

The new web portal and mobile app, NPPD On The Go!, both went live in March 2020, and Brumbaugh’s team was quick to gather feedback from happy customers. She was told early on that if they saw an adoption rate of 10 to 15, that would be cause for celebration – and today, she says, more than 25% of utility retail customers regularly use the agency’s application on their smartphones.

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“I guess that tells you we’re doing pretty well — people really like it,” Brumbaugh says.

Through the app, NPPD customers can view and pay bills, report and monitor outages, and post a request to stop or start service. Additionally, through AMI, customers have access to interval data showing how their energy consumption varies at different times of the day or day-to-day. They also have a direct link to customer support for any issues they might need help with.

Many customers have reported that their favorite feature of the app is how it lets them set personal notifications, says Brumbaugh.

“They can choose how they want to be contacted in different situations,” she says. For some, this may mean receiving automated emails alerting them when their invoices are ready, or they may opt for SMS notification the day before a payment.

However, customers decide whether to use the app — or if they use it at all — Brumbaugh says that really doesn’t matter. “What comes down to saying is that we give them the choice. We put our service in their hands.

Lance B. Holton