Utilities have an immense opportunity to take their customer relationships to the next level. Even more encouraging, their customers want more from the relationship. Building on the deep-seated trust that has been carefully cultivated over the past 100 years, we can transform electrons into a new experience and turn a transactional relationship into something much more personal. By tapping into the connections within the home and with customers, utilities can go beyond the meter to create a personalized, two-way conversation via customer energy data.
But how are utilities planning on moving beyond monthly engagement to interactions that extend throughout the day? As with any relationship that starts to get more serious, utilities and customers have to learn how to navigate this new level of intimacy and engage with each other in ways that help it blossom.
5 Stages of Your Energy Relationship
Starbucks has shown us that a brand can become a major part of our daily routine by transforming a commodity into an experience. Amazon has demonstrated how an “online book retailer” can turn a transactional relationship into much more – as millions have invited Amazon into their households to power-on their smart homes. And now, it’s the utilities’ turn.
While the electricity in the relationship has always been there, flowing through our homes, powering our life, it is finally able and ready to do more… much more. Utilities are following a 5-step energy journey (0-4) to court their customers – moving beyond the bill to become a lifelong partner by introducing customers to the power and potential of their home and energy.
Stage 0: A One-Way Relationship
Like a friend who only contacts you when there’s a problem, or when they need to borrow something, the relationships at this stage are very one-directional. Many utilities find themselves in this stage today – reacting to negative issues that are affecting customers as opposed to promoting a positive ongoing dialogue. This could be anything from addressing issues with a specific bill to fielding a call about a power outage. While utilities are very focused on fixing these issues, the interaction is typically infrequent and temporary. Rather than a two-way dialogue, Stage 0 is not conversational, but transactional.
Stage 1: Engagement Starts with Understanding
All relationships start with trying to get a deeper understanding of one another. In the case of your utility, that means getting to know your energy better – going beyond the bill to understand how your home uses electricity and where it’s potentially wasting it. At the heart of this new relationship is access to energy data that is being used to:
- Make energy more attractive – Whether it’s historical or real-time, energy usage data is made easier to understand and more appealing.
- Provide instantaneous access – Empowering you with anytime-anywhere access to energy insights, along with the real-time data so you can see the immediate impact of your actions.
- Understand where this is headed – Helping you create an energy budget that shows you how your actions can impact their energy goals.
It is here at Stage 1 that this new relationship starts to grow and increase in engagement substantially – moving from a monthly bill-based relationship to the beginning of a daily dialogue. This two-way exchange is unlocking more value for the utility and the customer, driving a 4-8% increase in energy savings (Powerley App Data). But now that the initial infatuation with energy has set in, it is time to get a little more personal.
Stage 2: Turning into a Trusted Advisor
At this stage of the relationship, utilities make the shift from an information provider to a trusted advisor – helping customers fix those “little imperfections” that they never noticed before. Even more so, they can take corrective actions based on personalized advice from their utility to:
- Recognize the drains on your relationship – Suddenly you see that your refrigerator is using much more energy than it should, your always-on energy usage is much higher than you believed, and your EV is charging during peak rate times.
- Correct damaging behavior – By seeing and acknowledging these energy drains in real-time, you can keep yourself on budget and correct these problems before it impacts your monthly bill.
- Provide peace-of-mind – Now, you can tap into real-time energy data to keep an eye on your home – getting alerts when there is an energy spike, or when something in your home is malfunctioning.
Here customers and the utility have a clear picture of how energy is being used and abused by appliances and devices. This stage goes beyond energy information alone, establishing a more personal bond with energy insight and guidance. This is opening the door to more than daily engagement while delivering an 8-9% energy savings (Powerley Energy Data). And, by taking advantage of these invaluable insights from the utility, you can work together to achieve mutual home and energy goals.
Stage 3: Creating Deeper Connections
With a connection to every home and every consumer, utilities are in a prime position to drive a deeper relationship beyond energy alone. Not only are they connected to more homes today than the largest tech companies in the world, utilities are more trusted too. In this stage of the relationship, utilities take these connections further – bridging the smart grid to the smart home. In doing so, they empower customers not only with energy insight, but also by giving them direct control to cut their carbon footprints and their energy bills. By integrating energy intelligence into the smart home, the utility is:
- Empowering customers with energy control – Now you can see how much energy every connected device across the smart home – thermostats, bulbs, plugs, and more – are using in real-time and take complete control of energy consumption.
- Telling you when something is wrong – Using a smart plug on your appliances you now can get notified if you left your stove on, or if your coffee maker never shut off, and even get a way fix it.
- Customizing your connected home – Giving you personalized suggestions to create your own energy-driven smart home to save more energy – such as adding a smart plug to your Xbox to see how much gaming is costing you and control it.
Here, utilities are truly taking the relationship to the next level with engagement throughout the day while driving as much as 10% in energy savings (Powerley Data)! But that’s not the end of it. We still have stage 4 – and it is reshaping the relationship.
Stage 4: Providing a Little Life Assistance
At this stage, the relationship between the utility and their customer has reached a new level – turning a commodity into an experience that can be switched to “autopilot” to deliver more value throughout the day. Through interaction and automation, the utility can reshape their relationship with their customers and their business.
It’s like having a partner who truly ‘knows you’. A partner that can anticipate your needs – making life a little easier, safer and more enjoyable. By infusing smart home technology with energy intelligence, utilities are helping their customers create an autonomous home that:
- Make you more comfortable – Cranking up the heat on a cold winter’s day when you are on your commute home, or adjusting the home’s temperature based on the weather ahead.
- Help you be more secure – Turning on the walkway lights right at dusk to make sure your entryway is illuminated when you get home, or switching on the “vacation lights” setting automatically while you are out of town.
- Looks out for your safety – Shutting off the stove or lights after you forgot to turn them off as you ran out the door to your appointment
- Saves money on your bill – Automatically having your EV charge when you are at an off-peak rate, or when other major appliances are not in operation.
Here, we have gotten to a level of comfort where you can put your relationship on autopilot, trusting in your utility to coordinate operations within your home and with your energy. This type of deep and trusting partnership has the potential to save 10%+ on energy. While total coordination of our energy and home is starting to come about in many ways, we still aren’t totally there yet. But when we do get there, it will be utility-customer relationships like these that will pave the way to customers saying ‘I do’ to a truly autonomous home and energy experience.
Customers want more from their relationship with their utility. Together, Powerley and our utility partners have delivered an experience that has led to 100 million engagements between customers and their utility. Creating a more sustainable future for us all, this new relationship is reducing demand, elevating satisfaction and promoting sustainability. And all of this stems from the ability to engage us in a new relationship with our energy.