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The “intrusive” smart meter: be careful not to add insult to injury

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There are growing concerns over the smart meter rollout in the UK. With mixed messages and false advertising consumers are finding the process painful and intrusive. Consumers have been wrongly informed over the cost of the devices and suppliers have been forceful in the approach to installation. Consumers are crying out for change.


Good intentions but the current reality

The government began its campaign back in 2008 and has intended to equip 30 million homes in the UK with a smart meter by 2020. The introduction of smart meters intended to provide a better customer experience, giving consumers control over their water, gas and electricity bills with accurate readings in real-time. Although not compulsory, energy suppliers have to offer them to consumers and businesses by 2020. However, this isn’t what has been advertised or communicated to many consumers according to a recent Guardian Forum.

The increase in compulsory use of water meters in some areas of the UK feels like a sanction from on high where 9 times out of 10 only the suppliers will benefit”. Another consumer on the same forum reported: “They keep sending people round to install one and I keep sending them away. Some of the contractors become quite unpleasant when asked to leave.”

This is hugely concerning. We know from our own research that 71% of consumers experience physical and emotional disturbance around service appointments. Emma Kenny, TV psychologist highlights, “people are looking for collaborative experiences with providers they can trust, providers that work with them to ensure as little disruption to their already time starved lives.” For these initiatives to work suppliers need to be doing their best to get consumers on board and then to deliver a positive experience. Otherwise the roll out won’t be a success.

Avoiding the water works

New government talks around compulsory water meters for all UK households are taking place. The promise of reducing water wastage and giving more accurate readings to consumers is positive. However, overshadowed by the bad reputation of smart meter installations a new approach is needed to get consumers onboard.

Rachel Fletcher, Chief Executive at Ofwat shares her views on the approach: “the truth is, you are only ever going to get so far with the regulator pushing water companies from behind. I would prefer instead to see a new internal dynamic within each water company, with the interests of the customer hardwired into everything that they do. Companies shouldn’t need to rely on Ofwat to tell them what good looks like; this should come instinctively from a deep understanding of the customers and communities they serve. This, I believe, would be the best possible outcome for customers.”

Communicating to avoid conflict

With the right communication strategy in place a lot of consumer concerns and conflicts with smart meters can be prevented. We know from our research that when customers are kept up to date in the last mile of their service, frustration and anxiety is alleviated. Emma Lampert, Customer Experience Manager at Localz explains how Localz helps Field Services provide better communication and customer experiences.

  • Improving operational efficiency - We remove the need for technicians and service engineers to call ahead with in-app communication. Messages are sent to the customer reminding them of their appointment time and what they can expect. Several touch points with the consumer keep them feeling updated and in the know.

  • Technician Engagement - We all expect to be empowered by technology, have everything available at a the swipe of a thumb, increase efficiency. Ease of use for technicians and saving them time is a key part of the Localz solution. Technicians can communicate directly with the customer and colleagues to get the job done as efficiently as possible. They can contact the next customer if they are running late, avoiding being greeted with an angry face when they get to the door.

  • Managing moving stock - One of the main frustrations for technicians and consumers alike is when the right tools and parts aren’t available at the appointment. Localz can help track moving stock in real-time to source the right tools and parts in order to complete the job in one visit.

You can find out further information about how Localz can help improve your last mile customer experience in this this short video.

How British Gas increased their first time access rate with Localz

British Gas and Localz has been working together to improve its last mile customer experience, bring transparency to the day of service appointment, increase engineer engagement and first time access. Using Localz "On my way" messaging has radically improved first time access rates for British Gas. This is showcased in their current television advert where Wilbur receives a notification for his boiler service.

Localz hosted a live webinar which took a close look at how British Gas is digitising to connect engineers  in real-time with customers. The webinar featured Mike Burns, Technology Innovation Manager at British, in conversation with Localz Customer Success Manager, Emma Lampert. You can find the recording of the webinar here. In this recording you hear first-hand the ROI from the roll out of Localz “On My Way” Solution and the live Q&A session.