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UK energy companies are delivering such a poor customer experience that they’re potentially losing out on new customers, according to a new report from Global Reviews.

In fact the study found that just 6% of potential customers would recommend energy suppliers' websites, while 64% would actively discourage friends or colleagues from visiting.

Global Reviews analysed the websites of the so-called ‘Big Seven’ energy companies and found that on average they scored just 50% for usability. 

The highest mark achieved in the report was 53% by SSE while Scottish Power scored just 39%.

'Why buy from us?'

The report measures six stages of a customers’ online journey from the first encounter with the website to researching products and completing the application form.

The lowest scores were achieved at the ‘why buy from us’ stage, meaning that these energy firms are failing to provide enough detail on the benefits of their service over the competition.

Eon got the lowest score as it didn’t even have a ‘why choose us’ section or FAQ page.

The best was Npower which still scored badly but does offer contextual FAQs and the ability to ask a question on the homepage.

For example, after receiving a quote on Eon, the tariffs are not displayed in any order, the names of the plans don't provide much information, while for some unexplained reason you need a Tesco clubcard to sign up. 

For such a complex (and expensive) product, there needs to be FAQs on each page of the sign up process providing detailed explanation of the benefits of different tariffs, a guide to finding the most suitable tariff, details on the switching process, as well as clear contact details for customers who would like to ask a question. 

As part of the ‘why buy from us’ section brands should also provide simple information such as external awards, consumer opinions or press articles.

We’ve previously blogged about the importance of e-commerce consumer reviews and highlighted a report from Reevoo which found that 88% of consumers ‘sometimes or always’ consult a review when making a purchase, and 60% were more likely to purchase from a site that has customer reviews on.

This reassures users and makes them more likely to continue their journey.

Application process

Overall energy suppliers scored highest for the application form with an average score of 58% – although only 44% of people successfully complete the form. 

EDF has the highest application form success rate (66%), whilst Scottish Power has the lowest (16%).

The report recommends that brands provide an up front introduction to the application form detailing what will users need in terms of account numbers and personal information, how long will it take, and if they can save it to return to at a later date.

Without this users may feel reluctant to start a process and will be annoyed later if a form asks them for something they don’t know or have to hand.

Brands should include a simple comparison of their own products by laying them out in an easy to read format such as a side-by-side table where users can remove the options they are not interested in. 

This makes it much easier for consumers to find the most suitable product for them, making it more likely they will convert as they feel more confident.

Forms

Form design needs attention too. Eon's form produced so many errors that are just unnecessary, and only serve to annoy customers. These included:

  • Leaving a space in my postcode, though the format required was not made clear. 
  • Entering a password with no letters. After doing this, I'm told I need a minimum of six characters and at least one letter and one number, so why not tell users before they make this 'mistake'?
  • Entering my name without a capital letter. This is crazy:

For most consumers the decision on which power supplier they choose is probably based on price rather than website usability, but the fact that power companies are offering such a poor UX means that consumers may find it difficult to identify the cheapest tariff.

Some of these sites are making such basic errors that you wonder whether there is any consideration at all for the user experience when designing and updating their websites. It does also mean though, that, with some smart testing and a focus on UX, there is plenty of scope to increase conversion. 

FAQ image taken from photosteve101's Flickr

David Moth

Published 30 July, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

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James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

This is something that has been bugging me for a while - and it's not just energy suppliers, but other utility suppliers too.

Such large energy companies can not rely on their name alone to attract vistors, and more crucially turn these into customers. As you've perfectly demonstrated, there is very little between them so it's a bit of a missed opportunity that at least one of them isn't providing greater UX.

I get the feeling there is increasing pressure on these companies to provide more for customers. Whilst it's a pretty mundane product to sell, the public's attitudes to these companies is increasingly negative, especially with increasing prices and alleged price fixing. As you've shown, improving the clarity of information, and making forms/processes much simpler will certainly help.

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

I think the examples of bad practise are useful.

But the fact that they all score so close together, makes me wonder whether the scoring systems was not very good.

Chart 1 shows how close they were.

Hard to believe that the worst and best ones were so close to the average - my experience of utility company websites tells me otherwise! (I know it's only anecdotal evidence).

Maybe I'm too cynical, but I know how easy it is to measure the wrong stuff and believe that the numbers actually mean more than they do (there's a few Dilbert cartoons on that theme - like: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2007-05-16/ )

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

> while for some unexplained reason you need a Tesco clubcard to sign up.

Wouldn't most folk understand ClubCard - and know that whenever in the realworld supermarket they are asked for it, it doesn't matter if they don't have one, they can still checkOut?

But true enough, it would have been clearer if the page had said that explicitly.

about 4 years ago

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Geoff Paddock

This research is interesting and confirms what Sitemorse has been saying for some time – many companies spend a lot of time and effort on their websites only to lose potential customers because of errors that may not be immediately visible to their hard-working web teams.

Most major organisations have grown very large, multiple sites by now, and keeping them efficient and accurate against a background of increasing regulation and fast-moving technology can be an intricate balancing act.

Fortunately there are now automated solutions that can assist web management teams to do this by establishing priorities and monitoring in the background to ensure those priorities are constantly met.

about 4 years ago

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Tuttle

It's an awesome piece of writing for all the web users; they will take advantage from it I am sure.

about 4 years ago

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Shycon

To say that energy companies are behind on the times ( like 10 years behind ) isn't really shocking news. It's just as bad in the US ... probably worse. A lot of interfaces are from 1998

about 4 years ago

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