May 24 2024

Transforming Utilities for the Modern Consumer

In an era where technology reigns supreme and user-centric experiences are paramount, it's critical that the utilities sector embraces transformation. Historically known for its functional yet often clunky interfaces, utilities companies are now recognising the critical importance of prioritising User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) and engraining this into their operations. Whether it's managing electricity, water, gas, or telecommunications, enhancing UX and CX can revolutionise the way these vital services are delivered and perceived. A study from Echo Managed Service found that 34% of UK consumers aim to regularly switch utilities providers. 


Understanding UX and CX 

Before delving into the significance of UX and CX in the utilities sector, let's distinguish between the two:  

  • User Experience (UX): UX focuses on how users interact with a product or service, encompassing factors like usability, accessibility, and overall satisfaction. In the context of utilities, it involves designing intuitive interfaces for billing platforms, mobile apps for monitoring usage, and customer service portals. 

  • Customer Experience (CX): CX encompasses the entire journey a customer undergoes when interacting with a company, from initial contact to post-purchase support. For utilities, CX extends beyond digital touchpoints to include customer service interactions, billing processes, outage management, and beyond. 


The importance of UX and CX in the utilities landscape 

In today's rapidly evolving utilities landscape, the seamless integration of User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) has emerged as a critical piece for enhancing service delivery, increasing customer satisfaction, and ensuring the long-term success of utilities companies through the digital landscape.  

A Salesforce report states that 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. While there are many factors to be considered, improving our customers experience is key, through elements such as enhanced accessibility, empowerment, satisfaction, loyalty and innovation. 

Enhancing Accessibility

With an estimated 7.15million disabled internet users in the UK*, it is critical that utilities companies deliver inclusive and accessible experiences to not only make it easier for customers, but also to not isolate customers. The 2019 Click Away Pound report found that 72% of people with access requirements experienced barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visited for the first time. While simplifying interfaces, reducing content on crowded pages, including but not limited to keyboard navigation and screen readers. 
Mobile apps with streamlined features provide real-time access to usage data, bill payment options, outage alerts, and energy-saving tips, enhancing convenience and accessibility for customers.  

Empowering Customer Control

Customers, throughout any online experience, want to feel empowered and in control. They want information to be as clear as possible and have access to it as quickly as possible. Transparent and user-friendly interfaces empower customers to monitor their consumption, identify inefficiencies and make informed decisions about their usage and account. Personalised dashboards and usage insights foster a sense of ownership and control, encouraging customers to adopt more sustainable practices. 

Users also want to feel the freedom to act or methods of contact – utilities companies need to make sure a user is given the right options at the right time in their journey. 

Improving Satisfaction and Loyalty 

33% of customers say that they would switch as a protest against poor service**. While this isn’t all through digital channels, seamless digital experiences and responsive customer support contribute to higher levels of satisfaction and loyalty among utility customers. Having an effective CX strategy, such as proactive communication during outages and personalised recommendations of tariffs, can build trust and strengthen the bond between utilities companies and their customers.


Driving Innovation and Differentiation 

Prioritising UX and CX drives innovation within the utilities sector, leading to the development of innovative solutions such as smart meters, IoT-enabled devices, and energy management platforms. When we consider online experience, innovation can come from how we cultivate our user journey; for example, giving users outage information as push notifications before they contact us or utilising a matrix approach to help a user self-serve before putting them through to a customer service team. 


Companies that excel in UX and CX gain a competitive edge by differentiating themselves in a crowded market, attracting and retaining customers who value exceptional service and user-friendly interfaces. 



How do we align CX and UX with a wider organisation strategy  

When we consider creating a CX and UX strategy, we need to align this with wider organisational goals and initiatives. With these in mind, we can measure success through tangible metrics – for example, CMEX score improvements within the water sector. 

Our CX strategy could focus on a number of key elements such as service delivery, customer satisfaction and digital adoption, which can be measured by looking at customer contact subjects, complaint reduction, and portal and application usage. Some of the key CX strategic aspects have been outlined below as examples:   

  1. Reliable Service Delivery: One of the primary objectives of utilities companies is to ensure the reliable delivery of essential services such as electricity, water, gas, and telecommunications. This involves maintaining infrastructure, minimising service disruptions, and responding promptly to outages or emergencies. Giving users access to this information, or even pushing it to their device based on their geo, would keep a user informed before they even know a potential issue had arisen. 

