The Success of Smart Technology Relies on Excellent Customer Engagement Tactics

For the in-home display market to really take off, the technology must be geared towards benefiting the customer.
Published: Tue 21 Jan 2014

Anglian Water has just won the prestigious Green Economy Award with GEO’s in-home water display. The Green Economy Awards, previously known as the Green Business Awards, celebrate the pioneers of the UK’s green economy.

The awards recognise excellence in environmental responsibility, reconfiguration of business models around sustainability principles, and the unsung heroes of the environmental services industry. Anglian Water is proud to announce that it provides the same amount of water today as they did in 1990 – almost 1.2 billion litres every single day -by minimizing leaks and encouraging more water-wise customers.

The company opted for the in-home display so that its customers can have more insight into their consumption levels. As a result, customers can take practical steps to reduce their water usage and increase their water efficiency.

Paul Glass from Anglian Water points out that by reducing their water consumption, customers can look forward to reducing their water bills and helping the environment. He says: “Our figures show that by switching to a meter, people use between five% and 15% less water and, on average, save about £100 a year on their water bills.”

Finding the right technology

With climate change and the significant growth in population across the globe, water and electrical efficiency is paramount. It is therefore essential that technology is developed in order to monitor the consumption of these precious resources.

The in-home display is one such technology. However, Pike Research reports that the market has been slow to develop and only modest growth is to be expected over the next several years.

Smartphone-a better alternative

We argued recently that the in-home display could be a non-starter [In-Home Displays: A Non Starter] and that Smartphones may well offer a better solution to monitoring energy consumption. We say this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, most people have a Smartphone already. The global Smartphones market is estimated to reach $150.3 billion in 2014 from about $55.4 billion in 2009. Because so many people have access to a Smartphone already, displays can be done away with and reduce the costs of smart meter projects. In comparison to the in-home display, the Smartphone is less intrusive on your home, they offer extra functionality like graphical analysis and they have the ability to plot energy consumption. Energy alerts on consumption levels and tariffs can be sent directly to the Smartphone, allowing the consumer to react immediately without having to go home first. The app can also be updated periodically to receive new functionalities and energy consumption can be viewed anywhere, not just in your home.

However, it’s not only about the type of technology…

Changing mindset first

We think the key issue here is the customer’s mindset and how the utility engages with the customer. The energy-monitoring device market is flooded, yet there seems to be very little uptake on people purchasing and installing them. Even Google retired its free energy monitoring tool, Google Powermeter, because it “didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped”.

The question is, even if you can see your energy consumption levels, will you actually do anything with the data? There is no doubt that everyone is interested in reducing their energy costs but there needs to be more transparency between usage and cost. By drawing on smart meter and display capabilities, the utility needs to find ways in which to encourage the consumer to change his or her behaviour towards efficient consumption. Consumers need to see exactly how much they can save-this should be incentive enough to change a mindset.

Technology must be easy to use, engaging and interesting

Once customer indifference is replaced by the willingness to be more efficient and save money, perhaps the widespread adoption of in-home displays will accelerate. The change in a belief systems and attitude can significantly alter how a customer wants to behave. Good intentions alone will not change behaviour. It is up to the utility to help the customer perceive a need to manage their consumption. Only then will customers search for tools to help them act on those intentions. The utility’s job is to show that displays can be useful in helping them attain their goals, are easy to use, and that they are engaging and interesting.

Further Reading

Energy Nerd-Are energy smart meter displays ‘pointless’?

Markets and Markets-Global Smartphones market worth US$150.3 billion by 2014

Navigant Research-In-Home Displays Face Adoption Hurdles