Consumers are most interested in self-focused benefits when considering how they engage with services and selecting which products they purchase. This focus does not change when the service is electricity. As customer service and marketing professionals for utility companies work to create engagement and modify consumption behaviors, they must apply their primary messaging to a value proposition that resonates with consumers.
What Electricity Consumers Care About
A number of themes were revealed by the Smart Grid Customer Collaborative (SGCC) during their Excellence in Consumer Engagement Study that analyzed 150 customer-facing U.S. Smart Grid programs. Four takeaways can be applied to create more consumer programs for smart meter deployments:
Set and deliver on short-term expectations.
The true benefits from a Smart Grid can be years away. Keep messages focused on setting expectations that can be delivered on within a few months—a year at most—to create a record of follow-through that builds trust and credibility for your utility. Messaging that keeps consumers informed of events that impact them personally, such as smart meter installation, privacy, and billing concerns are examples to consider.
Provide information about primary concerns.
The SGCC study found that every smart meter deployment that was analyzed had received complaints. Change is difficult and misinformation is rampant when something that consumers just expect to be there takes on a different form—such as electricity. From concerns regarding health, privacy, and pricing to security and even meter-reader job loss, it’s important to ensure that consumers are informed about all facets of change introduced by smart meters. By helping them to establish a comfort level that allows them to ignore speculations put forth by naysayers, a smooth transition becomes possible.
Make the impact personal.
Saving money has a direct impact on the consumer’s lifestyle where environmental benefits are more aspirational. It is much more difficult to visualize the benefits of carbon reduction in comparison to what an additional twenty dollars can buy each month, for example.
Minimize the effort to take action.
Consumers’ lives are busy. Electricity usage is not high on the priority list of things they need to do something about. The simplicity of the programs you design coupled with a high perception of personal impact will be instrumental in driving higher participation and enrollment. But the true tipping point will be based upon the urgency and purpose that your messages manage to convey. As in all industries, the motivation promoted by a call to action must spur consumer response.
It is important to note that messaging and education is not just for consumers, but also must be provided to internal employees. Consistency is critical across each experience the consumer has, including the call center, marketing messages, the meter installer, and even a conversation between an employee and a father during the 7th-inning stretch at his son’s little league game.
As the research indicates, the smart meter consumer value proposition is based on recognition of personal impact, establishing an informed comfort level about what the change means for them, and seeing that the utility is meeting the expectations they set.
Moving into the future with smart meter data, customer service and marketing programs will be able to refine the consumer value proposition with segmentation and more personalized insights that can produce even higher participation in new programs that are more effective at changing electricity consumption behaviors.