Suprise! More Smart Grid Customer Engagement Challenges

Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : October 28, 2011

J.D. Power and Associates released a report this week, suggesting that targeting customers based on behavioral segments is key to “unlocking interest and engagement.” This is similar to a key theme in the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative report, also released this week, asserting that “attitudinal” segmentation is key.

Frankly, it’s hard to think that any business or organization would undergo a campaign without at least some understanding of their customers — an understanding deeper than whether or not they have a pool pump or central air.

J.D. Power’s survey found that wide variations in customer knowledge and behavior will present a particular challenge for utilities as they look to garner support for smart grid and smart meter deployments. (Seems somewhat obvious).

Six behavioral segments were identified in the study, which was “based on the types of smart energy activities and degree of control that diverse customer populations will undertake to manage their energy consumption, costs, and environmental impacts.”

Segments identified in the report include the “innovator,” who is willing to pay a significant price to realize environmental and financial benefits; the “automate” segment, which is willing to authorize the utility to take control of a thermostat in exchange for savings; the “indifferent” segment, whose members are not motivated to take any energy management actions; and more.

The study suggests that utilities should undertake engagement strategies that vary by customer segment so they can optimize acceptance and satisfaction with various smart grid and smart energy technologies.  But this goes beyond just how the utility communicates with the customer segments and includes the types of services and incentives that are offered.

“While customers in certain behavioral segments are keenly interested in knowing the amount of energy they use or how much money they can save by taking steps to conserve, customers in other segments want the opportunity to earn points for reducing energy use and to redeem their points for cash or merchandise,” according to J.D. Power.

I’m certain that by reading the full report, utilities will find themselves somewhat enlightened. However, I would highly encourage individual utilities to undertake their own research into behavioral segments for their respective service territories.  Surely there will be some consistencies from one region to the next, but I’m sure the variation would be significant enough to merit utility-specific research.

Photo courtesey of thanunkorn: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2352