Nearly 50 percent of electricity consumers in the United States, across almost all 50 states, now have smart meters in their homes and businesses. In just 10 years, coverage has grown from next to nothing to 71 million households being part of the ‘smart ecosystem.’
These smart meters, and other internet-connected devices like thermostats and smart plugs, mean that detailed information about energy use is now available to both utilities and consumers, allowing unprecedented levels of control in real time.
Energy providers have been quick to take up the opportunities offered by this newly connected, broad-based energy ecosystem and are developing smarter, more customized products and services for consumers.
What utilities need now is a way of delivering these services to personalize the consumer experience and deepen the relationship with the customer.
What they need is a customer engagement platform.
An online engagement platform is a portal that customers can access from their computer, smartphone or tablet, which is designed to help them do things like:
- Engage in their energy use, and manage energy efficiency priorities
- Choose flexible payment options and pay bills
- Enroll in reward programs and take advantage of offers
- Get home audits and efficiency advice
- Buy energy-related products, tools, technologies and related services
- Specify their energy source (e.g., renewables)
In short, a platform provides an easy and intuitive way for customers to view and understand their household’s real-time and historical energy data, manage usage, pay bills and participate in programs and offers from the energy provider.
Now is the time for utilities to ensure they have a platform like this in place—not just because more and more households are becoming equipped with controllable smart devices, but because customers now expect this kind of engagement technology.
For example, research shows that consumers currently think of online retailers as providing superior customer service compared with utilities, in part because of the frequency of interactions they have with them. Many online retailers, and other service providers such as ride-share apps and streaming platforms, keep themselves top-of-mind using regular outreach strategies, proactively suggesting products and services they believe their customers might find interesting.
Through a sleek and appealing customer platform, energy providers can reach out and engage with consumers in a similar way, to deliver more value and transform customers’ perceptions of them from anonymous commodity suppliers to trusted energy advisors and service providers.
Consumers certainly seem ready for such a platform. In recent surveys, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they’d be interested in using at least one of the products and services offered by a utility online platform.
Millennials represent a driving force for change
Millennials, in particular, are championing this kind of technological environment more than other demographics. Millennials are now the most numerous generation in US history, making them an increasingly influential group of consumers. They often exhibit different expectations, attitudes and behaviors from prior generations.
Using digital media channels to find and communicate information is a defining characteristic of the millennial generation, and mobile apps are ingrained in the daily activities of younger consumers. About one-third of millennials currently use social media to find energy-related tips and information.
Although many aren’t fully aware of the options available, research shows that millennials are interested in a range of energy-related technologies, savings opportunities and other offerings, from solar and electric vehicles to peak-shifting programs and time-varying rate plans.
A suitable online platform designed to capture this app-savvy surge in energy curiosity—perhaps with a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track and preserve each conversation thread much like a social media feed—would seem the ideal vehicle to engage the millennial generation right now, and nurture them as loyal customers for years to come.
There is now a broad base of consumers who want help managing their energy usage through new information channels, deeper analysis and more customized recommendations. For utilities, this represents a big opportunity to build credibility, improve engagement and maintain loyalty by offering this additional value using technology innovations their customers have come to expect and trust.
To learn more, schedule a meeting with an expert today.
EIA (2017) ‘Nearly half of all U.S. electricity customers have smart meters,’ Today in Energy, U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=34012
SECC (2017) Spotlight on Millennials Report, Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative: https://smartenergycc.org/spotlight-on-millennials-report/?_sf_s=spotlight
SECC (2018) 2018 State Of The Consumer Report, Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative: https://smartenergycc.org/2018-state-of-the-consumer-report/
SECC (2018) Consumer Platform of the Future, Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative: https://smartenergycc.org/consumer-platform-of-the-future-report/
Calling Kevin McDonough a driving force behind our evolution to grid optimization and Franklin Energy’s digital marketing transformation would be a massive understatement. He leads a team that helps hundreds of thousands of end-use customers save energy each year by leveraging his expertise in energy efficiency and demand response program design, while keeping an eye firmly on the future. All his endeavors are united by the common objective of helping clients reach their goals and helping preserve our world’s precious resources. In addition to his extensive executive experience within the industry, Kevin holds an MBA in operations from Boston College, is certified in Six Sigma quality program implementation and technology deployment and speaks three languages fluently.