Study shows utilities lag in digital experience, but standouts are emerging


According to the J.D. Power 2018 Utility Digital Experience Study, utilities are among the lowest-performing industry groups when it comes to delivering distinct digital customer experiences, but some pioneers have found the secret to digital success.

Key findings of the study include:

Utilities among lowest-performing industries in digital: When benchmarked against other consumer-facing industries, utilities deliver the worst digital experiences. According to the Centric Digital DIMENSIONSTM Score, which evaluates digital proficiency, the utility industry scores 571 on a 1,000-point scale. The retail sector, by contrast, scores 771.

Standouts are emerging: Though overall utility industry performance is weak, there is a wide range of performance, with some providers achieving digital customer satisfaction scores that are in line with top performers in other industries. The highest-ranked utility in the study, Alabama Power, has a J.D. Power customer satisfaction score of 879, which is a significant 40 points higher than industry average.

More information in a streamlined format: Top-performing digital utility platforms, whether delivered via desktop or mobile, all display a great deal of information, including usage, account information and payment information, in a streamlined format. The ability to clearly and easily view usage information is the top driver of a positive website/app experience, associated with a 43-point improvement in overall customer satisfaction when delivered.

Cross-channel communication remains a challenge: One component of the overall digital experience that utility brands struggle with the most is cross-channel communication. Utilities score 345 in the Centric Digital DIMENSIONSTM Score due to major gaps in social media, email, messaging and customer service capabilities.

The 2018 Utility Digital Experience Study is based on evaluations from 16,341 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 December 2017-January 2018.

The inaugural study evaluates customer perceptions of the websites, mobile apps, social, chat, email and text functions of the 67 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities in the United States.

It is the first-ever J.D. Power customer satisfaction study to incorporate biometric analyses (which tracks eye movements, facial emotions and voice tone), video verbatim interviews and detailed surveying to extract real-world customer perceptions.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Centric Digital, a leader in measuring and navigating digital transformations. Centric Digital is contributing an expert assessment to the study, including industry benchmarking, digital experience analysis and cross-industry insights.

“Consumers have grown accustomed to receiving up-to-the-minute alerts on the status of at-home deliveries and being able to make checking account deposits with the cameras on their phones, but interacting with their utilities—whether to check usage, pay a bill or report an outage—often seems like a step back into the dark ages of technology,” said Andrew Heath, senior director of the Utilities Practice at J.D. Power.

“Utilities know this is a problem, and many have put in place initiatives to address it. But, until now, there hasn’t been a reliable playbook for what works. By probing deeper than ever before into real-world customer interactions with their utility’s digital platform, we’ve been able to spotlight best practices.”

View the utility ranking chart here.