Public Energy Utilities Optimize Citizen Services Through Mobile Apps

Nebraska’s app manages power supply across the state

Nicole Brumbaugh knows the importance of listening to customers. Brumbaugh directs retail technology, billing and customer care at the Nebraska Public Power District, where she has worked for 22 years.

NPPD was formed in 1970 through the merger of three Nebraska public utilities and today serves the vast majority of the state’s counties. In 2018, as the utility prepared to update its web portal, the organization’s executives decided it would help to offer customers a mobile app as well. At that time, they added advanced metering infrastructure that would allow the utility to collect usage data remotely, Brumbaugh says.

“We knew that with AMI we would have access to much more information than ever before. An app would be a way to share them with our customers and 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 it wasn’t long before Brumbaugh’s team was gathering feedback from satisfied customers. She was initially told that if they saw an adoption rate of 10 to 15, that would be cause for celebration — and today, she says, more than 25 percent of the utility’s retail customers regularly use the agency’s app on their smartphones.

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

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

Many customers have reported that their favorite feature of the app is being able to set personal notifications, says Brumbaugh.

“They can choose how they want to be contacted in different situations,” she says. For some, this might mean receiving automatic emails notifying them when their bills are ready, or they might opt ​​for an SMS notification the day before a payment is due.

However customers choose to use the app — or whether they use it at all — it doesn’t matter, according to Brumbaugh. “It is important that we give them the choice. We put our service in their hands.”