Posted 12.15.15 by Danny Molvik, Consultant
3 Strategies to make your utility website more user-centric
Customers are increasingly reliant on the web as their first source for gathering information on products and services. According to a report from Fleishman-Hillard (1), 89% of consumers use search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) to find information before making purchase decisions. Because of the growing reliance on websites as a communication tool, it is imperative that your website is both usable and searchable if you hope to effectively serve your customers. According to J.D. Power & Associates, engaged customers are more likely to prefer self-service options available through a website more than calling the service product provider. (2) Through my experience conducting web usability studies with a broad range of utility customers (including contractors, businesses, and homeowners), there are three strategies utilities use to successfully gain and maintain a user-centric website:
Guide the user through the website with pictures and graphics: Images allow users and trade allies to scan web pages quickly for information or provide cues directly related to the reason for visiting your website. Users are drawn to and strongly prefer graphical links as navigation tools, which help to streamline the amount of information they have to read.
Provide clear signposting: Most users visit your website to accomplish a specific task (e.g., pay a bill, report an outage, check on incentive availability). What they want is guidance on how to accomplish this task as easily and quickly as possible. You must anticipate what users need, and provide clear headings and links that will lead them to specific and relevant information.
Know your users: You can anticipate users’ needs based on web analytics and historical communications. Provide information that addresses their common questions and directs them to more detailed sources if desired. Use language that is easily understood by your target customer group, and avoid industry jargon whenever possible.
Providing a more user-centric website will improve the quality of your customers’ online experience and increase their satisfaction with your products and services overall. Benefits from adopting these strategies often include improved website usability, reduced resource burden, increased utility program participation, and strengthened customer relationships. To achieve this, the focus of your website needs to shift from an emphasis on providing to customers information you see as valuable, to instead focusing on information that your customers desire.