Next steps for using information from Victoria’s Smart Meters. Insight and actions beat data dumps every time.
Beginning with the Jemena Electricity Outlook Portal (on which we worked with DiUS) and most recently with Origin Energy’s revamped Origin Smart, Victorian energy distributors and retailers have worked hard to deliver energy-use data so their customers can make better-informed decisions about their energy use.
Instead of data, they need to deliver value.
The portals tend toward the same type of information display — a dashboard of bar and pie charts that show energy use over hours, days and weeks. It’s data, sure, but is it enough?
Because of the way the government privatised its monopoly electricity company, Victoria has the most-contested retail energy market in the world. In excess of 25% of Victorian electricity customers change retailers every year.
Energy retailers have bet large sums of money that building these Smart Meter portals will begin to build a relationship with customers so they ‘churn’ less often. On the face of it, that makes some sense — at the moment customers don’t have a true relationship with their energy retailer. But why would they? Who has loyalty to the company that doesn’t do anything more than bill you for electrons that a different company generates and that flow over yet another company’s networks?
But portals on their own won’t help all that much.
They won’t help because at the moment, they’re just data streams, and increasing the volume of data without giving people tools to manage it is an increase in noise, not signal. Rather than giving people control, it gives them yet more busy-work.
To build a relationship with customers, a relationship that will make customers think twice before changing electricity providers, smart retailers will deliver more than a firehose of data. Next-generation tools from retailers will need to inform, educate and delight customers.
In the future, they’ll link with other data sets, like weather forecasts, to tell people when to turn their heating up or down to maximise efficiency. They’ll alert customers to spot price hikes and give people a chance to temporarily turn off less-efficient appliances to avoid brownouts. They’ll alert you at work to let you know if there’s been an outage during the day. They’ll offer incentives for changing the time you run the dishwasher. In the shorter term, they’ll let you know if your energy use has spiked before you get an unusually-large bill in the mail.
Instead of data, they’ll deliver value.
The first retailers to market with a series of tools that help customers to actually harness smart meter data — rather than just view it — will have taken the first step toward building a meaningful relationship with their customers. If a retailer gives its customers energy-management tools that other retailers don’t have, and that are annoying to do without, then they’ll have made the first steps toward building brand loyalty.
In a market where customer acquisition costs are soaring, that’s worth real money.