Utilities understand the value of smart meters, but consumers still don’t get it. Marcus Scheiber of ROC-Connect explains how to persuade consumers to adopt smart meters.
As cities across the United States continue to introduce smart meters, consumer adoption and satisfaction are keys to making a successful transition to the smart grid. Utilities can help with adoption by implementing time-variant pricing. However, a major barrier to a successful implementation is getting consumers to opt-in.
According to Parks Associates, nearly two-thirds of broadband customers in the United States are willing to pay for a smart energy management service, but a lack of information and knowledge is hindering progress. The value of the smart grid is clear to utilities. However, despite the numerous benefits, smart meters still raise concerns for many mainstream consumers. Many don’t fully understand how they work, why they are needed and how it will benefit them.
In order to provide proper education and resonate with customers, utilities must first gain a better understanding of levels of consumer awareness, interests and needs about smart meters. This can be achieved by taking the time to build customer relationships and learn about their behaviors. By doing so, providers can offer the types of services that appeal to customers and add value to their lives.
It’s helpful to provide customers with smart meters and access to information in real-time, but if they don’t understand how their usage translates into cost savings, it may not resonate with them. While terms like ‘smart grid’ and ‘demand response’ may not resonate with consumers, the ability to be in control of their home’s energy usage is a message that does. This can be achieved by developing messaging that is relevant and easily understood by consumers. By doing so, utilities can better demonstrate how the information smart meters provide can make homeowners lives more comfortable and convenient.
Consumers want easy access to energy usage data in a timely and consistent manner. By providing access to this information through platforms they are already familiar with, such as mobile apps, consumers are more likely to be engaged and motivated to modify behaviors. This added convenience of being able to access and manage energy usage through a mobile app is also another way to achieve customer satisfaction.
In order to achieve customer satisfaction, utilities must be as transparent as possible when it comes to explaining how customer data is collected and stored, and what safety procedures are in place to protect the data. Setting appropriate expectations is essential to boosting understanding and acceptance, as well as building trust. One way to start is by educating customers on how to properly use in-home devices and the amount of savings they can expect to see month-to-month. It is equally important to make sure customers understand that pricing can vary even by the time of the day based on supply and demand, as well as the grid’s status, and to explain which situations are out of their control.
Once a plan is successfully implemented, utilities must evaluate their program to determine the level of customer satisfaction and acceptance. This can be done by implementing customer surveys, tracking energy usage behaviors and determining cost effectiveness. By collecting feedback and data on a regular basis, utilities are better able to track the success of their program and give their consumers the tools and to help them improve the efficiency of their home. This also enables utilities to better educate their target audiences and properly identify and address their concerns.
Smart home solutions can be an excellent way to convey information about individual energy consumption, as well as status information about the smart-grid to consumers. Energy efficiency technologies like smart thermostats and meters give utilities an entry point by enabling two-way communication between the utility and their customer.
This data can provide utilities with insights into customers’ behavior almost immediately, allowing providers to shift resources based on the data and develop strategies to address customers’ behaviors and experiences. It also allows customers to see how much power they are using in their homes in real-time, therefore motivating them to change their behaviors and cut their bills. To make this information accessible and useful, utilities should embrace the opportunity to collaborate with smart home brands and suppliers in establishing the channel to inform and educate consumers.
Marcus Scheiber is CEO of ROC-Connect, an end-to-end solutions provider for companies interested in entering the connected home space.