Utility customers expect their bills to get larger in the future, and they want utilities to provide tools and options allowing consumers to make their own energy choices. However, consumers might...
Crossing the Threshold
Technology opens customers’ homes to utility services.
outages. However, there are significant new requirements beyond the meter that aren’t being fully considered by most of the industry and need to be addressed to successfully provide in-home products and services.
Support isn’t simply fielding service calls, diagnosing the issue and dispatching the right crew with the right equipment to the right spot—all things that utilities do a very good job of upstream of the meter. A support model is an essential part of the overall service delivery model, without which utilities will be ill-prepared for the deluge of service calls and issues that will arrive once service extends into the home. A minimum level of these service calls is inevitable when services become less transparent and more intertwined with customers’ day-to-day activities. Utilities need to adopt a corresponding support model that can efficiently and effectively field these calls, quickly filter out the many false positives that result from user error, and then conduct meaningful and deep preliminary remote diagnostics and troubleshooting. Without these capabilities utilities will be at risk of overburdening their field services force and will incur significantly higher costs than is necessary.
In more mature in-home services, such as security, high-speed Internet or cable television, customer service reps can troubleshoot a remarkable number of problems remotely, including settings on the customer’s in-home equipment, rebooting the equipment, etc. These capabilities didn’t happen overnight, nor did they happen without a well thought-out service delivery model. These companies have spent significant time and money with the vendor community putting the right tools and processes into the equipment so these services can be performed remotely.
Crossing the threshold into the home isn’t an easy path for any utility. Yet this market has been navigated by others who, through a combination of targeted service offerings, segmentation, pricing, and support models, have successfully addressed the hurdles that utilities now face. Home energy anagement programs and services might be challenging for utilities, but they are potentially important and lucrative. The models for capturing this opportunity are ready to be examined, retooled and applied.
1. Alan Stewart, “America’s Network,” 2001