Technology is changing most things in our daily lives at a searing pace and the retail power industry is no exception – as a new phone app is proving.
Globug’s app solves the old problem of assessing power usage and billing for it. Some parts of the industry still have the old system of a meter with a spinning disc which is regularly read by an inspector – but that is fast dying out.
Smart meters, which electronically measure usage, mean consumers are charged on actual consumption rather than an estimate based on past usage. The data flow provided by smart meters enabled Globug to develop its app – allowing users to monitor power usage at home and to top up their pre-pay system so they always know what they are spending.
If they see their power is getting low, they can pre-pay by debit card, credit card or internet banking – all through their smart phone app.
That, according to Luke Blincoe, general manager of Globug, fits in not only with the company’s technology drive but its accent on lower-income households – often caught out by the post-pay system if they cannot pay by the due date, triggering extra costs and sometimes starting a cycle of energy debt.
Blincoe says Globug’s pre-pay scheme is already the fastest-growing electricity retailer in New Zealand so far this year, topping the charts compiled by the New Zealand Electricity Authority for March, May and June and across the entire calendar year so far. The company now has 29,000 customers across New Zealand (up from 18,500 last year) – and is already moving on from its first customer interface, an in-home display unit indicating account balance and using coloured lights to signal when pre-paid power is running out.
The unit showed green when power is connected and the account is in surplus, orange when it is running low and red when it is about to run out. Now the app takes care of all that. Consumers can also sign up for a text or an email when their power is running low and the same information is also available on a website.
“We are seeing steep growth in people using the app on their smart phones,” says Blincoe. “It’s grown from about 3000 customers in January to about 11,000 now.
“Our customers are telling us they really value having that information at their fingertips when they want it, how they want it. It’s the modern way to work with them.”
Globug is also leading the way internationally. Even markets like Ireland – where about 40 per cent of all power is consumed on a pre-pay basis – doesn’t have an app developed like Globug’s.
“Most people think that a smart phone app would not apply to lower income groups but the plain fact is that the vast majority of our customers have smart phones. We’ve just done some research which shows this is increasingly how customers want to get their information and control their energy service – even if just to look at usage and trends over a daily, weekly or monthly period.
“So we are pretty sure that, in a fairly short time, practically all our customers will be running their power accounts over their phone – monitoring, assessing and paying for their power.”
Globug says many consumers can make savings by switching to their pre-paid system, up to as much as $300-$400 a year. That’s because Globug offers discounted prices to customers with community service cards, who pay 6.6 per cent less on average than other New Zealand consumers – but whose total savings are likely to be far greater. That’s because many power consumers pay their bills late, sparking those unwelcome extra charges.
Original post on NZ Herald