Bulb is a UK energy company which aims to differentiate itself from the ‘big six’, promising customers 100% renewable energy, cheaper tariffs, and a simple on-boarding process.
Altogether, this contributes to a rather pleasing UX – something which I have recently experienced when switching from British Gas.
So, what makes it superior? Here’s five things to appreciate.
(N.B. Econsultancy subscribers can download our 2018 report, Embracing Technology and Innovation in Digital Marketing – Energy and Utilities)
Something that elevates Bulb’s UX is its focus on small but impactful design, such as the animations found on its website and in email communication.
Usually, these animations highlight a specific action (to be completed by either the brand or customer). For example, the above ‘magic key’ to access the Bulb mobile app (i.e. a link sent in an email), or a bicycle to illustrate switching in progress.
At other times, they can be a bit more off-the-wall, such as the below animation which – from what I can gather – either depicts Morris dancers, or guys in funny hats sword-fighting. Let’s go with the former.
Both quirky and fun, the animations – which always align to the company’s pink and blue colour palette – have helped to create Bulb’s distinctive branding.
Another reason they work so well is because they inject a bit of interest into what would otherwise be fairly dull and standard brand communication.
Not many people want to read an email informing them about a bill, but with Bulb’s animations – somehow it doesn’t feel quite so bad.
Slick (even fun!) sign-up
Switching energy suppliers used to be a (perceived) pain, with consumers believing that it must involve heavy research, and confusing and lengthy processes.
However, 2017 was something of a turning point, seeing a record 5.5 million UK customers switching in a single year.
The reason for this might simply be the realisation that switching isn’t as difficult as it once seemed – but it’s also likely to be due to a number of new companies offering super-fast services. Bulb is one of these companies, promising new customers a switch in just two minutes.
It’s clear from the website that speed and ease is a big focus, with Bulb also stating that it can offer a quote in just 30 seconds. One negative point to note here is Bulb’s lack of privacy notice detailing how it processes personal data. While it does include one on the next page, GDPR now means that postcodes come under this umbrella.
Privacy aside, the process is made enjoyable with cute and expressive animations to highlight each stage.
Along with a quote, Bulb gives users the ability to compare its prices with current suppliers and other competitors. This is particularly handy as it provides reassurance in moments when doubt is most likely to creep in.
Reassurance is something that Bulb does a lot. It often repeats the benefits of its service, constantly reminding users of perks like ‘we’ll pay your exit fees’ and ‘UK based support team’ to push them down the funnel.
The switch itself involves filling in an online form, which requires some basic personal information and payment details. There’s no fuss, and everything is clearly explained (and nicely animated) throughout. And yes, it also takes just a few minutes.
Clever copy & clear communication
Alongside animation, Bulb enhances its UX with clever copywriting.
On its website, it uses a personable tone of voice to highlight its commitment to sustainability and good customer service. By using the first-person and colloquial words like ‘chuffed’, it sounds friendly, and far more accessible than the Big Six.
Meanwhile, account information is also clearly conveyed for customers, with a graph effectively highlighting energy usage each month.
While on-site communication is decent, email is where it really excels.
I was particularly surprised at how many emails I received throughout and just after the switching process. Not in a bad way either. A lot of emails were purely for reassurance, reminding me that everything was in hand, and informing me what to expect next.
When it comes to transparency, this level of communication is invaluable.
Once I was fully switched to Bulb and set up with monthly payments, email frequency dropped, however communication is still regular, informative, and friendly.
Help and community
Another part of Bulb that I have found hugely helpful is its online customer service. On its website, an extensive help section sufficiently outlines most common queries. With questions categorised by things like ‘emergency’ or ‘moving home’ – it’s really easy to navigate.
The search bar is also highly responsive, returning a list of relevant suggestions instantly.
From my own experience, the live chat service is also good, with employees typically replying to questions within just a few seconds.
The personal icons also help to break down the barriers between brand and consumer, indicating that you’re talking to a real person and not a bot.
Meanwhile, Bulb also has a ‘community’ section, whereby customers can raise topics and discuss any issues with others. This is another way Bulb is transparent, as it means customer issues are not hidden – the opposite in fact. It also allows the company to listen to opinion, promoting its customer-centric approach.
This section is nicely categorised, too, with dedicated sections for actionable help or Bulb’s wider ethos.
The ‘everything but Bulb’ section even encourages users to ‘shoot the breeze, chat with friends, and have a good time’. Not something you’d usually expect to hear from an energy provider, really…
Another example of Bulb’s customer-centric approach is its ‘refer a friend’ policy, which gives £50 to you and the person you convince to switch when they complete.
I also got £50 free credit when I signed up, despite not doing so through the referral policy. A nice touch.
Functional mobile app
Bulb’s mobile app has come in for some mild criticism in the past, specifically for things like frustrating navigation and difficulty in submitting readings. This has led to it having a surprisingly poor rating on the app store, which feels a little at odds with its otherwise largely postiive customer feedback.
However, Bulb has since worked to fix these issues and further improve the app – which in itself is an example of the company’s dedication to UX.
From my own experience, the mobile app is straight-forward and easy to use.
One feature I particularly like is the ability to use a photo to provide a meter reading (rather than manually) – it’s quicker and feels far less fussy.
Similarly, I also appreciate the app’s categorisation of past payments, providing an instant snapshot of how much you are spending on energy each month.
The app could still be improved, of course. It would be handy to have FAQs or some kind of help section within the app itself (rather than being redirected to the site).
All in all, however, any existing criticism is perhaps more of a reflection of the brand’s overarching high standards – which has certainly raised the bar for both new and high-profile competitors in the energy sector.