Utility Websites Improve Overall; However, One in Five Falls Behind

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Utilities Missing an Opportunity to Improve Customer Online Mobile Experience

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 19 March 2014 — Utility websites improve overall and the highest-performing websites are getting better; however, many utilities are failing to meet customer expectations for their online mobile needs, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Utility Website Evaluation StudySM (UWES) released today.

Utility website satisfaction has improved to 422 (on a 500-point scale), up 6 index points from 2013. While only two websites scored 440 or higher in 2013, 10 utilities do so this year. Notably, one in five (20%) utility websites included in the study have not improved year over year.

“One of the biggest challenges the utility industry faces is designing their websites to deliver consistently excellent experiences on multiple screen sizes, such as a desktop or laptop, tablet and smartphone,” said Andrew Heath, senior director at J.D. Power. “Customers are increasingly accessing their account information online from their desktop/laptop computer and there is a built-in expectation that they will have a similar experience with their utility’s website on any device.”

According to Heath, recent J.D. Power studies1 find that utilities lag in satisfaction with website design compared to the credit card and insurance industries in common self-service tasks. The study, now in its third year, examines the usability of utility websites by examining 12 tasks: set up an online account; account log in; view consumption history; review account information; make a payment; research energy saving information; update service; report outages; view outages; locate contact information; perform account and profile maintenance; and locate gas leak information.

The study provides utility companies with an objective assessment of the usability of their website; establishes performance benchmarks; provides improvement recommendations; and identifies best practices across the industry.

KEY FINDINGS

  • The percentage of customers visiting their utility’s website via their smartphone or tablet has more than doubled in 2014, with visits via smartphone increasing to 54 percent from 26 percent in 2013, and visits via tablet increasing to 52 percent from 24 percent year over year.
  • More than 40 percent of utilities do not have a mobile-optimized channel to access their website. While the desktop/laptop is primarily used to access account information or make a payment, mobile is important for reporting an outage or getting an outage update.
  • Customer satisfaction with their mobile website experience averages 405, while satisfaction among customers using a desktop/laptop computer to visit their utility’s website increases 6 points to 422 year over year.
  • The tasks of viewing consumption history and researching energy saving information improve the most in 2014.
  • Account log in and set up an online account are the most challenging tasks from a mobile device, compared with a desktop/laptop
  • Among the 75 utility companies included in the study AEP, Portland General Electric and Southern Company perform particularly well in overall customer satisfaction with utility websites when viewed from a desktop/laptop computer, while Duke Energy-Progress, Southern Company and FirstEnergy perform particularly well in overall satisfaction among customers when the website is viewed from a mobile device.

The 2014 Utility Website Evaluation Study (UWES) is based on evaluations from more than 13,000 electric and/or gas residential customers, with 3,057 providing feedback about their online experience using a mobile device. The 75 largest U.S. electric and/or gas companies are included in the study, which was fielded in December 5, 2013, through January 17, 2014.

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1 J.D. Power 2013 Credit Card and Insurance Website Evaluation StudiesSM

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