Smart meters present an exciting new opportunity for both Energy and Utility (E&U) companies and consumers. Yet, even as its rollout progresses in the U.K, there seems to be uncertainty in its business case and model. Based on the findings of our collaborative study with Utility Week, we look at the potential of smart meters, the role of the customer and how E&U companies can structure their operations to unlock immediate and future value.
A Tremendous Promise of Value
From the supplier-consumer relationship perspective, smart meters can redefine the supplier’s role to that of an energy advisor. From an industry viewpoint, it can integrate new technologies and innovations across the power grid. To the users’ advantage, it can drive down costs, provide transparency and flexible pricing. And from a social perspective, it can improve energy conservation, grid reliability and outage management, besides integrating the supply of renewable energy options.
Much of the business case for smart meters hinges on convincing customers to genuinely change their energy usage. A positive bias among most users toward energy conservation (for both economic and environmental reasons) is an encouraging start. What is needed is to create a positive experience, both during and after the rollout.
Customer experience during the rollout needs to be driven by timely and personalized information dissemination on schedules, status updates, tariff options, potential benefits and concerns of privacy and health.
Post the rollout, it shifts more toward an advisory engagement. Analytics, coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT), can enable companies to provide smart solutions that help customers efficiently manage their energy requirements. In-home displays can provide real-time feedback and empower customers to analyze their consumption patterns and maximize savings.
Eight in 10 smart meter users who are enthused and engaged would recommend them to others. This underscores the vital need for providers to have the right operations’ structure in place
Structuring for Success
IT, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and customer service are the three business areas that will see the greatest impact from the smart meter rollout. The strategy will depend on helping customers realize the benefits. Analytics can support companies in offering variable pricing plans based on consumption patterns.
All change management programs should span both team structure and operations. It involves choosing the most appropriate field force model and training the team for strong customer service acumen. New capability development needs to be balanced with operational priorities to maintain high service levels as significant business processes will be impacted.
Unlocking Future Potential
The immediate opportunities of smart metering lie in the areas of data access, billing transparency, energy efficiency, performance and compliance. Analytics and technology unfold more exciting possibilities into the future.
IoT and big data analytics will pave the way for multiple devices to be connected. For E&U companies, it can improve grid intelligence and provide projection models that will combine historical data and weather forecasts to integrate the supply of renewable resources. Such innovations can take customer experience to new levels.
For now, let us start with the customer.