  2. Customer Satisfaction: Utilities companies aim to meet or exceed customer expectations by providing high-quality services and excellent customer support. Satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal and recommend the company to others, contributing to business growth and reputation. By understanding their needs and requirements and weaving these into our product roadmap, we can continually deliver customer satisfaction throughout ever-changing expectations. 

  3. Operational Efficiency: Utilities companies strive to optimise their operations to achieve cost savings, improve resource utilisation, and enhance overall efficiency. This may involve investing in technology, implementing process improvements that drive customer self-serve behaviour, and reducing the cost of customer experience facilities.  

  4. Innovation and Technology Adoption: To remain competitive and address evolving customer needs, utilities companies prioritise innovation and the adoption of new technologies. This may involve, for example, adopting AI as part of the CX strategy and how that could further meet customer expectations.  

  5. Community Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Utilities companies recognise the importance of engaging with the communities, serving, and demonstrating corporate social responsibility. Organisational objectives in this area may include supporting local initiatives, participating in community events, and promoting diversity and inclusion. Customers may perceive utilities companies based on their own personal experience, which isn’t always positive, so it's important that CSR information shines front and centre to show the wider organisational initiatives, as well as long-term planning and sustainability information that can inform users about the emerging trends and challenges in the industry. Informed customers are happy customers.  


Where to begin… 

Taking the first steps to CX success can often seem like a minefield; where to start, what we need, and how to prioritise. Following the five-step process below can help set any organisation up for success.  

Understanding the audience

Our customers are the nucleus of all success – so we need to understand everything about them. Outlining who they are, their needs and requirements, their barriers and pain points give a solid foundation on where to start. This information can be gained through many methods, such as internal and external focus groups, analysis of data and customer service enquiries, and further developed through platforms such as GWI and YouGov to identify where the audience ‘hang out’ online and how we can better engage with them.  

Mapping their experience

Mapping the end-to-end customer experience is key to highlighting each step, the tasks that they have to undertake, and the potential barriers to completion. This journey needs to extend beyond the digital experience to fully appreciate what we expect of our customers and where we are causing frustration. In doing this, we can also map the data we have available to us to better understand where we can offer improvements to the user experience. 


Give customers a voice 

Gathering first-hand insight, opinion and feedback is key to building relationships and trust with our customers. Customers are the ultimate stakeholders, and their input provides invaluable insights into their needs, preferences, pain points, and expectations. By actively involving customers in the digital transformation process through feedback mechanisms, surveys, user testing, and co-creation sessions, organisations can tailor their digital solutions to better meet customer needs and deliver superior experiences. Implementing a continuous feedback loop enhances transparency, builds trust, and strengthens the relationship between the organisation and its customer base. 


Roadmap to success 

Planning is the backbone of success. A project roadmap is crucial as it provides a clear direction for the organisation, aligns stakeholders, enables effective resource planning, facilitates risk management, tracks progress, and allows for flexibility and adaptability. By outlining key milestones, tasks, and dependencies, the roadmap ensures everyone understands the goals, timeline, and scope. It also helps in identifying potential risks early, allowing proactive mitigation strategies to be implemented. Additionally, the roadmap serves as a framework for tracking progress, measuring success, and adjusting plans as needed to accommodate changes in requirements or external factors. 


Continuous improvement 

Building a platform for continuous improvement allows the organisation to constantly move forward, meeting audience expectations. By embracing a culture of continuous improvement, organisations can iteratively enhance their digital offerings, refine processes, and optimise performance based on real-time feedback and data insights. By prioritising continuous improvement, organisations can stay ahead of the curve, deliver greater CX impact, and future-proof their digital transformation efforts for long-term success. 


Setting up for long-term success.  

In an increasingly digitised world, utilities companies must recognise the transformative power of redefining their customer experience - innovative, agile, and customer-centric organisations are the future. By prioritising accessibility, empowering customer control and self-serve, improving satisfaction, and driving innovation, utilities can not only meet but exceed the expectations of their customers, paving the way for a more sustainable and customer-centric future, as well as improving their overall standing within a competitive digital landscape.  

* 2019 Click Away Pound report -,Away%20Pound%20report%20in%202016. 


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