Wide variation in customer knowledge and behavior preferences poses a challenge for utilities trying to build customer engagement around smart grid and smart meters, according to J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Smart Energy Consumer Behavioral Segmentation Study.
For example, although customer concerns regarding smart meter security, privacy and health risks have been reported, the concerns customers most frequently voiced relate to smart meter accuracy and fairness.
The first offering in the J.D. Power and Associates Smart Energy Consumer Engagement Research Series, the inaugural study is unique in the smart energy arena. The study identifies six behavioral segments, which are 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 impact. The segments range from:
- The innovator segment, which describes customers who make significant out-of-pocket investments to yield large environmental and financial benefits, to
- The automate segment, whose members are predisposed to authorize utility remote management of their thermostats in exchange for savings, to
- The indifferent segment, whose members are disinclined to take any energy management actions.
By characterizing residential electric customers according to their energy management behavior, utilities can optimize customer acceptance of and satisfaction with smart energy technologies.
For example, there is considerable variation in the types of engagement strategies that appeal to customers across the behavioral segments. 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.
“Rather than focusing on how customers perceive smart energy, the key to creating engagement lies in understanding the kinds of behaviors that different types of customers will undertake–behaviors that utilities hope to encourage,” said Peter Shaw, senior director of the smart energy practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “This provides an efficient framework for optimizing effective customer education and engagement strategies designed to introduce smart energy behaviors to large, diverse customer populations.”
The Smart Energy Consumer Behavioral Segmentation Study provides utilities with the results of an in-depth energy behavioral segmentation analysis, coupled with hosted access to an expansive research database of 38,090 households that enables utilities to segment the customer populations of 75 U.S. electric utilities. In addition, the study data access tools allow utility providers to merge the research dataset with their own segmentation, benchmarking and customer analytics research tools and to benefit from learning how peer companies apply the segmentation to their respective customer education and engagement programs.
The 2012 Research Series will analyze two key dimensions of effective customer engagement strategy: educational message framing and the customer sentiment impacts of competing engagement solutions. These two studies will be released in the second and fourth quarters of 2012, respectively.
The 2011 Smart Energy Consumer Behavioral Segmentation Study is based on responses from 38,090 households served by 75 of the largest U.S. utilities. The study was fielded in July and August 2011.