New channels for communicating with customers not only allow utilities to provide better service; they also create opportunities for utilities to reduce expenses and generate revenue. An...
Learning from Retailers
solutions in the home, and more than half struggling to make the correlation between energy consumption behavioral change and the resulting impact on the environment.
Customer motivation stems from
setting goals and tracking progress.
Origin saw this lack of understanding as a chance to help its customers, and launched its home energy management system, Origin Smart, to help address the issue. The new system applies psychological and behavior principles, such as tracking use in order to come up with achievable goals, or leveraging competition to address the challenge of reducing energy usage. The program, available via an online web portal, provides visibility on how much power the customer’s home is using on an hourly and daily basis, enables customers to track their energy use over time, lets them compare consumption to similar households, and provides access to experts in energy efficiency.
In this program, customer motivation stems from being able to set savings goals and track progress. The system provides customers with three steps – setting goals, taking action, and reviewing feedback. In this instance, the goal could be to cut energy usage by 10 percent. The action involves tips and hints the system suggests. And feedback comes from the updates of energy usage and other information available through the system, and comparisons with other households in similar situations. Ultimately, it provides customers with a supportive learning environment, which aims to enlist the persistent active participation of consumers in managing their home energy use.
Back in the ’States, we’re seeing the same thing. In deregulated regions, companies like Duke Energy are employing the same sort of tactics grounded in behavioral and cognitive psychology to encourage energy efficiency. Across the country Duke and other energy providers are using social media, competitive games, and data analysis tools to help consumers better manage their energy use. Last summer, for instance, Duke produced a series of videos casting a fictitious family employing different and creative methods of saving energy. Other utilities have sponsored “hackathons” for software developers to come up with the best energy saving app, or hosted competitions for consumers to outdo their neighbors in terms of energy savings.
Lessons from Early Adopters
For retailers now, and the rest of the energy industry soon, there’s significant new market opportunity to establish a dialogue with customers and learn more about what they want in regards to energy efficiency products and services, as well as smarter appliances and compelling apps. Some customers will want a completely automated home with a half-dozen smart devices; others might not care enough to change, while many will simply want to reduce their energy bills. Understanding the needs of the customer base is the first step in establishing and providing them with a unique solution in order to avoid apathy toward home energy management.
Utilities aren't typically early adopters of technology,
but they can become innovators in consumer engagement.
When it comes to customer interaction and relationship building, times are a-changing. Utilities need only to look to their energy retailer brethren to understand that consumers care about energy and efficiency, and that