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New study highlights the utility industry’s slow adoption of mobile apps and asks, ‘Why?’

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 806 items added with 408,807 views
  • Mar 14, 2022

It seems like much of the conversation around the utility industry has been about innovation and rapid change. We are reaching toward a new era in the energy industry, one that is greener, more sustainable and modern. Yet when it comes to one of the most fundamental shifts we’ve seen across industries since the 2010s, utilities are lagging. 

According to a JD Power study published last month, one-third of the large utilities still do not have an app. Although that confirms a majority have adapted, utilities that have failed to prioritize the user app experience. Over the last year, according to the JD Power study, most other industries have improved their customer satisfaction and digital experience of their app, while the utility sector’s graded app user experience has dropped four points over the last year.  

That utilities have had such a difficult time keeping up in the app world is all the more mesmerizing when the digital app experience ranks higher for utilities than website and telephone interactions. According to the study, “overall customer satisfaction with the utility customer care channel is 843 (on a 1,000-point scale) for mobile apps vs. 817 for the utility website and 782 for phone-based interactions.” 

Jon Sundberg, senior digital manager at JD Power, said the utility sector’s dinosaur nature in the digital apps is “inexcusable.” 

“Consumers are controlling virtually every other aspect of their lives via smartphones,” Sundberg said in a release about the study. “Utilities have been among the slowest adopters of digital customer engagement technology, based on all the industries we track at J.D. Power, and that is showing up in the form of sinking customer satisfaction scores.”

The study is not entirely critical though. The takeaway is that the utilities that do have an app and invest in their digital technology are outperforming the industry in customer satisfaction and user experience. There is rapid change occurring in the utility sector, but the migration from website to digital app should not take the back seat. When it comes to digital apps, I think we can safely say now, after 12 years of rapid app and user experience development, that apps are a matter of when not if. It would serve utilities well to assign some resources to this sooner rather than later. 

Does your utility have an app? Do they invest in the user experience or has it taken the back seat? I would love to hear some real world examples from our digital utility community. 

Paul Gwaltney's picture
Paul Gwaltney on Mar 27, 2022

Good article and it certainly represents my own experience as a customer of banks, utilities, and other services.  I prefer mobile apps for virtually all of my interactions with companies.  But, our gas utility is lagging.  As a former PMO director for that gas utility, we frequently ran into prioritization issues with innovations across several towers--a pipe expansion was competing for the same dollars as a mobile application and the software solutions frequently lost the battle.   Companies that have switched to a product-based budgeting, I believe, can see more rapid adoption of technologies that may improve customer service.  Would be curious to see what other companies have encountered.

Christopher Neely's picture
Thank Christopher for the Post!
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