In the past week I participated in two big utility industry events: Smart Metering in London and Distributech in San Diego.
In attending this central industry events, I’ve realized that the same challenges that have been a staple of the many industries my company currently serves are also becoming central to utility companies worldwide.
Utilities in many places are now undergoing a “Smart Revolution” – building “Smart Grids” and installing “Smart Meters” which replace the older mechanical metering devices. In fact, the European Union has mandated that all EU countries convert all meters to Smart Meters by 2020. Over 60% of these meters are inside homes behind closed doors – so this massive undertaking will take real cooperation and real-time coordination with consumers.
This is something that Utilities don’t know anything about, as they have never depended on customers to do their job. They’ll find out that visiting customers at home on an appointment basis means having to coordinate an appointment and to make sure the customer is home. And that is no small feat.
The hardest part of this equation is that contrary to the telephone companies, the cable or satellite companies where at the end of the ‘wait at home window’ there is a nice pay-off for the customer – i.e. 5000 channels to watch or a really fast modem – for utilities customers there is no real incentive to stay home and wait for the “Smart Meter Guy”. And while utilities have invested a great deal of money in upgrading their infrastructure, they have spent very few euros or dollars on ensuring a positive customers experience. They just didn’t have to.
So “what’s in it for the consumer?” How will Utility Companies get consumers to cooperate with them as they execute their monumental task?
One answer: By making the appointment experience so smooth and so effortless, so customer-focused and so friendly, so devoid of friction – by making sure that consumers don’t need to sit at home endlessly and ‘wait without knowing’.