Utilities struggle to deliver customer service via mobile websites

While the number of utilities deploying a mobile-enabled website or app continues to increase, customers who access their utility’s website via mobile have more difficulty than those using desktop, according to a J.D. Power study.

The study, now in its fourth year, has been redesigned and now combines mobile enabled/app and desktop/laptop/tablet (desktop) into one index.

The study explores the usability of utility websites by examining 12 tasks based on the type of utility: set up an online account; account log in; view consumption history; review account information; make a payment; research energy saving information; update service; report power outages; view outages; locate contact information; perform account and profile maintenance; and locate gas leak information. Ease of use is calculated on a 500-point scale.

Of the 66 U.S. electric and natural gas utilities included in the study, 57 of them currently offer an online mobile channel for customers either through a mobile-enabled website or mobile app. However, satisfaction among customers using their utility’s mobile website/app is lower than among those using the website from a desktop (410 vs. 426, respectively). With 12 percent of electric utility residential customers using their mobile device when interacting online with their utility, the underperforming mobile sites and apps lead to lower customer service satisfaction and, ultimately, overall satisfaction.

“Unfortunately, utilities are not meeting customer expectations when it comes to the mobile experience,” said Andrew Heath, senior director at J.D. Power. “To improve self-service, utilities need to make it easy for customers to complete the 12 key online tasks. The biggest challenge for the utility industry is to provide a mobile experience that is just as effective as the desktop experience. With so many savvy mobile customers, anything less is just not good enough.”

Key Findings

Among the utility companies included in the study, AEP, OG&E and Westar Energy perform particularly well in overall ease of use of utility websites.

Among the top quartile (scores of 430-438) brands in the study, 46 percent of customers say they “definitely will” recommend the utility website and 59 percent say they “definitely will” return to the website, with those percentages dropping to 37 percent and 50 percent, respectively, among the bottom quartile (scores of 392-412) brands.

The 2015 Utility Website Evaluation Study (UWES) is based on evaluations from more than 14,500 electric and/or gas residential customers, with 5,235 of these customers providing feedback about their online experience using a mobile device. The 66 largest U.S. electric and/or gas companies are included in the study, which was fielded from December 4, 2014, through January 16, 2015.

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