Socio-technical Processes to Achieve Customer Engagement and Behavior Change

By Dr Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, Covernance Energy Ltd.

This article argues that designers of visual displays of energy consumption must take into account how humans engage with meaning if the benefits of smart metering are to be optimized. It draws on research and social science theories to explore smarter ways of achieving customer engagement and sustainable behavior change.

This article seeks to add value to critical debates and innovations in smart metering and new smart home technologies. It explores the socio-technical relevance of visual representations of energy consumption. More importantly the article contributes to increasingly contentious debates on how smart metering can help achieve sustainable behavior change and customer engagement. Drawing on communication and behavioral theories, the paper argues that human senses evolve along with the technological enablements of the times. In developing smart metering artifacts and display units, therefore, designers must be mindful that energy consumers’ senses are constantly evolving along with the dominant technology they are exposed to. While there is a limit to the level of psycho-dynamic designs that is practically possible, design nonetheless needs to accommodate a variety of delivery forms, behavior patterns and practices, preferences and attitudes among consumers, which may vary within a given household and building, and between age demographics. This is essential if smart meters are to live up to our expectation of increasing customer engagement and entrenching new, enduring energy behaviors. Current smart metering customer interfaces and in-house display units have limited engagement and behavioral impacts due to their ‘anti-social’ character and weak visual communicative value. Visual communications enhance memory and memory in turn provides the basic ground work for imitation – a critical element in social learning and behavior change theories.

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