92% of US utilities engage customers through mobile sites – report

In 2014, the percentage of large US utilities offering their customers a mobile channel was 72%, which has risen to 92% in 2016.

However, utilities’ websites design and functionality challenges as well as the customer’s inability to find content on the websites is still restricting full realisation of the technology’s benefits.

This is according to a survey ‘2016 Utility Website Evaluation Study (UWES)’ released last week by global marketing information provider J.D. Power and Associates.

The study is the company’s fifth edition and is based on analysis of 12 functionalities of utilities’ websites including setting up of an online account, account log in, viewing of consumption history, researching of energy saving information, reporting of outages,profile maintenance and location of gas leak information.

Utilities’ websites enhancements

In putting the report togther, 65 gas and electric utilities, and 15,100 consumers participated in the study carried out in the last quarter of 2015 through to mid-January, 2016.

Andrew Heath, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power commented: “Many utilities have deployed responsive design technology on their mobile websites to deliver content that automatically fits on the various screen sizes of mobile devices.”

Website simplicity

Of the utilities in the study, 59 have switched to mobile solutions whilst customer satisfaction of the mobile websites has increased from 405 points out of 500 points in 2014 to 409 in 2016.

[quote]”However, it’s not enough to just implement responsive design without also designing the website content customers will ultimately experience on their mobile device,” added Heath.

Amongst the 5,636 residential customers who provided feedback on interoperability between the website and their mobile phones, 16% indicated that the information was not accessible or froze whilst 12% indicated that the information was not provided on electric utility sites and 18% also said the same about natural gas mobile sites or apps.

Some of the key findings of the report include

  • AEP, Alabama Power and First Energy’s websites being the best in usage simplicity amongst websites of utilities which participated in the report.
  • Utilities’ Websites are mainly used for emergency information including reporting of outages, viewing of current outage information or consumers’ finding of details of a gas leak.
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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.