How utility companies can improve their digital user experience

How gas and electricity companies can make things easier for their customers.

With more people switching suppliers than ever before, utility companies face challenges to retain existing customers and to attract new business from rival firms.

Good user experience plays a key role here. If utility companies provide a smooth experience for their customers, and an easy switching process for new acquisitions, then they can gain an edge on their rivals in a very competitive market.

In this article we’ll look at some utility websites that make the quote and switching process as easy as possible for users.

Why buy from us?

Customers looking to switch providers are essentially buying the same product in many cases, so companies have to convey key USPs that can persuade customers.

One such USP is green energy. Customers are increasingly concerned about buying energy from renewable sources, so many sites are highlighting their green credentials.

Bulb, for example, makes this the key proposition for new customers on its homepage.

Another key selling point used is customer reviews. Energy suppliers have been criticised in the past for poor customer service, and some have better scores than others.

For those with higher satisfaction ratings, it pays to make this a selling point. Here, Octopus Energy highlights its call answer stats and 5 star review ratings, as well as its green credentials.

Ease of comparing price plans

Energy and water pricing can be a minefield for customers, and it can be hard to make sense of the different plans and how they apply to them.

Many, such as Energy Australia, present estimated prices based on typical customer spend, but it can be hard to understand why anyone would choose Basic Home from the figures presented below. Tariffs vary depending on length of contract and usage, but this could be made clearer.

Octopus Energy does a good job with its three tariffs. Customers can choose to pay more for greener energy, choose a fixed rate in return for a 12 month contract, or opt for a flexible tariff.

The presentation and text makes this clear without overcomplicating it.

Bulb goes a step further with one single tariff. This may reduce customer choice in theory, but it does at least remove one step which should help to simplify the process of obtaining a quote.

Clear calls to action

There’s a lot to communicate to prospective customers on utility websites, but it’s important to make the journey simple, and to clearly signpost the route people need to take to obtain quotes and move through the process.

Octopus takes a minimal approach on the homepage, putting the quote box and CTA front and centre. It also repeats the CTA a further six times on the page to ensure that it’s easily seen.

The pink CTA colour also contrasts well with the blue background and catches the user’s eye.

Bulb ensures that, for users that have scrolled down the page to read more, the top navigation bar, complete with CTA, comes into view the moment they begin to scroll back up the page.

The quote and application process

The look and feel of forms makes a big difference to user motivation to complete quotes, as well as the ease of completion.

Shell Energy’s forms are well designed and easy to understand and complete, with simple questions and not too many steps.

Octopus makes the quote process nice and easy, with a five step process from beginning the quote to completing checkout.

The steps are easy and simple to follow, with good use of copy around form options to explain key details to customers.

A key point here is that Octopus points customers towards an estimated quote rather than one based on usage. Question 4 defaults to the standard option so users have to switch to ‘actual usage’ to receive a quote based on their current bills.

This does prevent users becoming stuck at this stage. Unless they arrive at the site with a note of their current usage or holding their latest bill, this is a point at which the journey can be interrupted.

By allowing them to proceed with an estimated quote instead, it keeps the flow going and removes a potential obstacle.

By contrast, EDF asks users for current energy usage as the default option. This may ensure that the eventual quote is more accurate, but it does add friction to the process.

This is even more so when form fields are potentially tricky to use, as with these drop-downs to choose the tariff from their current supplier.

These are details which can be skipped. Octopus merely asks for annual electricity or gas usage, skipping the details about suppliers and plans, thereby removing a lot of effort from the quote process.

It’s also good to reassure users about the length of time quotes will take. Here, Bulb tells users it will take 2 minutes to join, and also adds text to reassure users about how easy it is to switch, and reinforcing key USPs.

In summary

Simplicity is key here when looking to maximise the number of quotes from potential customers.

The best sites have a clear and well explained value proposition, good presentation of available plans and benefits, and a clearly signposted route to the quote process.

The quote process can be as complex or as simple as sites want to make it. Some sites, by asking for details which aren’t strictly necessary to complete a quote, are adding friction which could deter customers from switching.

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