Why the smart meter rollout is a wake-up call for energy suppliers

UK consumers have been left in the dark

With smart metering due to be in all homes by 2020, a new study commissioned by software testing specialists SQS has revealed that UK consumers are unaware of how this new technology will benefit them, believing the real beneficiaries will be energy suppliers.

The study of UK consumers (conducted by YouGov) found that over a third (37%) of respondents are convinced that smart metering will benefit energy suppliers the most, with just 28% saying it's the consumer who will benefit. At the same time, respondents are looking to their energy supplier for better energy control and personalised treatment, among other things, many of which are enabled by smart metering.

One in three (27%) consumers think that their energy supplier's track record of inaccurate billing, poor customer service and delays in problem fixing don't augur well for success with smart meter implementation. 41% of respondents agreed that new suppliers who are eager to prove themselves and are not held back by old technologies could provide a better service.

Half (52%) would welcome services, tariffs and offers that reflect how they actually use energy as well as improved, personalised customer support (22%). Also topping the wish-list are accurate billing they can trust (48%) and a clear understanding of what uses up the most and least energy (44%).

Wake-up call

The smart meter rollout is a wake-up call for established energy providers. This study shows that consumers want targeted, value-added services and greater control over their energy use, but don't always trust their existing provider to deliver. There is widespread cynicism about the viability of big IT projects and 62% doubt smart metering will happen in the shifting timeframes. Despite the cynicism, there is an overall customer desire for the advantages and benefits smart meters will deliver.

The new smart world will generate large volumes of data and for established suppliers it is vital they have the high performing, integrated infrastructure in place to capture, secure and make the most of the real-time data they generate, all day, every day. Now is the time to test everything, and then test it again – or turn to the experts who can test it for you. There won't be a second chance to get this right.

With the ability to switch supplier becoming easier than ever and the emergence of new smart meter technology on the horizon, the opportunity for early adopters to gain customers quickly and increase market share is clear.

However, it is vital that suppliers, both large and small, take the time to educate their customers on the benefits of this technology to secure confidence and trust ahead of the imminent rollout, and ultimately promote customer retention.

  • Angus Panton is Director of Power and Communications at SQS