Driving meaningful customer engagement
Amena Ali, chief revenue officer at Whisker Labs, outlines how utilities can drive customer engagement.
The following is a viewpoint from Amena Ali, chief revenue officer at Whisker Labs.
Customer engagement remains an ongoing quest for utilities as they seek to establish a continuous dialogue with homeowners to inform and impel them towards greater energy awareness and efficiency.
Engaging customers with data that is meaningful and actionable is not a new challenge. For example, Utility Dive summarized The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) 2016 State of the Consumer report, pointing to “growing interest in renewable and smart energy solutions, and consumers who want access to new energy products.”
Mission:data analyzed the value of sharing energy data with consumers, pointing to research that indicate 6% to 18% in energy savings is possible by showing consumers data. To have this kind of impact, data must go beyond a monthly bill. Utilities need to access behind-the-meter, real-time data that delivers real insights not just on usage, but on energy waste. There are a handful of strategies for utilities to make this happen and in the process drive customer engagement.
Data must educate and be actionable
A telling data nugget from the SGCC report is that many customers do not believe their power provider was working for their best interests. In testing consumer trust, SGCC found this was the lowest-ranked factor.
The good news is that customer satisfaction with utilities rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2016 - indicating that utilities are making headway in addressing customer service pain points. Providing information that educates and is actionable can further improve customer perception as it increases the perceived value utilities can deliver.
When it comes to providing meaningful energy usage data, utilities must first educate customers on what the data means to them at a personal level, then offer a very straightforward path to actions they can take based on the energy data. A high monthly bill does not in and of itself indicate why the bill is high and what can be done to reduce energy costs.
Meaningful insights able to sustain consumer engagement not only inform consumers on past and present energy usage, but also explain why they use that much energy and offer customized recommendations on how to save energy – such as their HVAC runtime use and appliances driving their utility bill.
Data must cover legacy appliances
Yes, smart home adoption is growing slowly but surely. As is the case with any technology category, there will be early adopters who buy connected thermostats, garage door openers, lights and other devices. But a larger swath of consumers is treading cautiously for a variety of reasons, including cost, security, or simply lack of understanding of the benefits of a connected device.
More than 100 million U.S. households that do not have a single smart home device. This means that utilities will be well served to explore solutions able that provide meaningful energy usage and performance alerts to customers with legacy, non-connected devices such as HVACs, washers/dryers, and sump pumps. After all, HVACs alone consume on average, approximately half the energy of the home and whose malfunctioning can mean unplanned and significant repair costs, not to mention time and stress.
For consumers in both non-connected and connected homes, meaningful insights would inform them if an HVAC airflow or coolant problem exists, or an anomaly in how the sump pump or refrigerator is functioning. These kinds of insights are only possible by measuring power behind the meter at thousands of times a second.
Every appliance and device in the home is connected to the power network that provides electricity within the home. Every appliance and device has its own electric signature or fingerprint, and once that signature has been identified and analyzed, hi-res home energy data can provide insights on the operational health and performance of that appliance.
Focusing on HVAC signatures and faults can provide meaningful opportunities to improve energy efficiency and more broadly, engage consumers on what matters to them, their comfort and costs in avoiding costly repairs.
Data can inform program design
Once high resolution energy data is obtained – preferably in a fast and scalable manner – and the home and energy intelligence insights are obtained, there are a number of options on how this can shape program design.
First, from a delivery perspective, consider how this compelling content could best be integrated into your customer experience. Email, web portals and apps are all valid delivery options for how new engagement content could be delivered to homeowners, so consider what insight is delivered when and how to deliver maximum impact on customers and on utility program goals.
Second, from a deeper program design perspective, consider what might be possible if you knew that a given customer’s HVAC was degrading. What incentives could you provide to help the consumer save their comfort and peace of mind and save energy? How might diagnosing a problem and helping find the solution change the game? The possibilities are many and the opportunity is there to engage consumers and gain their trust.