Insights from the Energy industry — Q&A with Bobby Chucas, Product Manager OVO
Energy is a fast-moving industry with changing consumer expectations and intense competition. So in a crowded landscape of energy suppliers how can your brand outshine the competition and enhance the customer experience? According to OVO Energy Product Manager Bobby Chucas, it might be simple as your website UX.
When it comes to UX, how do you think the energy industry compares to other industries like retail?
There’s been a noticeable shift over the past few years to focus on agile ways of working, testing, optimisation etc., reflecting a similar change that occurred across other industries such as retail, travel, and gaming.
There’s also been a number of newer entrants who have been able to gain traction in the market based somewhat on the simplicity and quality of their UX. The difficulty here is that there’s a serious amount going on behind the scenes in an energy company, and many of these newer entrants are unable to provide basic operational services, such as installing smart meters, so there’s more to the UX equation than just digital channels. OVO’s in something of a sweet spot as we have strong operational capability behind us, while also being customer focused in our development approach.
The energy industry has grown from the big six providers to over sixty in the past decade, and as in any closely contested industry, UX will continue to be a significant differentiator for companies that prioritise it appropriately.
Would you say today’s customers are more engaged with their energy supplier than in previous years?
We see more than ¾ of our customers checking their account online, and that ability to give customers instant access and data is important to keep them engaged with their energy usage, and ultimately their energy supplier.
Energy is more than simply turning the lights off and on. As more people start using more energy, the way they interact with their energy supplier and suite of new services is crucial to engaging with the customer of the future. There are a range of processes and interactions that users undertake with their energy company which makes the overall value proposition more than just their unit rates, and as providers get more effective at conveying this value, they will be rewarded with increasingly loyal, engaged, and satisfied customers.
How have digital channels changed the way customers interact with their supplier?
Many people might not want to always ring up a call centre if they need to manage their account, and the primary focus of our digital channels is to allow users to do everything they need to do quickly and easily. This covers things like submitting meter readings, booking smart meter installations, renewing tariffs – things that were pretty onerous in the past.
In an ideal world, any interaction with your energy supplier should be quick and easy. That isn’t really possible without appropriate digital channels, and by listening to and understanding our users’ needs around available functionality, user interfaces, and support content, we can incrementally iron out any obstacles and hopefully leave our users happier.
What can energy companies do to ensure their online interfaces cater to customer needs?
First things first, you’ve got to know what the customer needs are! For us, that comes from a few different areas: the explicit feedback customers provide over the phone (as well observing the common topics that customers call up about), and the in-app feedback alongside behavioural data that shows how users are engaging with our interfaces.
Secondly, you’ve got to listen to those needs. If you’re able to capture that data and access it appropriately, then you’ll be able to fairly represent the needs and frustrations of your users. Segmentation is hugely important here: the breadth and quality of data you are able to leverage about your users will define how well you can cater to more specific groups, which is often more powerful than one-size-fits-all optimisation.
Thirdly, you’ve got to try to meet those needs. By clearly understanding which needle you’re trying to move and what the goal is, you’ll be able to articulate success much more credibly – particularly to stakeholders who don’t necessarily agree with an idea.
Lastly, you’ve got to make sure you’ve met the needs. Obviously A/B testing is the ideal way to do this, but there will be situations where this isn’t really feasible. For example, if we notice that the bounce rate on a certain page is high for mobile devices, and hypothesise that this is down to page speed, that’s pretty difficult to A/B test. But, there should always be a relevant metric that you can observe and understand, while being aware of the impact of seasonality, volume, external campaigns etc.
Once you feel those needs are met, rinse and repeat!