Smart meters: How to drive customer adoption

Smart meters have been in the UK for over a decade, with around 14.9 million installed by the end of 2019. Still, the original goal of every home in the country having one by the end of 2020 looks set to be missed. The government still requires all energy suppliers to offer smart meters to homes and businesses by the end of this year but has given suppliers an extra three years to fit at least 85% of homes with the devices.

Why the delay? A mixture of factors is at play, from negative media coverage suggesting that smart meters may be faulty, difficult to understand or convoluted to install, to fears that billing may end up being higher and a lack of consumer understanding as to the benefits. Yet four out of five homes with a smart meter in place say that they would recommend it to others. It seems that much of the resistance, then, lies in inaccurate consumer perceptions of the real experience and benefits of getting a smart meter installed.

Dealing with this resistance should be a key priority for any energy supplier. The more of their customers have smart meters installed, the more accurate their billing processes become, meaning they waste less money and resource on discussing and amending bills from the contact centre and posting out new bills. They are able to keep better tabs on usage, price tariffs accordingly, and ultimately gain competitive advantage from a clearer understanding of customer wants and needs.

What, then, can providers do about this?

Customer communication: benefits and convenience

The critical task for energy suppliers is to educate consumers in a proactive (not pushy) way as to both the benefits of smart meters and the ease of installation. Smart meters enable customers to budget more effectively, gaining detailed and real-time feedback on their energy use and granting them greater visibility into the performance of different appliances in their home and the cost of different household tasks. Consumers’ tariffs may change in line with a more detailed understanding of their usage patterns, and suppliers may be able to offer cost reductions to the consumer.

Additionally, as public interest in the battle against climate change grows, there is a powerful environmental motivation for getting a smart meter installed; consumers can contribute to the growing smart grid and the development of a lower-carbon economy.

Then there is the convenience of installation to think about. Consumers need to be reminded that installations are quick, easy and can be flexibly re-arranged around their needs. In other words, suppliers need to make it clear that the installation of a smart meter is not an additional burden for their consumers to bear, but rather a straightforward process which can start reaping benefits immediately.

Communications enabled by Revive Management

One aspect of this customer communication is, therefore, about education. Energy businesses need to provide information directly to their customers detailing the benefits of smart meters, from greater accuracy of bills to greater understanding and visibility of their energy consumption. Yet this education needs to dovetail with communications to make it as easy as possible for consumers to book a smart meter installation itself.

This is where Revive comes in. We are able to support energy suppliers in setting up a range of different proactive notifications, including email, digi-lettering and SMS messages. These keep customers informed of upcoming installs and details of how to rearrange appointments when needed so that it is clear that the process of getting a smart meter installed is convenient and tailored around them. We facilitate multi-channel smart meter appointments, from confirming the initial installation booking to the actual delivery date. Dynamic calendar invites which automatically add installation dates to Yahoo and Google calendars minimise the chances of appointments being missed and increase visibility for end users. We also facilitate a two-way communication channel through Agent SMS and a mobile site, so that customers can seamlessly reschedule or cancel appointments where necessary. In turn, this significantly reduces non-attended appointments which typically cost the energy provider around £180 for each no show.

Smart meters deliver multiple benefits for energy providers and customers alike and are essential in building a nationwide smart grid that can deliver genuine environmental efficiency for the country. With the right communications, energy providers can bring more customers on board, faster.

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