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Experience Design How utilities can supercharge digital customer experience

Businesses today face disruption on multiple fronts, from climate change to social and demographic shifts to technological breakthroughs. For the energy industry these megatrends are particularly significant, as utility companies work to stay ahead of the changing landscape. It’s not far-fetched to expect more change in the utility industry in the next 10 years than in the last century.

That opens up a lot of new capabilities and opportunities, but also challenges. It means companies will need to assess their products and services in the context of changing demands—and also the customer experience (CX) they deliver. 

People are comparing us to their best web experiences. They want to be able to start service as easily as they can plan a trip on Travelocity.

Corey Taylor

Customer Digital Channels Program Manager Portland General Electric

The changing energy landscape set the stage for our recent webinar, Powering Up a Customer-centric Digital Experience, which focused on the work behind Portland General Electric’s new mobile-responsive web experience. Corey Taylor, PGE’s Customer Digital Channels Program Manager, joined Connective DX Director of Content Strategy Derek Phillips and Account Director Erin O’Connell to talk about how PGE is working to transform their digital channel and make it more customer-centric.

The biggest energy trend of all

Technology is dramatically changing not only how we capture and distribute energy, but also how customers choose to engage with it. Derek provided context by talking about the impact of intelligent machines and connected devices that are entering our lives and controlling our environment.

“It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of machine technology and artificial intelligence was science fiction. HAL 3000 was a figment of Stanley Kubrick’s imagination,” Derek said. “At the time, it was so far into the future that we didn’t even have to think about it. But that time is already here.”

Nest thermostat
Nest is a great example of how technology is actually controlling our environment on our behalf. (Photo: Google Store)
Solar panels and wind turbines
Solar and wind farms are making it possible to capture clean energy efficiently and at scale.
Tesla charging stations
Tesla is best known for disrupting the automotive industry with their sexy electric cars—and charging stations. Now they’ve got their eye on the residential electricity market. (Photo: Tesla)

CX means more than just keeping the lights on

All of that means customers now have higher expectations around the experience they have with technology—and with the companies they do business with. PGE customers want fast, easy access to information and services on the website, and they want to be able to do it on any device. As Corey said, “People are comparing us to their best web experiences. They want to be able to start service as easily as they can plan a trip on Travelocity.”

New Sitecore research backs this up, showing that mobile consumers are looking for better overall user experiences, more continuity, and improved customer service. In the global survey of 4,500 consumers, 76% said a positive mobile experience influences their loyalty to a brand, at least to some extent, while 39% say the influence is significant. The research also reveals that within the next three years, customers will expect businesses to do an even better job in personalizing the mobile experience, while ensuring that their personal information is secure.

How PGE is transforming digital CX

Over the last several years, PGE has implemented a lot of innovative technologies to better serve their customers, including smart meters, a new outage management system, a new customer information system, and even a new geographic information system (GIS). But their website had not kept up with what those backend systems could offer. The site functioned well and was highly rated, but it was beginning to get dated, and there were barriers to customers completing tasks on the site.

The new PGE website is designed to meet higher customer expectations and build long-term loyalty with a mobile-responsive, personalized experience.

  • Self-service transactions, 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.
  • Secure functions, as well as the rest of the content, work seamlessly on any customer device.

Customer experience starts with your customer

You can’t assume you know what the customer’s experience will be, and as Corey says, “You never get to train your customer on how to use your website.” But with customer-centric research and design, you can “train” your website to deliver what customers need. In addition to user testing, look at your web analytics to see how customers are actually interacting with your site—and optimize for that.

We may not be able to foresee all the changes the future will bring, but we do know that our digital experiences will need to be mobile, personalized and always-on. Your customers may be able to unplug and go off the grid to recharge, but you can’t. In addition to a mobile-responsive website, you might need to consider other digital platforms such as native mobile apps. 

A native mobile app brings key tasks, such as paying bills and moving or changing service, to the front. So customers can get to them quickly, without navigating through a website. Native mobile apps can also support automated customer service and integrate with features that a mobile website can’t, including: geolocation, push notifications, fingerprint authentication, digital payment systems and gamification of goals.

The new website that PGE launched in late 2015 provides not only a mobile-responsive and intuitive digital customer experience but also a strategic and technical foundation for PGE growth and innovation. To learn more about the strategy and process behind their success, watch the webinar recording or read our case study.

Webinar Recording

Power up your digital customer experience

Join Portland General Electric and Connective DX to learn how you can supercharge your organization's digital experiences to build more loyal relationships and make customers feel valued at every interaction.

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