Implementing smart meters successfully requires energy suppliers to engage with their customers and demonstrate that, when accompanied by changes in behaviour, smart meters can mean lower energy bills. However, winning consumer acceptance is difficult. In Victoria, Australia, for example, a backlash among consumers prevented smart meter implementation altogether.
To achieve smart meter success, energy suppliers need to find a fresh way to engage with consumers. Offering smart services as an integral part of their smart meter plans can help energy suppliers to win the consumer support they need.
To win consumer acceptance of smart meters, suppliers must:
Develop energy management solutions that support changes in consumer behaviour
Suppliers should package electricity, gas and electric vehicle charging (or personal mobility) with advice as part of a comprehensive energy management plan. Managing and reducing consumption then becomes a joint activity for the supplier and the consumer, and an opportunity for suppliers to develop their relationship with consumers.
Ensure integrated energy services are differentiated in the marketplace
Combining energy products with other home services, such as boiler management, insurance and water servicing products, can allow energy suppliers to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, as British Gas has shown. The exact mix of products and services will depend upon the positioning suppliers want to adopt (for example, a focus on renewables, low cost or best technical integration with the home) and also the supply chain relationships they can access.
Take the lead in a coordinated national communications programme
Well-run national changes, such as the digital switchover in the UK, show that simple, frequent, two-way communication is the key to success. Currently, there is no nationally co-ordinated approach to communicating Britain’s national smart meter programme. The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is working with various groups to try and make this happen, but suppliers could do more by using their current relationships with consumers and, in doing so, lay the foundations for stronger customer dialogue.
Develop procurement supply chains to deliver the service-based model
In order to provide new products and services to consumers, suppliers will need to partner with organisations such as equipment manufacturers, network operators and service companies. Suppliers should expand their existing supplier alliances, such as those with HomeServe or Landis+Gyr, to allow them to offer a one-stop shop for services and take control of customer interaction.
Create smart infrastructure and IT systems to underpin service delivery
By joining up their smart infrastructure and IT systems, suppliers can gain a clear picture of the customer segments that are using particular energy products and services, and exploit this insight to provide a better customer experience overall. This in turn will persuade consumers to recognise that suppliers understand their needs. Investment in smart infrastructure to support service delivery is already happening and needs to continue – but it must reflect customer service priorities.
In addition to our smart meter and smart grid work with Ofgem, Pepco and Onzo, we have also recently helped a major UK energy supplier to identify how it can improve its future services to customers in the industrial and commercial markets. This included reviewing the overall user experience for customers accessing the company's web platform and using this as a basis for driving the next version of the site.
To find out how we can help you develop a service-based strategy to achieve smart meter success, please contact us now.