We recently attended The Future of Utilities Smart Metering Update 2018 in London. Over 20 energy suppliers attended, as well as asset managers, smart meter engineers, government groups, consumer champions and many others. All came with their own tales of consumer apathy, contending with media myths and trying to convince customers that a slight reduction in their bill isn’t the only reason to have a smart meter installed.
The Government is not backing down
Richard Ord from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) kick-started the event with his keynote address. His main message was a positive one: 11 million smart meters are already installed, NPS and satisfaction scores are up for customers with a smart meter, and there was not even a hint of delaying the current smart meter rollout deadline of 2020. As far as BEIS see it “customers have become used to bad service in this industry” and the unprecedented target of 53 million smart meters being offered to UK homes and businesses is a powerful step towards establishing successful customer engagement.
SMETS 2s and seamless installations
Given the media attention about SMETS 1s being ‘dumb meters’ (not true for all SMETS 1s it should be noted!), the roll out of SMETS 2s is eagerly awaited. The roll out due in October this year appears to be on-track, with DCC running pilots and starting to make data accessible. What was clear from conversations on the day though, was that consumers simply don’t care about the technology, they want it to work, want a seamless experience and do not want to feel pressured to have one.
Dhara Vyas from Citizen’s Advice informed the audience that 7-9% of all contact to Citizen’s energy advice is about smart meter issues. These range from back-billing, increased bills, faulty devices, switching issues and installation problems. What is clear, is if this is going to be successful, suppliers need to get it right with customers. Are you engaging with your customers to find out their worries, obstacles and needed reassurances?
Industry leaders and disruptors
Here is a snapshot of what energy suppliers are doing in conjunction with their smart meter rollout:
Octopus Energy: Greg Johnson believes that “customers are taking over every other sector” and will inevitably take over this one. That is why they are piloting their ‘Agile’ tariff service. It will inform customers when it is cheaper or more expensive to use energy (i.e. in or outside of peak demand). Using smart meters will give customers more awareness of the time of day they are consuming energy and will therefore encourage tangible behaviour change. The results of the pilot are eagerly anticipated!
Ovo Energy: Having acquired numerous companies over recent years that are involved in EV charging, Ovo Energy made it clear that electric vehicles and smart homes are the future. With a substantial 900,000 customers in the UK already, this energy supplier is making it clear that smart meters are a cog in a much larger, smarter machine.
Co-operative Energy: For this supplier, it is all about using the data to accurately segment customers and align appropriate communication strategies that will increase consumer understanding and take up of smart meters. When it comes to data, Co-operative Energy are trying to balance making reasonable steps vs. customer irritation.
B2B market, has this been forgotten?
One area that no company seemed to know the answer to, was how to ensure businesses are encouraged to install a smart meter. BEIS admitted they need to focus more on retail, education and the hospitality sector. Smart Meter GB have teamed up with Location Location Location’s Kirsty and Phil, as well as running a Smarter Britain bus tour - but will that appeal to decision-makers? Those on my table were clear, which business is going to shut down for a couple of hours for the smart meter installation to happen?
Contact us for further information
At Impact Utilities we have a proven track-record of changing consumers’ energy behaviour (see our Power Saver Challenge project case study). We know how to connect with your customers. Clients like you are getting ahead because they are using the data, tools and insights we can provide.
If you would like to arrange a call or a meeting at your office to discuss how we could help you, please contact our Associate Director Nicole McNab: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01932 226 793.