Our mission with this project was to ensure Plug offers true utility for consumers. It must make their lives easier, save them money and stand for something greater than the kWs consumed.
We are aware of some of the key consumer perceptions that stand in the way of greater adoption of smart meters and smart home technologies in general, though. That is, most consumers see the potential savings from a smart meter as being marginal (only up to £100 in the best case scenario), they are apathetic towards new technology and to top it all off, have an inherent distrust of energy suppliers with their data.
These barriers are by no means insurmountable. The Plug services outlined below are designed to allay such concerns by helping consumers to not only save but also make money as well as demonstrating exactly how Plug uses technology and the resulting data points to make beneficial suggestions and improvements rather than insidiously harvesting consumer data with little benefit in return.
Plug services are accessible via a myriad of touchpoints. Plug’s Smart App is the central interface, voice provides a frictionless controller for micro interactions and a handful of smart connected objects provide the data necessary to automate savings and provide the info required for Plug to make smarter choices for its customers.
These connected touchpoints put Plug at the centre of the home rather than an interchangeable utility. This alone is a massive shift from other UK energy retailers that are heavily commoditised.
As well as the obvious contenders such as an app that displays energy usage and the management of finances, Plug offers the following core services:
Once upon a time, energy suppliers kept a low profile, avoiding interactions with customers for fear that they’d realise just how much they were spending. Smart Meters are changing that. However, providers must go further. Leveraging consumption data and working with startups like Manetos Smart Thermostat and BeeBryte, Plug will aim to learn behaviours and optimise accordingly. For instance, Plug may opt to charge your electric car at times of low demand that work with your routine or Plug may start warming your house an hour before you’re scheduled to arrive.
Leveraging the brilliant startup Eco Is Me, Plug can monitor your home’s appliances and provide data on consumption and faults. Taking this further, Plug uses this information to recommend the best appliances to buy against your specific usage by linking directly to retail partners and showing you the exact savings you stand to make over a period of time. That new high-tech fridge might be £200 more than what you want to spend but what if Plug could show you that over 2 years, it could save you £300 in energy bills? A no brainer investment.
AUTOMATED HOME MANAGEMENT
Plug will continuously analyse the health of appliances and mission-critical hardware such as your fridge, washing machine, heating and boiler and so on in the background. Predictive analytics techniques will allow you to be alerted when something is at imminent risk of failure or in need of servicing. Plug appreciates that breakdowns and repairs are a big source of pain for consumers so the aim is to minimise frustration by not only highlighting the specific nature of the problem but also by suggesting accredited repair specialists who charge within market rates for their services (overcoming an information asymmetry that has burned many a consumer!).
For many customers, dialling into the customer service team is the only point of ongoing contact, and unfortunately this is typically characterised by long waiting times, infuriating (and archaic!) hold music, recorded messages and being shifted from operator to operator.
Plug will leverage bot technology within the core app to handle the majority of queries. Natural Language Processing (NLP) has advanced significantly and the data we hold can instantly identify consumers and personalise the discussion.
Google’s Duplex demonstrates just how advanced AI and NLP is becoming. Should our Plug’s customer care bot face a particularly sticky situation, the bot will hand off to the ‘Plug Genius’ mentioned above.
This approach to customer care instantly makes Plug more convenient, more personal (somewhat ironically) and way ahead of the game without huge additional investment from today’s status quo.
SIMPLE WAYS IN
Plug services will be administered via a range of natural touchpoints. For instance, our Voice Assistant is a great interface to complete micro actions, such as adjusting the room temperature, asking after the current account balance or submitting a meter reading (pre-smart devices).
Our customer service chatbot will be available on the app, or via WhatsApp, the Plug website or Facebook. Alternatively, customers can choose to have a video call with a Plug Genius via the Echo Show, or Google Assistant’s Lenovo Smart Display or even ask questions via voice assistant. Plug customer service is never far away.
The app will serve as a control centre, connecting all the hardware devices into a central hub. It will display important data about usage, appliance monitoring, recommendations and much more. The important feature is that Plug touchpoints are designed to work across multiple devices. They must be so intuitive that they’re almost invisible.