Competitive energy suppliers attracting customers with creative perks

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Competitive energy suppliers are using innovative strategies to improve the supplier-customer relationship by offering creative value-added services and perks for signing up with a retail energy supplier.

Written by: Michael Sanserino
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Competitive energy suppliers in Pennsylvania are wooing customers by offering loyalty rewards, in addition to electricity and natural gas. Consumers can earn travel perks, restaurant gift cards, gasoline discounts and even home warranty discounts.

One company rewards customers based on the number of kilowatt hours or therms used.

“People don’t always go into a marketplace based solely on price,” said Pamela Witmer, a commissioner with Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission. “The [competitive supplier] community is creative — much more than utilities.”

Pennsylvania’s competitive energy marketplace is just that — competitive — more than 360 suppliers vying for customers throughout the state. In the Pittsburgh market, more than 60 companies stand ready to serve.

Most Pennsylvanians have opted to stick with their default utility. Only 38 percent of customers have joined the competitive electricity marketplace. But companies are hoping to entice more to try it by offering rewards programs and referral programs.

In the Pittsburgh market alone, more than a dozen companies offer some type of value-added promotion to electric generation and natural gas services.

Ambit Energy, based in Dallas, gives eligible customers travel points based on energy use. Those points can be redeemed for spa and golf getaways, airline gift cards, trips to the Bahamas and cruise tickets.

Bounce Energy, a subsidiary of Houston-based Direct Energy, gives customers a $25 gift card after six billing cycles and a $50 gift card after 12 billing cycles. Those can be spent at travel companies, grocery stores, retail outlets, electronics stores and restaurants.

“It differentiates us as a company, not only in among the retail electricity suppliers, but particularly among the default suppliers,” said Bounce Energy spokeswoman Jessica Michan. “If they want more bang for their buck, they’re going got go with a retail electricity supplier that is conscious of what they need and their wants and desires.”

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