By 2020 nearly 250 million smart meters should be installed in EU countries, but reducing peak energy usage also requires behavioural change. Consumer behaviour in other smart markets provides insight into the expectations of energy customers during installation and how barriers to consumer engagement can be addressed.

Speakers at the recent European Utility Week Conference stressed, again and again, the importance of a customer focused approach for smart metering. In an industry with a poor reputation for customer service this recognition is welcome, but is it sufficient to change consumer behaviour?

For consumers to be actively engaged in managing their consumption, energy companies need to go further than merely focusing on customers. They must view smart metering from the consumer’s perspective.

Consumer experience – only one chance to make a first impression

Research by EY showed that 75% of consumers across 12 countries they surveyed believed the relationship with their energy company was negative.1 Smart meter implementation is an opportunity to build trust if consumers have an excellent experience throughout the installation process.

This starts with clear communications explaining the benefits of smart metering, followed by a successful installation visit. Reads from smart meters must be utilised to produce accurate bills, with data quality issues resolved promptly. Consumers will also need information and support after the meter is installed. Accurate billing should reduce customer contacts, but experience from California suggests that initially contacts will increase due to questions about the new information provided. Energy companies must have sufficient trained staff to deal with this temporary spike in workload, especially when the rate of new installations is at its peak.

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