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Effective Customer Engagement During a Crisis

A Guide for Utilities

Data-driven insights for reaching out to customers effectively when times are tough.

Preparing for a crisis is an enormous challenge, even when you put decisive action plans into place early on. But in a prolonged crisis, such as the coronavirus outbreak, events unfold and change quickly over the course of days, weeks and months, and businesses face threats on many fronts. Revenues plummet. Employees suffer. Customers struggle. Services are limited. More and more customer balances go unpaid.

You need to act – fast. You need results – fast. But figuring out where to begin can be overwhelming.

We’ve got you.

What can companies do to prepare for and manage ongoing crises – right now? 

We’ve put together this resource guide covering all the work we’ve done through the COVID-19 crisis showing how companies can–and should–engage customers in a way that will help them survive a volatile situation.

From understanding economic risk factors to determining which customers are newly vulnerable, we invite you to explore the materials below. We think you’ll find them useful–not just during the current crisis, but as you prepare for potential future crises, as well.

Looking for results? We’ve got them! Download our case studies on boosting CAP enrollment and finding delinquent customers most likely to pay in full.

Identifying and Engaging with Vulnerable Customers

Two of the biggest challenges during an economic crisis are 1) identifying which customers need to be prioritized for outreach, and 2) determining how best to reach them. Luckily, you already have one of the most essential resources at your fingertips: your internal customer data. Now you need to know what to do with it – fast.

More good news: BlastPoint can help. We offer solutions that will enable you to identify and prioritize customers who are most at risk for defaulting on payments within a matter of weeks. That can be implemented with ease across your org chart. That will make the most of your marketing and customer service department’s current resources.

Check out our free resources for getting started with your crisis engagement strategy below. Ready to take the next step toward analyzing your customer data and creating initiative-specific customer personas? Drop us a line.

In the News

Duquesne Light using AI to identify customers in need of extra financial assistance

Read more from PowerGrid International about how the Duquesne Light Company is working with BlastPoint to target customers most in need of assistance. You can also check out our blog featuring DLC’s Marie Tamilia about the company’s proactive approach to credit & collections.

Utilities Challenged by Shortfall From Unpaid Bills


Alison Alvarez, BlastPoint CEO & Co-Founder, contributes her thoughts to Power Magazine on the importance of proactive outreach to at-risk customers. BlastPoint’s partners have boosted enrollment in assistance programs and motivated more customers to pay delinquent balances in full based on BlastPoint personas.

Indecisive Pennsylvania panel retains a ban on utilities shutting off nonpaying customers

BlastPoint CEO & Co-Founder Alison Alvarez weighs in on the importance of engaging customers before they acquire too high of a balance in this article by Andrew Maykuth from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A split among utility regulators muddies future of utility shutoffs during the pandemic

BlastPoint CEO & Co-Founder Alison Alvarez talked with reporter Anya Litvak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the risk of an ongoing shutoff moratorium. Read more


The Utility Shut-off Freeze Is Ending. Now What?

Two people looking stressed out sitting next to enlarged piles of paper symbolizing a pile of debt

Pennsylvania joins a growing number of other states when its utility service termination moratorium ends March 31st. What can regulated providers do to curb the expensive disconnection-reconnection process? And how can they protect vulnerable customers before it’s too late? Read more

3 Reasons Your Business Needs Household-Level Predictive Data

A.I.-based predictive modeling can be performed on each household in your database, helping you to anticipate every customer’s next step and letting you meet them when they get there, with relevant, revenue-generating solutions. Here’s how businesses are using it to get ahead. Read more

Deciding Whose Power To Shut Off? Let Data Be Your Guide

Nationwide, regulated utility shut-off suspensions are ending, at least for some customers. Several states are leaving the shut-off freeze in place for lower-earning customers while lifting it for those earning above a certain percentage of the poverty line. How can utilities know which customers, among the hundreds of thousands they serve, have the means to actually pay what’s due? Read more

Three Ways A.I. Is Crisis-Proofing Utility Customer Data in 2020

Customer engagement is a top priority for utilities this year, given the pandemic and current economic conditions. With so many people facing hardship, utilities have embraced new technologies like artificial intelligence to support their crisis management efforts. Find out how. This article, authored by BlastPoint CEO and Co-Founder Alison Alvarez, is part of Energy Central’s October 2020 Special Issue: Advances in Utility Digitalization.

