Utilities Lag in Offering Superior Digital Services, Says Study

A recent study by J.D. Power shows water, electric and natural gas utilities lag behind other industries in delivering a satisfying digital experience for customers

Utilities Lag in Offering Superior Digital Services, Says Study

Utilities continue to struggle to get digital right, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Utility Digital Experience Study that was released recently. There’s an improvement in overall satisfaction from last year, but although utilities still lag behind other industries when it comes to delivering a satisfying digital customer experience, there remains a path forward for them to further improve.

Now in its second year, the study assesses how customers interact with their utility based on their perceptions of the available websites and mobile apps as well as the social, email, chat and text functions of the 67 largest water, electric and natural gas utilities in the United States.

A mobile channel is necessary to be ranked in this study. Centric Digital, a leader measuring digital intelligence, collaborated on this study by contributing a Digital Intelligence Benchmark powered by its DIMENSIONS platform, that includes digital experience analysis and cross-industry insights.

“Utilities that remain digital laggards are passing up a prime opportunity to make their operations more efficient and to reduce costs,” says Jon Sundberg, senior digital manager at J.D. Power. “Customers will choose the option that resolves their problems quickly, which in many cases will be via an online site or an app. Connecting with a utility representative via phone shouldn’t be a default, but it can often become one when digital capabilities aren’t strong. That can raise costs.”

Following are some of the key findings of the 2019 study:

●    When benchmarked against other consumer-facing industries, utilities continue to offer one of the worst digital experiences, according to the Centric Digital IQ Score, which is used to benchmark digital intelligence. The utility industry scores 512 on a 1,000-point scale, a near 60-point decline from last year. The retail sector, in comparison, scores 694.

●    The industry average for overall satisfaction is 844, a five-point increase from last year (839). Driving this increase is a surge in satisfaction with apps, which increases 33 points to 873 from 840 last year. Mobile web satisfaction increases to 838 from 829, and desktop satisfaction increases to 844 from 843.

●    Apps have changed the way many companies interact with customers. Apps can provide a more tailored user experience with key functionality/design elements that increase the ease of use.

●    Usage of assisted online channels is low. However, among those customers who do use such channels, issue resolution on the first attempt averages more than 80 percent.

●    Only 29 of the 67 utilities included in the study currently offer a mobile app, and only 12 utilities redesigned their website in the past year. J.D. Power recommends utilities place more emphasis on expanding their digital offerings, then review and refine more frequently to ensure they are meeting customer expectations. Compared with other industries, utilities are updating their digital properties at a slower pace.

The 2019 Utility Digital Experience Study is based on evaluations from 15,894 customers of the 67 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities. To be included in the study, utilities must serve 540,000 or more customers. The study was fielded in November-December 2018.


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