Ten Things You Should Know About Smart Grid Customer Engagement, Part III

Published: Thu 05 Sep 2013
A blog entry by Sasha Bermann

Contributed by:

Sasha Bermann
Chief Dissemination Officer

Sasha Bermann's Blog

Written by Steve Xu, Analyst


7. Drip-feed communication
The drip feed approach is a mean by which the utility can have multiple opportunities to communicate to the consumer, to reaffirm their gratitude for the customer’s participation and to show the customer that they are trying to assist them. This regular positive communication can therefore be seen as an opportunity for the utility to strengthen their relationship with the consumer. For example, in an Irish smart meter programme, successive letters provided to consumers who had agreed to participate gradually introduced customers to new elements and requirements of the program: A letter relating to billing, a letter relating to in-home displays and so on. Each letter is a chance not only to provide the customer with more beneficial information, but also a chance to spread out the weight of information that the customer will need to effectively participate in the program. 
8. Behavioral awareness before technological awareness
Vitally important engagement and education of consumers should take place already prior to roll-out and even large-scale piloting, to a wide audience, ideally in a public campaign fashion, for the purpose of raising awareness regarding the benefits associated with smart grid and the forthcoming related offerings. This should not be some vague generic TV advertising, but rather a comprehensive and specific multi-channel approach that engenders understanding and trust. Done right, and followed eventually by targeted direct marketing and subsequent outbound calls, this systematic approach to engagement appears to achieve greatly enhanced customer adoption and usage of programs, technologies and offerings. In addition, technology should be introduced to consumers gradually and the bulk of the technology should be promoted only after consumers are sufficiently educated and savvy about the relationship between their behavior and the benefits of those technologies.
9. External relativity
There is no doubt that a large proportion of consumers revel in being able to compare their energy efficiency behavior against those of others, such as their neighbors, other consumers in their area, region, country, or simply other customers that are in some way comparable to them. Psychologically this stems from the fundamental fact that human beings have no way to judge how good they are except through relativity against other human beings. An important element to remember concerning such comparison based feedback is that, there are many ways to present it. To keep consumer interest high in fact, and in order to provide the consumer with deeper insight into their relativity, it is considered effective to provide the consumer with many perspectives on the same comparability. For instance, a consumer can be informed if they are good or not, if their comparability is improving or not, and they can be informed about the impact (e.g. on their consumption, energy bills or the environment) of themselves compared to their better or efficient neighbors for instance. 
10. Feedback done well, leads to year-on-year increases in savings
Ideally, persistent behavioral change is all we want through customer engagement programme. In our research, we found that when feedback is done well, behavioral change can take place in a long-term. For example, in Massachusetts, programmes with National Grid and NSTAR in collaboration with Opower, which achieved savings from opt-out programs of between 1.25% and 3% per household across over 300,000 households, found that savings have persisted and grown by as much as 30% year-on-year. These programmes also led to significantly increased participation in the utility’s’ other efficiency programs. Another programme in Illinois by ComEd in collaboration with OPower, found that annual savings increased from the first program year to the second by a statistically significant 38%.