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Smartphone app controlling devices in a smart home

How to Empower Customers With Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology is transforming our daily lives. From the convenience of our smartphones, we can easily lower the temperature of our home, turn on the lights before entering the front door and even manage energy usage. For energy utilities, it’s imperative to harness the popularity of this growing technology.

Surge in smart homes

According to the latest research, more than 60 million Americans own at least one smart home device. This number will continue to gain momentum in the years to come. In fact, the number of smart homes worldwide is anticipated to grow to more than 375 million by 2024. Research from the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative finds that these tech-savvy customers have a much greater interest in energy savings than traditional consumers.

Energy utilities have an immense opportunity to build customer satisfaction through smart home-related programs, products and innovative account management options. Read on for recommendations based on what we’re seeing as energy utilities embrace this emerging trend.

Offer smart account management options

As more customers become accustomed to the convenience of smart home devices, energy utilities should consider new ways for customers to manage their accounts through voice activation. Many energy utilities are partnering with Amazon, Google and other smart home device manufacturers to create voice commands to improve the customer experience.

PSEG Long Island offers customers the ability to manage their account with Amazon’s Alexa. By simply asking Alexa, customers can pay their bill, report an outage and access usage history, among other functions. Similarly, Xcel Energy, a utility providing energy across eight Western and Midwestern states, gives customers valuable tools to manage their account and save money on their monthly bill through Google Assistant.

Ramp up your energy marketplace

Energy utility customers are increasingly searching for smart home speakers (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, to name a few), along with smart thermostats, LED lighting, smart plugs, smart doorbells, and more. Many energy utilities are taking advantage of this need by launching energy marketplaces exclusively for their customers.

Indianapolis Power & Light, in partnership with AES and Uplight, launched the Uplight Marketplace. This Amazon-like website is filled with energy-efficient products at a discounted rate for their customers. The website also offers home services, energy-saving program enrollments and accessible financing options.

When promoting your utility’s energy marketplace, focus on educating customers, not just selling energy-efficient products. Your marketplace promotions should include a content marketing strategy that educates customers on the benefits of the smart home.

Help customers save with smart home incentives

To encourage customers to take the next step and create a smart home, consider offering rebates and incentives. Energy utilities across the country are collaborating with smart thermostat manufacturers like Nest to provide customer incentives. These incentive programs are often tied to demand response initiatives.

For example, Austin Energy’s Power Partner Thermostats program gives customers a $25 rebate on every smart thermostat they purchase and install in their home. When customers enroll in the utility’s Power Partner program, which helps to reduce demand during peak energy times, the energy utility increases the incentive to $85.

Collaborate to make a difference

Smart home technology also has opportunities on a larger scale. Energy utilities are joining forces with local partners to help increase energy efficiency in their communities through smart home technology.

Georgia Power collaborated with Atlanta-based builder PulteGroup, the City of Atlanta and U.S. Department of Energy to create the city’s first Smart Neighborhood. The innovative homes are equipped with a variety of energy-efficient measures including smart home upgrades, rooftop solar and in-home battery storage systems.

Likewise, Alabama Power partnered with Vivint Smart Home and local builders to develop the first Smart Neighborhood in the state. Located in Birmingham, the community is 35% more energy efficient than comparable homes in the area.

Harnessing the smart home     

As you can see, energy utilities across the country are taking advantage of smart home technology to improve customer satisfaction, achieve program goals and make a positive difference in the community. The smart home is here to stay. How is your energy utility harnessing this technology to engage and empower customers?