Thursday, June 23, 2011
The State of Mobile Apps for Utility Customers
Only one utility is offering a richer customer experience integrating partial My Account transactions with Outage information and Energy Saving tips. However, even this utility gets complaints from customers using the app because they can't do something as simple - and highly important - as pay their bill.
A native application is downloaded and installed on a smartphone and therefore has to be developed specifically for that mobile operating system (like iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows, Palm, etc.)
Of the 14 smartphone applications available today, only 5 were developed in-house - the rest were outsourced to digital design agencies or third-party vendors.
While customers in general like this read-only information, which utility has deployed the Storm Center app has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. If the app can't deliver relevant and timely outage information - particularly estimated restoration times - you are encouraging your customers to UN-install the app and never use it again.
This goes to a deeper concern about making sure your mobile strategies align with your customer experience strategies (like making sure you can deliver timely and relevant outage information). More importantly is the fact that utilities are providing only one side of the outage equation - status.
Apple's iOS is by far the most popular platform for utilities today, with 12 native applications built for the iPhone and its brethern (iPad, iPod Touch, etc.), while only 2 applications have been built for Blackberry devices. (Most likely, this is because senior sponsors of these mobile initiatives are carrying utility-issued Blackberries!)
Of interest, no utilities have developed Android-based applications.
No one is leveraging the powerful on-device capabilities of geo-location. Only one app takes advantage of any advanced on-device functionality: PG&E has the ability to capture a signature from customers making a mobile payment.
Here is a breakdown of the 14 smartphone applications we found in our latest Quarterly Review:
- Green Mountain Power - Green news & info
- ConEdison - Energy Saving Tips
- ConEdison - replace bulbs w/ CFLs
- Xcel Energy - Astroids-type CFL game
STORM CENTER (all read-only)
- LGE/KU (PPL subsidiary)
- Minnesota Power (Allete subsidiary)
- Pepco (Holiday eCard)
- Toronto Hydro (TOU; Report Outage)
FEATURE-RICH: My Account Transactions & Outages