mapodile/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Utility Digital Strategies Not Keeping Pace with Customer Expectations and Behaviors

Feb. 26, 2024
Customer satisfaction with utility websites and mobile apps significantly lags that of other industries.

Websites and mobile apps are the first places most customers turn when they want self-service, have questions or experience a problem with a product or service, and in many service industries—including wealth management, property and casualty insurance and retirement plans—they find what they need. However, this is not the case with America’s electric, natural gas and water utilities. According to the J.D. Power 2024 U.S. Utility Digital Experience Study released last week, customer satisfaction with utility websites and mobile apps significantly lags that of other industries, and utilities do not appear to be doing enough to counter the trend.

Now in its seventh year, the study has been redesigned for 2024. It assesses how customers interact with the utility websites and mobile apps offered by the 44 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities in the United States.

“Digital is the first stop for utility customers when they experience a problem or need more information related to billing or special programs, but more often than not, their digital inquiries are leading to dead ends and phone calls to customer service,” said Jon Sundberg, director of digital solutions at J.D. Power. “At a time when many industries are focused on developing consumer websites and apps that are updated in near real-time, the static, reactive approach to digital being taken by utilities is falling far short of current customer expectations.”

Following are some key findings of the 2024 study:

  • Missing the mark on customer expectations: Overall customer satisfaction with the utility digital experience is 594 (on a 1,000-point scale). That compares with an average satisfaction score of 718 for wealth management apps and websites; 702 for the property and casualty insurance industry; and 685 for retirement plans.
  • Mobile apps show promise, but many utilities don’t offer them: Among digital channels evaluated, utility mobile apps consistently have the highest level of customer satisfaction, scoring 60 points higher than mobile websites and 38 points higher than websites accessed via desktop. Despite the better overall user experience offered by mobile apps, 27% of utilities evaluated in the study do not currently offer one.
  • Surging usage: The percentages of utility customers using websites (35%) and mobile apps (17%) as a primary contact channel for their electric, natural gas and water utilities have grown steadily during the past seven years, up from 15% and 5%, respectively. This suggests that utility efforts to enhance their digital offerings are becoming more recognized by customers.
  • Missed opportunity to drive customer engagement: Slightly more than half (54%) of utility customers say they have received personalized information regarding their energy and/or water consumption, despite 49%, indicating that they would find such information helpful.

The 2024 U.S. Utility Digital Experience Study is based on evaluations from 11,619 customers of the 44 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities in the United States. To be included in the study, utilities must serve 1,000,000 or more residential customers. The study was fielded from November 2023 through January 2024.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!