A regional energy utility wants to enable and empower homeowners to realize energy savings through simple actions and easy-to-use technology.
Key Activities Completed During this Project
- Problem framing
- In-home ethnographic research
- Two dozen research interviews with customers
- Customer journey mapping
- Concept creation and refinement
- Co-creation invention sessions with customers
- Low-fidelity prototyping of the service experience
- Service blueprinting and test planning
- Investment pitching to leadership
- Learning summit with project team and app developer
Peer Insight partnered with the Energy Optimization (EO) group of a regional energy utility to explore how to deliver capabilities to residential energy consumers to proactively manage their energy use. Looking forward, the energy provider recognized that many utilities are facing increasing challenges around managing grid capacity and the resulting enormous infrastructure expenditures (new power plants aren’t cheap). Even with locked-in customers, the utility strove to enable end-users to realize their savings potential so that the residential demand remains consistent and therefore predictable, as well as to increase customer satisfaction.
Utilities at their core sell a product—energy—so providing a service experience with a new business model would require a new mindset as well as a new methodology. The EO group came to us with this theoretical opportunity, so we went out into the world with a team of their finest design thinkers to prove whether or not there was a real job-to-be-done for energy customers, paving the way for new innovation methods and capabilities as we went.
To get at our make-or-break assumptions, Peer Insight led a joint Client + Consultant team through ethnographic research with current residential customers of different shapes and sizes. Homeowners walked us through their homes and shared the systems they use to manage them. We listened for breakdowns and workarounds and what began to emerge was a long list of pain points or shortcomings around their ability to manage their home’s energy use.
We stretched our thinking about what’s possible by leveraging analogies (e.g. what can a service like Mint.com teach us about motivational design?) and flipping the expected orthodoxies (e.g. What if homeowners could make money, not just save it?). This thinking led to the creation of a half-dozen service concept possibilities that we quickly turned into low-fidelity prototypes, with which we went back to customers to co-create, enabling rapid feedback and iteration. This let us quickly test concepts and features and hone in on a couple of high potential alternatives.
After three weeks of testing and iteration, the joint team reconvened to pull implications together for live implementation. The resulting concept was mapped into a service blueprint, and we then charted a course for a staggered test plan and application build with the development partner. The service is currently being implemented and beta tested through a partnership with an application development firm who is building a functional prototype for end users.
Notably, as the teams ramped up for the rapid development stages, we held a learning summit to review our methods, the resulting learnings, and to align our development partner in both content and process. This moved the project work from being purely an academic exercise to a foundational experience off of which they can build sustainable innovation capabilities.