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Why Every Utility Needs a Mobile Application

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Laura Gousha's picture
Vice President of Engagement Mindgrub

I am the Vice President of Engagement at Mindgrub Technologies, a Baltimore based technology consulting firm that provides strategic solutions for the utility industry. My expertise is in digital...

  • Member since 2020
  • 9 items added with 6,609 views
  • Feb 10, 2020 10:30 pm GMT

Utility companies and their customers’ needs are ever-evolving. In order to exceed rising customer service expectations, companies must strive to maximize the ease and effectiveness of every customer touchpoint. 

Mobile technologies offer organizations the perfect channel to directly communicate and engage with the communities they serve. 

What makes the native mobile format more effective for driving satisfaction among utility customers than direct mail, websites, email, or phone calls alone? Take a look at some of the benefits below.

1.) Personalized customer experience

Apps allow for highly relevant experiences characterized by preference management, targeted push notifications, billing program recommendations, custom reporting dashboards, and more. Personalization capabilities put the user in control, letting them choose the level of support they need and modify the experience to their needs.

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2.) Increased Customer Retention

Utility companies with mobile apps can spur positive increases in customer loyalty, which is crucial to preventing turnover. Apps boost awareness of self-service offerings, a key driver of customer satisfaction. 

According to one Bain & Company study, customer satisfaction increases by 8% on average as the customer becomes aware of self-service offerings. Satisfaction scores for the 35-64 age bracket increases even more, averaging +11%.

These improvements have real implications for the bottom line. The same study found that loyal customers are more likely to recommend their utility company, spend more, cost less to support, and have a higher lifetime value.

3.) Easier Transactions

Transaction completion rates are higher on mobile applications, increasing cash flow. With mobile pay functionality, users won’t have to reach for a credit card and can pay their bill on the spot. Making billing information readily available improves on-time payments and reduces collection costs for providers. Better still, users can set up (and monitor) auto-payment right from the app.

In short, the easier it is to pay, the more likely it is that customers will pay on time. 

4.) Reduced Call Center Volume

Decrease call volume and customer service expenditures through on-demand communication via the mobile application. In case of an outage, customers can report their power status without electricity or a landline phone connection. With real-time status updates, people can get the information they need without speaking to a representative.

Mobile Functionality

With a mobile app, you can offer your customers far more features than ever before.

Moreover, these features are proven to lead to impactful, measurable growth along several key performance indicators. 

Utility leader Exelon introduced updated mobile applications for its BGE, ComEd, and PECO operating companies in 2018, with the ultimate goal of enhancing self-service options for their customers. 

Highlighting functionality such as mobile bill pay, usage reporting, outage mapping, and smart home controls in their mobile app promotional campaigns helped Exelon’s operating companies generate the awareness needed to positively impact customer satisfaction.

Since the launch, the apps have been downloaded nearly half a million times, call center volume has decreased, and they’ve earned an average star rating 30% higher than the industry average.

How do you choose between a mobile website or native mobile app?

When it comes to creating a mobile experience for utility customers, business leaders have three options available to them: a responsive website, a dedicated mobile website, or a native mobile application.

According to JD Power Rankings, of the three primary mobile channels for customer engagement, mobile apps rate the highest among consumers with an average score of 415 points out of 500. Responsive websites rate 409 and mobile websites rate 403.

As for why this may be the case, mobile websites and mobile apps have several key differences. 

For one, mobile websites do not support features native to the device. Mobile apps, on the other hand, support features like location services for outage reporting, a camera for damage reporting, push notifications, and secure login functionality like Touch and Face ID. 

Other significant benefits that a mobile app offers include options for advanced personalization and offline accessibility. 

So, is now really the time for a mobile app?

Here are a few more figures to consider, if you’re still not convinced:

According to Chartwell, if given a choice, only 46% of utility customers would stay with their current provider. That means 54% of customers could leave if there was an opportunity to do so. 

Clearly, improving loyalty among utility customers is a vital component of a sustainable growth plan. According to a Bain & Company study, a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit. 

Most importantly, Chartwell’s 2018 Customer Satisfaction Survey reported that customers using their utility provider’s mobile app reported 15% higher measures of loyalty than those who did not. 

So if you’re still wondering if it’s time for a mobile app for your utility company, the answer is absolutely.

Laura Gousha's picture
Thank Laura for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 10, 2020

Too often it seems like big legacy organizations, like utilities, will take their website and just plaster that in an app form and call it good enough, but that obviously undersells the potential from a real intuitive and useful app. Are there any particular examples of a high functioning and customer satisfying utility app that show what's really possible? 

Laura Gousha's picture
Laura Gousha on Feb 12, 2020

Great question, Matt! There is so much value in having a mobile app that satisfies the customer's needs. Unfortunately, such intuitive, user-friendly apps are not the norm quite yet. 

A few apps that I often point to as examples of what's possible are Exelon's  app (created for BGE, ComEd, and PECO) and Con Edison's. All of which have app store ratings of 4.7 stars or higher on the Apple app store - the utility industry average of 3 stars. These apps stand out for their combination of innovative functionality and usability, which allows the user to manage their utility account with ease. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 12, 2020

Wow those do look great, screenshots remind me of banking apps (which figured out the value and execution a while ago) that I have. Looks like I may have to pester my local utility to take notes-- thanks for sharing!

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