Smart Meters are offering UK Energy brands the opportunity to improve customer engagement and relationships by putting control back in the hands of the customer. Smart Meters are a catalyst on the journey from being an Energy provider to a consumer ‘lifestyle enabler’. This blog covers the win-win Smart Meters mean for customer-centric Energy businesses.
Smart Meter UK Government Mandate
The main benefit of Smart Meters, is that they will put consumers in far greater control of their home energy consumption and costs. As a result, the UK government has said Energy suppliers must take ‘all reasonable steps’ to ensure every home has a smart meter fitted by 2020 – if they fail to meet the target, they face fines equal to 10 per cent of their worldwide sales. In the worst cases, the penalties could amount to over £7 billion.
Some Energy Providers have been accused of Smart Meter ‘Bullying’
A recent article* in Utility Week highlighted the Daily Mail ‘Stop The Smart Meter Bullying’ campaign (by Money Mail, part of the Daily Mail group).
The campaign is calling on the UK government to relax what they have described as ‘the aggressive smart meter roll out targets’, which has resulted in alleged ‘bullying’ tactics from some Energy suppliers. The Daily Mail is claiming they are receiving letters of complaint from their readers about Energy suppliers responding to the Government ultimatum. It’s claimed tactics include:
- Setting up Smart Meter installation appointments for customers who have not requested them.
- Reserving their best energy prices for customers who have smart meters.
- Overly zealous incentives to persuade people to sign up.
- Communications which in tone are directive and one-way “You Must…”.
Of course, Energy companies don’t want to bully their customers, there is definitely another way to roll out Smart Meters which does not alienate but instead involves customers at the heart of the process.
Smart Meter Consumer Reaction
Pressure and intimidation are not going to produce healthy and positive relationships. Trust is broken, and customers will feel resentful. In the long term that mix will only further fuel the Switch Crisis in the UK Energy sector. So, it’s in the best interests of Energy businesses to tackle this in a way which doesn’t just pass on the pressure the government is putting on them, but instead manage the process in a way which aims to put the consumer’s interests first and build better relationships with customers.
So, what are the benefits and concerns?
Energy providers have an opportunity to dispel the fears consumers have about Smart Meters. These concerns include fears about how their data is going to be used. They have fears about allowing access to their homes for meters to be fitted. They are also worried that their bills will be higher, made worse with a lack of transparent information. Smart Energy providers need to understand and allay these concerns.
They can do this by reinforcing the benefits consumers will receive from Smart Meters, which are numerous. These include : lower energy usage, so lower cost; they enable consumers to be more environmentally friendly by monitoring and controlling their energy consumption more efficiently; transparency on home energy usage will allow greater control over bills; consumers will no longer be required to submit meter readings; bills will be accurate, no longer based on estimates; they enable consumers to achieve a more connected lifestyle as Smart Meters in the future will be part of the connected home technology ecosystem.
Energy providers can help customers by providing transparent, clear information on both the concerns their customers have and the benefits their customers can enjoy.
A Chance to Restore Broken Trust
More than half of those questioned in a survey of 10,000 UK residents said they do not trust any energy supplier today.**Two fifths of people in the UK today are worried that they pay for more energy than they actually consume, and more than a third of us do not understand our energy bills. Current legacy meters contribute to these issues but Smart Meters can help to fix this.
The problem with legacy meters is that they date from the 19th Century and use metrics that are mystifying or overwhelming for the average customer; the associated lack of transparency frustrates many consumers. With prices and usage almost incomprehensible, many feel confused about their bills, and have been held back from switching because they couldn’t establish who is offering the best deal. Part of the digital evolution, Smart Meters should make a positive difference in both understanding charges and ultimately, switching tariffs.
The problem with legacy meters is that they date from the 19th Century and use metrics that are mystifying or overwhelming for the average customer
But it’s not only the customer who stands to benefit. From Energy companies’ perspective, Smart Meters will allow Energy brands to use data to improve the relationship they have with each consume, and help them to understand how they can become more relevant to customers.
Get Smart About Smart Meter Rollout
Smart Meters provide a natural opportunity for Energy brands to kick-start the journey towards true customer engagement.
By listening to customers and understanding their intent as they interact with the brand, it’s possible to rollout meters far more intelligently. Helping with customers’ reservations and ensuring that they understand the benefits to them means the rollout is better aligned to individuals’ needs.
Lloyd Buxton, Director, Energy Sector, Thunderhead, said: “Smart Meters are a chance for Energy brands to bridge the gap they’re experiencing in customer engagement, build stronger customer relationships, and face into the Customer Switch Crisis. But they must put customers first during the rollout process. By identifying and understanding early adopters, acting on insights and ensuring the subsequent rollout is putting customers first, this is a natural opportunity for long-term customer engagement.”
The recent uSwitch Satisfaction Survey reveals 9 out of 10 of the top brands are challenger brands – the new kids on the block. “This sends a strong message to the more established players that customers will look elsewhere if they don’t feel they are being treated properly..” Claire Osborne, uSwitch. *** Typically tech-savvy and nimble, they are likely to be in a position to be able to take advantage of Smart Meter opportunity more swiftly than their larger competitors.
“Smart Meters are a chance for Energy brands to bridge the gap they’re experiencing in customer engagement, build stronger customer relationships, and face into the Customer Switch Crisis” – Lloyd Buxton
Embrace the Smart Meter Opportunity
What’s clear is that the current roll out plans are receiving push back from customers and now is the time to address this. From our research, it seems many Energy providers are declaring to their customers: ‘We have a Smart Meter rollout plan, but we’ll contact you.’ Which isn’t a great message for customers who are keen take more control of their relationship with their Energy provider.
Roll out needs a rethink and we can help you do that with a three stage plan.
What’s agreed is that Smart Meters are critical to the future of building better relationships with customers and an opportunity for Energy brands to make true customer engagement a possibility, powering their businesses beyond the 2020 rollout deadline. Smart Meters are good for everyone, the challenge is building back trust with customers and effectively communicating that the meters are in their best interests.
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** Sacha Deshmukh Chief Executive, Smart Energy GB https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sacha-deshmukh/finally-a-chance-to-resto_1_b_5487384.html