Customer Balance Risk Zones


BlastPoint CEO & Co-Founder Alison Alvarez has spent a lot of time analyzing billpay data in order to support our utility partners during the current pandemic. Based on her findings, Alvarez has defined three ‘customer balance risk zones’ that are key to prioritizing at-risk customers and reducing lost revenue, so companies can stay afloat during times of crisis. Find out more about Green, Yellow, and Red Zones and download our case study to see how risk zones yield results!

Predictive Analytics in the Real World: Utilities and the Pandemic

In this September 2020 UpSide article, BlastPoint CEO & Co-Founder Alison Alvarez shows how using predictive analytics can help utilities safeguard revenues and protect at-risk customers during the pandemic and beyond.

How Utilities Can Protect the Vulnerable Throughout the Coronavirus Crisis

As the Covid-19 pandemic has spread around the globe, people and companies everywhere have had to brace for major economic shifts. Utility companies have deep concerns over the fate of their customers, health and safety-wise, as well as having concerns over their own financial solvency. Learn about coping strategies utilities can deploy now and in the future to ease what BlastPoint CEO Alison Alvarez calls the Billpay Squeeze, in this special message. 


COVID-19 Health + Economic Risk Factors Reveal Dangerous Overlap For Already-Vulnerable Groups

Risk factors for contracting COVID-19, or losing income because of it, indicate an overlap with risk factors that make a person more likely than others to default on a utility bill, which means those who are already struggling are destined for a deeper struggle ahead. Join us for this deep dive into the data as we compare levels of risk among the citizens of Baltimore, Cincinnati and Greensboro, NC.

A Tale of Two Households: Same Annual Income, Drastically Different Lives

Two customers may appear, on paper, to be very similar. But scratch the surface and you find that drastic differences exist between them, making it necessary to approach and serve them in extremely different ways. Come along as we compare two such customers so that you can understand not just what makes them so different, but what makes it so important that you approach them uniquely. Read more


BlastPoint CEO & Co-Founder Alison Alvarez discusses how income variability and income stability lead to very different bill pay outcomes for low-income customers.

How Data Can Ease the COVID Billpay Crisis for Utilities & Their Customers

Utility companies face an unprecedented economic situation with COVID-19. Record numbers of jobless customers won’t be able to pay their monthly bills, which means utilities need to get proactive. Luckily, putting an effective plan in place is easier than you might think. Follow both Alison Alvarez, CEO, and Tomer Borenstein, CTO, on to keep up with their latest publications.

Engaging Lower-Income Consumers in Energy

Proactively reaching out to your most vulnerable customers during a pandemic is not only possible; it’s absolutely necessary in order to help them–and your company–stay afloat. But some utilities encounter major roadblocks when trying to do so. BlastPoint CTO Tomer Borenstein shares insights and strategies for engaging low-income utility customers during the pandemic, in this webinar hosted by our friends at the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.

Download our top insights!



We’ve collected our top-of-mind insights about prioritizing engagement with high-risk customers and put them in one easy-to-save-and-share slide deck, “Identifying & Engaging with Vulnerable Customers During an Economic Crisis.”

Learn about finding your Customer Balance Risk Zones, optimizing assistance program enrollment, and much more! All we need is your name and email address, and you’ll be well on your way to developing a crisis customer engagement strategy.

Engaging At-Risk Customers During a Crisis

You’ve learned about the value of analyzing and segmenting your customer data. Now that you’ve identified specific customers in need, it’s time to think about how to engage them most effectively.

This step can be more complex than it seems on the surface. For example, our extensive billpay research has shown that generally speaking, younger people are more likely to default on payments than older people. This indicates that snail mail and 1-800 numbers may not cut it for outreach to a younger, more digitally engaged crowd. During the current crisis, effective outreach may mean charting new courses for customer engagement, as the stakes are higher than ever.

