Volume 16, Issue 3 - May/June 2012

feature

So Happy Together
Five Tips for Working Effectively with Utility Companies
by Katie O'Mara

When we think of famously compatible pairings we often recall icons like Sonny and Cher, Peanut Butter and Jelly or Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. What do these seemingly unrelated partnerships have in common? Not only do they complement each other well, but they rely on their counterpart for their own success. For window film companies, developing relationships is a vital tool to achieving success. Film companies form working relationships with glass companies, automotive dealerships and local media, but in the age of “being green” how does a window film company make the most out of its relationships with utility companies?

“Utilities are publicly regulated and this means they cannot in any way appear to be favoring any individual brands or companies,” says Darrell Smith, executive directive for the International Window Film Association (IWFA).

“First and foremost, it is important to understand that utility companies are incentivized to save energy. They are always actively looking for ways to increase customer adoption of energy efficiency measures and to enhance their energy efficiency incentive and rebate programs,” says Kathryn Giblin, director of global marketing and technical services for Solar Gard.

There are some things that window film dealers can do to help work together with the utility company to promote energy-efficient measures.

1. Become a Researcher
The key to appearing professional and informed when working with utility companies is to do your research ahead of time. “There are many states in the U.S. that offer rebate programs for window film,” says Tom Niziolek, marketing and sales director for Madico, Inc. “The start of a good relationship is finding out information and making connections with the prospective utility company. It can be extraordinarily successful if done right.”

“Go to www.dsireusa.org, an online database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency. It is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency,” says Giblin. “By state you can see exactly which utility companies have energy efficiency programs, the details of those programs and the contact details of the program administrator.”

Once it has been determined whether a rebate program exists, visit the utility company’s website to learn more. “The first place to start is finding out who their local service provider is and then looking at the website. Much of the information is posted online for these utility companies. You have to determine if they are offering a rebate first. Then look into the scope of the rebate- is it residential, commercial or both? What is the amount invested? Are there any particular performance properties for applied film?”

2. Identify VIP’s
Knowing who the right person to speak to can be half the battle. If you can get 10 minutes to talk to the representative in charge of energy programs and conservation at a utility company it can make a big difference.

“The key person to identify is the person responsible for the program. Look for the program manager of energy rebates or energy conservation program manager or administrator,” says Niziolek. “You are looking for somebody who is assigned within the utility company to work with customers and venders that can provide the service in order to qualify for the rebates.”

The first discussion is one about whether a rebate is available for film.

“The best way to meet them is to regularly monitor and use the utility companies’ websites to find out about and register for upcoming energy efficiency seminars offered by the company,” says Gilblin. “Attend those seminars and find an account manager or program manager to casually discuss how the utility folks are structured and how many segments their major accounts are separated into, number of account managers and contact information for supervisors of the account managers.”

3. Be the Source
Dealers who are well-informed and know about all different types of energy conservation can become a source of knowledge for utility companies and customers.

“A dealer can benefit from this relationship by keeping their customers informed about utility offerings (information, rebates, audits, etc.) and directing them to all opportunities for saving energy, including the use of window film products,” says Smith.

“Some people have even turned to offering audit services as part of their packages so you have the opportunity to effect and impact the customer’s decisions,” says Niziolek.

One new source available to window film dealers is the IWFA recent study in California that found window film to be the most cost effective energy savings choice for Californians (see more on page 24).

“An energy savings analysis was performed for all major parts of the state and then initial meetings were held with the large utilities, the California Energy Commission and with other trade organizations involved in retrofitting buildings to have greater efficiency,” says Smith. “The IWFA used these meetings to offer to become a planning and information resource to those groups. As a result of the efforts of its manufacturer members, its consultant and its own leadership, the IWFA was asked to make presentations to their organizations on how window films work. They also presented on the use of e-film, the IWFA energy analysis program and advised them on how to better include window film in their existing programs.”

4. Offer In-Shop Rebate Deals
There is a unique opportunity for utility companies and window film companies to offer complimenting rebates to draw customers in and help them create more energy-efficient homes. Window film companies can offer a discount off the price of film or installation to customers who take advantage of the utility company rebates.

“In some cases dealers have provided a small compliment to the rebates,” says Niziolek. “The utility company might offer $1 off per square foot and the window film company itself will offer a 25 cent rebate themselves.”

Window film companies can also help cross-promote utility company rebates, highlighting window film as an affordable and effective product.

5. Get Them Involved, a Little
Getting the utility company involved with the window film company’s customers is an effective to show the value of window film, but don’t rely on the utility “If a utility representative is willing to fill out and submit the rebate or incentive application for the customer, it is more likely to be approved,” says Giblin. “Most of the rejections of applications are due to the lack of simple information—dated, paid, itemized invoice listing material and labor as proof of payment—that the utility needs to process application. It is best if you can know the programs well enough to fill out the information yourself, reducing the amount of work for the utility company and your clients.

Involve the utility company by inviting them to join in meetings with the customer.

“The most successful way to get face time with a utility account manager is to have your client invite them to your meeting,” says Giblin. “Clients and utility account managers will appreciate this; you’re passing monetary savings along to the client and verifiable kWh savings along to the utility company.”


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