One of the most-hated practices for a Memphis-based utility provider is coming to an end this summer: “estimating” customers’ utility bills because a utility employee was not able to manually read your meter. With the installation of one million meters in households across the city, that frustration will disappear for consumers.
For many consumers, it’s only in small tidbits like this that make the smart meter relevant for them. For the most part, though, utility providers are not capitalizing on the opportunities of the smart meter by failing to tie their smart meter to their overall customer experience.
Smart meters are often explained in terms of how it makes a difference for overhauling the aging grid. The lack of brownouts and blackouts, while noticeable for consumers, do not add value; they merely subtract the negative value. Explaining the value of the smart meter to your consumers means speaking to how the smart meter will meet their needs.
Utilities have a huge advantage with this. Consumers trust their utility. They want more engagement with their utility to meet their needs. What they don’t want is another corporation they aren’t familiar with coming in and breaking their trust.
Use the smart meter as the expansion point into the smart home. Forward-thinking utility providers who are already transitioning to the service model are looking into complete home services by expanding their offering to include a full suite of home repair. Plumbing, HV/AC, carpentry— making home life simpler for consumers infinitely increases the value and stickiness of your brand. Managing all of these services via intuitive and predictive mobile apps is the future of service from utility providers.
This also catalyzes the conversation around utilities becoming the center of the smart home. Provide the platform, plug into that data and then use that data to inform the auxiliary services. Is the warranty of your smart washing machine about to expire? What if your utility provider sent you a reminder notification, then offering to send someone out to check it before the warranty expires. A 2014 study from Gartner predicts that by 2022, homes will have as many as 500 connected devices. Without a single platform or assistance from a trusted provider helping them manage their smart home, consumers will drown.
The key aspect of the smart home is the usability and user experience. A U.K. study found that of the smart thermostat products currently available to consumers, zero passed basic usability standards. When the devices are controlled by mobile apps, the UX becomes split across a series of UIs. Rather than making consumers feel like they are viewing several different, disjoined UIs, a continuous UI and user experience will make a world of difference in consumer adoption. Start viewing an investment in user research, and ultimately, a better user experience, as insurance for consumer adoption. Only 16 percent of users will try an app more than once; 90 percent delete after opening once, without user research you’re taking a BIG risk.
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