Written by Steve Xu, Analyst (based on the work of Dr Philip Lewis, CEO of VaasaETT)
Prior to the launch
For smart energy programs that involve customers, whether it is smart meter, smart grid, or smart city initiatives, it is key to formulate an interesting offer and plan well for pre-technology education. It is extremely important to spread the information for both official sources and independent sources that are trusted by consumers. The objective of all this is to help consumers see the bigger picture. The consumer needs to understand the reason why the utility is keen on this action as well as why they (the consumers) should be interested and why the community should be collaborating.
In fact, one of the main factors preventing the progress of smart energy trials is apparently the lack of appropriate and sufficient pre-trial customer education, communication and feedback of information to consumers, in the face of negative consumer pre-dispositions towards energy utilities companies. Consumers have been exposed gradually with discussions of smart energy infrastructure technologies (smart meters, smart grid) in recent years, without sufficient understanding of how that technology might help them to reduce or improve the predictability of their household costs, contribute to improved environmental benefit, enhance their way of living with the utilities industry.
Therefore, based on years of research, we realize that only when customers are prepared through pre-education, they are ready to participate in the actual technological trial stage. It is after all, not the technology that is the objective; it is only a means to an end.
After developing an outstanding offer, it is important to communicate motivational messages to the potential participants and customers. Generally, it could take many forms, but in essence it tends to focus on three issues:
- Reasons to be positive about the new developments
- Reasons to get involved
- The elimination of reasons not to get involved
Invitation letters are an important part of the motivation process, but so are drip feed communications, which means communicating to consumers in manageable bites. It is also important to create consumer experiences relating to: Insights into tangible Improvements; demonstrations of the value of smart energy technology as well as various other means such as goal-setting and competitions.
It is equally important that consumers have the ability to opt into and out of programs and that they are well-informed about it during the pre-education phase. It helps motivate consumers more when they sense that they have a choice and a say - they will not be trapped. This sense of being free to choose reduces the psychological barrier for trying something new.
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