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Key Take Aways from FOCUS 2011 - Consumer Engagement

Two weeks back, we ran a series of live blog posts from the Itron User Conference (FOCUS 2011). While the posts(Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) highlighted the key proceedings from the event, I plan to share some key take-aways for me from the conference.

There were several interesting and insightful sessions offered thru key notes, panel discussions and presentations. Several leading Utilities shared their perspective on the AMI implementations and their Smart Grid journey including the lessons learned in the process.

786_1.jpgHere are some key take aways from the leading Utilities on their consumer outlook on AMI programs:

1. Walk before you Run: There was an unanimous agreement in multiple sessions that a phase-wise step-by-step roll out of AMI is essential for success. Trying to do too many things at the same time has not yielded results and has delayed many a roll outs. Utilities who have been careful in leveraging the technology with a lot of patience have had relatively higher degree of success in the roll outs.

2. Communicate to the Consumers: At every stage of the program, Utilities need to set expectations with consumers in the right context. It is not about the technology, it is about the process and the associated benefits.

3. Demystify the Truth: In this age of information overflow and digital lifestyle, a small group of extremely vocal cynics can create a huge level of public outcry against technologies like AMI and Smart Grid. This is already visible in several parts of the world. Utilities need to use the same channels (Websites/ Blogs/ You Tube/ Twitter/ facebook/ Other social media platforms) to demystify the truth behind these rumours. In other words, Utilities need to put their Ph.D. holders at work who believe in the technology and who can share the scientific facts with the general public in these channels.

4. Recognize the WIIFM channel: A senior executive from one of the progressive Utilities jokingly said in a panel discussion that his organization realized early on that the most popular FM channel in their territory - WIIFM. Consumers want to know "What is In It For Me (WIIFM) "!. Every consumer wants to know what value he/ she can derive out of this and the Utilities need to address this question.

5. English Please : A lot of positive discussion around AMI/ Smart Grid available in the public domain is technical and full of jargon. It is safe to assume that a large portion of  it is not intended to address concerns of the general audience. At the same time, the negative publicists use plain and simple English to spread their message. Utilities need to adopt a counter strategy to this and communicate in simple English what the AMI/ Smart Grid programs mean to an end consumer.

It was a great gathering of industry leaders and vendors. Thank you, Itron, for putting together yet another great conference.



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