Consumer engagement in the credit card and wireless industry was revolutionized by the infusion of data analytics- just look at the targeted offers you receive on your monthly bill, or the helpful fraud alert messages you receive when purchases are made outside of your normal pattern.  Data analytics have allowed industries and marketers to become smarter and more targeted in their overall approach to business and especially their marketing. The utility industry is advancing toward the opportunities that have been smartly implemented by the credit card and wireless industry with the rapid adoption of smart meters.

Smart Meters have been the topic du jour in the utility industry for a few years now, and understandably so, given that the utility industry was awarded over $4 Billion in stimulus money to help advance Smart Meter infrastructure, technology and installations across the US.  In 2007, there were an estimated 2 million smart meters installed across the US.  Today, that number has grown to32 million across 20 states, and according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, this represents only 23 percent market penetration. 

As the installation of smart meters across the US continues to grow, utility companies are embarking on a huge opportunity that will impact all aspects of their business.  Utilities will be able to leverage the data collected from the smart meters to inform customer insights, prevent outages and aid in load forecasting. 

As a marketer, just imagine being provided detailed information about your customers multiple times a day, with data on energy usage levels, hours of peak consumption, and if there are any challenges in your organization providing them your energy product.  With the new smart meter technology and the data the meters can provide you, meter data analytics will revolutionize your relationship with your customer and how you interact with them. 

With proper planning, utilities will experience the benefits the next time there is an unexpected outage.  Instead of angry customers calling your call center or camping out on your Facebook page seeking answers, the smart meter data received can launch an automated trigger based campaign where affected customers will receive a text or voice message providing them with estimated recovery times. This customer focused, personalized touch would go a long way in developing a stronger relationship with your customers as well as save costs on extra overhead it incurs to manage inbound customer inquiries.  
 

Having meter data analytics will also allow you to review, segment and profile users to ensure that they are aligned with the right service with the correct rate plan.  Perhaps high usage customers are offered special discounts or incentives verses lower usage customers.  Or perhaps they are candidates for other services or opportunities available from your company.  This data can be useful in developing offers for your “best” customers, or you could create a customer retention program in the markets where energy choice is available.

As we have seen in the wireless industry, customers' statements can now be injected with a lot of useful information. Wouldn’t it be great to make customers more mindful of their utility spend through the inclusion of graphs showing peak usage?  Or based on the information collected and demographics you know about the customers you could strategically offer ancillary product and services that would be perceived as valuable. 

As we all know, data is very powerful when you can access it and preform the analysis required to make a meaningful impact.  From some research I have conducted, below I have outlined 3 high level steps to follow as you embark on this journey. 

  • Step 1 - As we have seen with the credit card and wireless industry, it is necessary to build out appropriate infrastructure to easily access this information.   A creation of a MDM (meter data management) platform is necessary and should sit alongside and connect to your billing and other systems. 
  • Step 2 – Once your MDM is in place and functioning, a separate analytics database should be created.  This will be a copy of your MDM with external demographic data to enhance the meter data. 
  • Step 3 – Now the fun begins!  But before you get too excited, make sure you partner with a marketing services provider who can help you make sense of these new data points and map its information to your business needs through profiling, modeling, and KPI reporting.

As utility commissions across the US put policies in place to adopt smart meters nationwide or if you already have them in your service areas don’t look at them as a headache but embrace them as an opportunity as meter data analytics will pave the way to more engaged and profitable relationships with your customers.