PG&E SmartRate program put the customer at the hub, study finds


Dan Delurey,
Executive Director,
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — September 6, 2013 – Pacific Gas & Electric’s SmartRate(TM) program, which began in 2008 and now enrolls 100,000 customers in critical peak pricing, put the customer at the hub, a new case study from the Association for Demand Response & Smart Grid (ADS) reports.

PG&E had invested resources in finding multiple ways to pay attention to their customers. The objective was to create a program that works in real circumstances.

The case study, the third in a series from ADS, is aimed at presenting a sense of the attitudes and relationships that needed to change in order for PG&E to successfully implement the SmartRate program.

The PG&E SmartRate program was chosen as a case study subject because of its focus on customer service and its long-range view of program design.

The top lessons learned by PG&E are:

  1. Start with segmentation. Success is dependent on customer participation, so make the most of the resources used to acquire and keep customers. Conduct thorough segmentation analysis before the program begins and choose a realistic customer target.
  2. Focus on customer satisfaction. Design both a communication strategy and the rate program itself with a single objective: to create a clear, convenient, relevant customer experience. Even the way customers who don’t succeed on the program are treated has an impact on market transformation.
  3. Create cross-functional delivery teams. Do not release a product until it is clear every functional team can deliver what customers say they want and need. Then create a program team that is responsive to customers all up and down the delivery chain. Every team member, from the IT team to customer service representatives, should have the potential to positively impact the customer experience.
  4. Put smart meter data to proper use. The ability to combine the personalized insight of interval data with management tools can create more value for consumers – but only if driven by an intention to better serve customers.

“This case study highlights a trend where more and more utilities are offering demand response and time-based pricing programs to their customers,” said Dan Delurey, executive director of ADS. “As these programs become increasingly available, they become another tool that adds to traditional energy efficiency offerings to customers. Offering both kinds of programs in a unified way is a key consideration for utilities.”

The case study was based on interviews with employees of PG&E.