Opinion

How to navigate the journey to smart home energy

As we move towards a greener grid, so-called Smart technology will play an increasing role in managing our home energy. We hear from Pilgrim Beart, cofounder and CEO of DevicePilot on how smart meters are at the forefront of this evolution.

Smart metres have the power to coordinate and hold to account the many other smart products that are starting to infiltrate our homes, such as PV, EV charging and smart heating systems. The arrival of so-called ‘agile electricity tariffs’, whose price varies half-hourly in relation to the wholesale price of electricity, are just one manifestation.

While smart devices have gradually invaded the home, they have often been held-back by poor performance or reliability. Customers have been left disappointed by poor service quality which can prevent them from realising the promised benefits. However, it is rarely a case that the core technology does not work – all too often it is a lack of effective service management that causes the customer experience quality to suffer.

There are many phases in each smart energy product’s journey from launch to ubiquity (or ignominy), each with its own set of challenges which service providers will have to overcome if they are to deliver a truly useful and Smart experience. This is a rocky road, but one that can be made significantly easier to navigate by using Service Management technology.

Setting off – early rollout

Once service providers have honed their proposition and begin to rollout devices, it is easy to keep track of their devices as they have a relatively small fleet. Spotting and fixing problems – such as hardware faults, configuration issues or network failures – is fairly simple when you only have a few handfuls of devices to keep an eye on.

However, as they win customers and scale up the number of devices they have in the wild, the faults go from occasional ‘clicks on the Geiger counter’ to flagging several issues a day or even an hour, depending on the size of the fleet. Service providers suddenly have to start thinking on a different level, otherwise they can easily lose track of what is going on with their devices.

The spreadsheets and manual processes that were fine for managing product trials and early-phase rollouts will become overwhelmed, and service suffers as a result.

A bumpy ride – scaling up

Once this problem is solved and service providers have at least a good picture of what they’ve deployed, their proposition matures further, and the ongoing performance level of their devices becomes the next hurdle to overcome.

Are these devices working as they should? Are the connected properly? Was the installation ‘right first time’? Are there any faults? Are particular types of fault trending? Essentially these queries can all be summarised by asking one simple question: are the smart home energy devices ready to deliver the service, today?

Most providers will ask themselves these questions, but invariably the answer is “I don’t know”. Chances are, their service is poor as a result, but they are only able to gauge this from customer complaints, by which point it is too late – they have already let the customer down.

Climbing the hill – making promises

Once this bend in the road has been navigated, the journey enters its final phase. As they start to gain experience in the space, validate their proposition and on-board more customers, service providers will start to agree levels of service (SLAs) with customers.

However, this isn’t possible without a stable foundation achieved through the earlier steps and some method of measuring and quantifying the quality of service. Simply achieving a rollout cannot be the end of the journey for service providers. To grow and thrive, service providers must be able to consistently provide a great service, and they have to be able to prove that they are delivering it.

Make the journey easier – Service management

Service management can make this journey far smoother and is a must for any service provider looking to make navigating this rocky road. It offers a ‘single pane of glass’ view of the entire fleet of devices, enabling you to spot and solve problems and faults, whilst effectively managing devices and offering key insight and metrics that are crucial to customer success.

Instead of constantly having to react to angry customer complaints, Service Management allows your ops and engineering teams to take a proactive stance to customer service, often solving problems before customers even realise there is a problem.

Without Service management technology, service providers will really struggle to navigate their path to success, their journey will be fraught with poor service, and a growing device estate will gradually cause the team to drown in fire-fighting. It is essential that they get this right, as Smart devices are a vital element of the future grid as renewables increasingly dominate the market.