Customer engagement is a primary focus of employees, supervisors and especially executive management at utilities, and the consensus is that companies that engage residential and commercial energy consumers effectively also enjoy greater business success. However, how do consumers themselves want to engage with utilities?
A new report from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SECC), 2019 State of the Consumer, offers utilities a snapshot of the consumer engagement landscape, synthesizing 5 key takeaways gleaned from the organization’s major research projects of the past year. The full report is available on the SECC’s website to its members, but an executive summary of the findings is downloadable for free.
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5 Takeaways from the SECC
SECC’s report is summarized in its executive summary, which identifies what the organization learned about energy consumers through their research.
1: Consumers are pumped about ROI
For both residential consumers and small businesses, finding ways to save money on energy is the name of the game. Consumers are more likely to take advantage of consumer engagement opportunities if they understand how they will benefit.
2: Technology is your friend
Utilities need to use technology that makes it easier for customers to interact with them. Acceptance of these technologies – thank you, Amazon – is no longer limited to millennials and early adopters, and energy consumers are looking for more than a transactional experience.
3: The already engaged are ready for more
Residential energy consumers, as well as small businesses who already participate in engagement programs with utilities, are ready for more ways to save money and become more energy efficient. The best way to provide them with these opportunities to save is to analyze their current interactions and offer them personalized, timely recommendations.
4: Upfront costs can kill enthusiasm
Upfront costs of energy-saving improvements such as new water heaters or insulation can be daunting for all consumers – not just low- and middle-income ones. Offering on-bill financing or Pay As You Save programs makes participation easier.
5: Convenience is key
Consumers today are busier than ever and making it easy to participate in energy-saving programs will boost rates of involvement. Even eliminating a few clicks with automatic enrollment options and one-click choices can help.
The Importance of software platforms
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there were about 78 million smart meters installed in the U.S. in 2017. These meters produce billions of data point to utilities, who face the question, “What do we do with all the data?”
This is where modern software platforms can help utilities. Software platforms combine with consumers’ nearly ubiquitous connection to the internet to provide the perfect proving ground to convert data into useable information.
In the field survey for its 2018 report, The Consumer Platform of the Future, the SECC defined a consumer platform this way:
“The Platform is an online energy resource that you can access from your computer, smartphone or tablet. This portal would combine your household’s energy usage data (current and historical), your preference settings, real-time energy usage data, energy provider and third-party programs and offers and use this information to help you understand and manage your energy use.”
According to analysts at the SECC, utilities can improve their communication strategies using software platforms because people already believe these programs should provide customized offers and services. According to the SECC, ”This is fertile ground for industry stakeholders to take the initiative to engage their customers more fully.”
What makes a good platform?
We believe platforms today should be adaptable and flexible enough to mold solutions to meet any utility’s needs, whether deploying a behavioral program, showcasing AMI data, redefining customers’ digital experiences, informing users with advanced load-disaggregation models, or leveraging alerts to keep customers engaged.
Functions that software platforms should include are:
- Mobile responsive design that makes all features and functions of a platform available no matter what device – from cell phones and tablets to computers – is being used.
- Custom alerts and notifications in formats that best serve customers’ needs, whether that be through text messaging, paper reports or pop-up notifications.
- Energy insights utilizing advanced analytics along with smart meter, weather and home data to provide customized savings plans with relevant ROI information.
One Final Word
The SECC’s research brings to light the importance of the consumer-utility relationship and how it is evolving to meet energy customers’ needs into the future. This relationship is being strengthened through technologies that convert the massive amounts of data being collected today from millions of smart meters into information that is actionable by real customers. For more information, contact us for a demo of what is possible.