The heart of SAM at ComEdDecember 7, 2023
In the world of technological innovation, ComEd’s Smart Assistance Manager (SAM) stands out not only as an advanced self-service tool but as evidence of the heart of ComEd employees who helped develop the tool that enhances assistance to customers.
Since its deployment in August 2022, SAM has matched ComEd customers with the payment-assistance programs for which they may eligible – including deferred-payment arrangements, the Supplemental Arrearage Reduction Program (SARP) and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The tool also provides application guidance and links to apply.
Payment-assistance programs aren’t the only way SAM helps customers lower their bills, it also provides recommendations on energy-efficiency offerings that can save customers money and energy, including free home energy assessments and discounts on energy-saving products.
The Beginning of SAM: A Team Effort
When economic challenges faced by ComEd customers peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a financial assistance support solution became evident.
April Evans, senior business program manager at ComEd, and Patrick Newman, ComEd’s senior eChannels program manager, are two members of a team who invested their skills and passion over a two-year period (2021-2022) to ensure that SAM would be more than just a program — it would be a virtual assistant with a heart, offering personalized support to every household that used it.
April, SAM product owner at the time, recalled the pivotal moment when SAM was conceptualized. “As a company, we needed to develop a way to ease the anxiety for our customers when it comes to having sustainable electricity,” said April. “We created an online tool that provides customers with easier access to financial, billing and energy efficiency programs that meet their need.”
“When the SAM project was assembled, I was incredibly grateful to be a part of a team making a digital difference for those customers in need of assistance,” stated Patrick who was the change management lead for SAM at the time. “In my time at ComEd, before the SAM tool launched, I always noticed customers had to call the care center to see if programs and assistance could be offered or if they qualify for certain assistance. For customers experiencing hard times, this can be an incredibly difficult discussion to have with someone … especially someone on the phone who you don’t know.” The concept of SAM was to provide a digital assessment where customers can voluntarily input specific income and household information and get recommended financial assistance and energy management programs they may qualify for.
Beyond the technical details, SAM’s heart lies in the collaboration between members of the diverse team. Vandana Barot, as the project lead, not only laid the foundation by carefully outlining requirements but also ensured SAM’s alignment with customer needs. She has since elevated her role to become a senior project manager at ComEd.
Linda Rhodes, the business lead for SAMs introduction, also played a pivotal role in orchestrating the seamless integration of SAM into ComEd’s operations, and now holds the position of senior manager of Customer Assistance and Advocacy at ComEd.
SAM’s Growth and Impact
SAM connects with residential customers on a personal level. By incorporating household-specific data, such as household size and income, SAM tailors its support options to address the circumstances of each family. This personalized touch is what sets SAM apart and reflects the empathy embedded in its creation, making it a true reflection of ComEd’s commitment to its customers.
In recognition of the introduction and successful operation of SAM, Chartwell analysts — a specialized information provider for the utility industry, known for distinguishing and understanding innovative solutions in the sector — honored ComEd with a Bronze Digital Experience Award in 2022.
The SAM page on ComEd’s website, ComEd.com/SAM, has had nearly 470,000 visitors since launch, a testament to its importance to customers and its impact.
Customers interested in accessing this free tool can visit ComEd.com/SAM. While the tool primarily targets low to moderate-income customers, its inclusive design, guided by the collaborative efforts of the team, enables the tool to offer guidance to anyone looking to manage their energy bills.