Portland General Electric is one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the Pacific Northwest, supplying electricity to 800,000 customers in Oregon, spanning over 4,000 miles and 52 cities, including the Portland metropolitan region.
Like other utility companies, PGE faces a changing marketplace where an energy provider’s digital customer experience can make a significant impact on business success. Industry research shows that customers who engage via digital channels are not only more satisfied but also more valuable to the business.
To tap into that value, utility companies like PGE must build loyal relationships by making customers feel valued in every interaction. As a publicly regulated utility, PGE may not have to compete for their customers’ business, but they do need to deliver the same ease and convenience their customers have come to expect from other digital customer experiences.
Customers need quick, convenient access to information
PGE’s customers rely on the company’s website to do everything from checking account balances and paying bills to reporting or checking on a power outage. And they expect to do so easily, on a variety of devices. As one customer said, “I don’t have the time to spend hours looking into something—I need PGE to help me quickly.”
But the old PGE website had become hard to navigate over the years, heavy with outdated content, and difficult for users to access on mobile devices. The home page was a catch-all for information and links, where customers struggled to find the information they needed.
As it happens, giving customers a mobile-friendly, responsive web experience also supports PGE’s critical business goals:
- Encourage, promote and optimize self-service transactions.
- Deliver high-value information to customers in their preferred channels.
- Easily enroll customers in programs and services, including online registration, paperless billing, AutoPay and Equal Pay.
PGE partnered with Connective DX to not only improve ease of use for customers but also establish PGE as a trusted energy partner, guided by a new vision for the digital experience:
Through its design, content, and interactions PortlandGeneral.com will put energy use into a meaningful context for its customers.
Together, our teams worked to improve the user experience, rebuild the website into a versatile, responsive design, and replatform onto a new content management system (CMS) that the business could more easily maintain.
In working with PGE to craft the vision for their digital experience, we kept customers front and center and identified three key emotional outcomes:
- Confidence: Customers feel certain in their ability to easily and securely manage their energy needs and bills.
- Control: Customers are given enough information and tools so they feel they can assert control over their energy consumption and account.
- Connection: Customers believe PGE is a trusted energy partner that is invested in knowing and understanding them as well as protecting our shared environment.
To support these customer outcomes, PGE needed to completely rethink the content and user experience on the site’s public-facing and secure web pages (those requiring authentication by users to log in, pay bills, etc.). They also needed to adhere to WCAG 2.0 standards for improved accessibility for users with disabilities, including sight impairment.
Agile, collaborative approach. Through an iterative process that aligned with PGE’s agile development schedule, we helped the web and corporate communications teams streamline the site organization, navigation and content, eliminating outdated features along the way.
Flexible, reusable content. The teams also optimized the site’s content for the new Sitecore CMS, building components of reusable content that PGE could deploy anywhere on the site as needed. This makes it easy to update content for seasonal needs or immediately communicate urgent news like power outages.
Customer research. We also tested potential features and functionality with customers, whose input helped PGE make data-driven design decisions.
We shaped the new home page to meet customer goals—and enhance the customer relationship—through every entry point.
- Self-service functions, such as online registration and paperless billing, are now easy to access and use on any device.
- Customer information, tools and information about PGE’s programs and services are available 24/7.
- Sight-impaired users have access to text equivalents that render across devices, and documents work with screen reader technology.
- Secure functions, as well as the rest of the content, work seamlessly on any customer device.
The new PGE site, which launched in December 2015—smoothly and with virtually no down time—meets all accessibility requirements and is easy to use on any device. It enables fast transactions and form submissions, so customers can pay their bills quickly and feel satisfied. The new site also puts energy into relevant context for customers by surfacing content unrelated to billing and accounts, including energy savings, sustainability reports, fish counts, electric vehicle information and more.
Customer response to the site in its first few months has been enthusiastic.
“Love the new PGE website! For older eyes like mine it’s easy to see and navigate! And paying my bill through Bill Matrix is a snap: click, click, go!”
“Elegant and easy to navigate.”
“Less steps, easy to read, efficient. Thank you!”
“This site is functional, direct and easy to use.”
A better experience for PGE customers starts with the new website design, but it doesn’t end there. We now have a powerful technology and content foundation, as well as a measurement and optimization strategy, that will support personalization and individualized content experiences in the future.
For a behind-the-scenes look at PGE’s successful site launch, watch our webinar with PGE Customer Digital Channels Program Manager Corey Taylor: Powering Up a Customer-Centric Digital Experience.
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