Proven solutions, right when you need them.

More good news: BlastPoint can help you strategically engage with customers, at the right time, through the best channels. Our proprietary algorithms identify specific engagement preferences for each customer segment, so you can communicate with the confidence that you’ll be heard.

And most importantly, our proven solutions can be implemented quickly, without a lot of hassle for your already stressed customer service and marketing employees. Our solutions are targeted specifically to your company’s goals, so there’s no guesswork. Only quick results that can immediately be put to use.

Get started with our free resources below, and get in touch to start planning your data-driven crisis outreach strategy.

Now Is The Time To Optimize Your Chatbot


People using a chatbot

Digital conversation apps, also known as chatbots, are here to stay. If your company isn’t using one–or isn’t using one to its fullest potential–now is the time to implement a chatbot that solves customer problems quickly and reduces demand on your call center. Read more


Want To Solve Customer Engagement Problems? Operationalize Data.


“When you think about data, you might imagine a dizzying array of ones and zeroes, or spreadsheets filled with minute details. But as a data scientist and machine learning evangelist, I see data as a rich collection of tools and materials for solving real-world problems, and I’d like to show you why.” Read more of BlastPoint CTO & Co-founder Tomer Borenstein’s Energy Central article.

MyApp, A New Low-Cost Digital Engagement Tool from Dollar Energy Fund 


Dollar Energy Fund CEO Chad Quinn explains, in this interview from May 2020, how his organization’s proprietary digital customer assistance tool, MyApp, is helping utilities enroll more customers into energy assistance programs quickly and easily.

“We want people to know that we’re here for them”: How Duquesne Light Co. Is Prioritizing Customer Outreach Through Covid-19

Utility companies are worried about what lies ahead for vulnerable customers. Marie Tamilia, General Manager of Credit & Collections at Duquesne Light Company, tells us about how DLC has been utilizing customer data analysis and proactive outreach to offer their customers a lifeline during these turbulent times.

What Keeps Customers From Enrolling In Your Awesome Programs? These 4 Barriers (Part 1). 

woman making decisionFrom psychological barriers to website blunders, we offer four major reasons your customers still haven’t enrolled in what should be extremely helpful assistance programs. Learn from this two-part series on why enrollment could be suffering, and get ideas on how to boost your awesome program’s numbers.


What Keeps Customers From Enrolling In Your Awesome Programs? These 4 Barriers (Part 2)

Even if your company is doing great work to spread the news of crisis relief grants or late-fee forgiveness programs, which we’re sure it is, there are probably some key areas where it makes sense to deploy a few easy tools to increase enrollment numbers, hit company targets, and help more customers. Get tips on how to do that in Part 2 of our series.

Why Text Message Alerts Are More Important Than Ever (And Not Just for Millennials)

Woman texting

Companies that use text messaging, a.k.a. SMS (short message system) marketing, report higher engagement and more cost efficiency than those that don’t. While email and snail mail communications should still have a place in your overall marketing plans for the long haul, simple text alerts are excellent ways to educate and engage your customers right now–especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus situation. 

Current Late Bill Totals Highlight Need For Utilities To Educate Customers On Energy Assistance ASAP

Recent utility data shows a surprisingly small number of customers have been applying for energy assistance programs over the past few months. Why is this bad for utilities, and what should they do to fix it? The answer lies in customer education. Learn about two types of customers who need to hear about your company’s energy assistance programs right now – and the messaging that will give them the information they need to lower balances.

Join the BlastPoint Community

Like what you’ve read so far? Subscribe to BlastCast Energy, our e-newsletter specifically for utilities, to get data-driven insights sent directly to your inbox.

You’ll get regular emails from us with our most recent content about how A.I. and predictive analytics are helping utilities solve everyday problems. And we promise you won’t have to look at a single spreadsheet or algorithm. Just relevant, real-world insights, sent directly to you.