Utility Week

Utility Week 6th December

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 27 of 31

Customers In brief Affordability agenda Consumer groups react to PR14 and Eco developments It's been a big week for consumer representatives, with water companies setting out their PR14 business plans and the government unveiling a £50 cut to energy bills as a result of a "streamlining" of the Energy Company Obligation (Eco). Tony Smith, chief executive, Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) "This is a good start and we now need Ofwat as economic regulator to scrutinise companies' costs to ensure that all customers are getting the best possible deal and that future water company profits will not be excessive." Adam Scorer, director, Consumer Futures "While any price reduction, however minimal, is good for consumers, this one has come at a cost. Consumers need long-term solutions to energy affordability. The most sustainable way to do that is through the provision of energy efficiency measures." Richard Lloyd, executive director, Which? "It's about time the government started getting the cost of energy under control and this will be a welcome step in the right direction for consumers who are struggling with the increased cost of living." Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy, uSwitch.com "It's important that consumers understand that even if this reduction is passed on in full, their bills will still be higher than they were previously – the reduction won't be enough to wipe out recent price hikes." 28 | 6th - 12th December 2013 | UTILITY WEEK Market view Stay true to form Making customers fill in unnecessary or tedious forms can drive them away – and into the arms of competitors, says Tom New. A company's website is often the first and most regular point of contact for potential and existing customers. It is a vital tool in any company's marketing suite – whether for developing new business or maintaining customer loyalty – and this is as relevant for utility companies as it is for fashion brands or supermarkets. It is therefore paramount that utility companies, like all businesses with an online presence, pay attention to their customers' behaviour and ensure that their website matches the requirements of their visitors. Failing to address the questions of visitors will drive them away – potentially in their thousands. Your website has to cater to both potential and existing customers. Google Analytics has long been a great source of information on visitor behaviour, and there are many tools that can give detailed information about mouse movement, how far users scroll and what they do on each page of your site. But it neglects one of the most important parts of the customer journey – the online form. Forms feature in many interactions between customers and utility companies. If your website gives the ability to get an online quote or register to pay bills online, forms will be the key touching point with your website visitors. Forms are, sadly, an afterthought when it comes to the online design process. The data we have tracked at Formisimo, from over 14 million form interactions, reflects this. Only one in five people who start filling out a form go on to complete it. Think about the number of completed forms you receive – then times it by five. That's your potential customer base, which is why it is so important to do everything you can to try and convert these lukewarm leads into buying customers. Visitors who start to fill out a form have a goal in mind and something has overpowered that goal and caused them to leave – possibly to a competitor. When thinking specifically about new customers, companies need to consider the benefits that person would gain by choosing you as a supplier. As many utility companies have discovered, one key way to generate leads and attract customers is by giving them an online quote. However, not all are getting it right. One power company, for instance, insists that customers hand over a home telephone number and also consent to being contacted by email, phone and text before receiving the quote or entering any of their energy consumption details. For time-poor customers, this is a high price to pay to receive a quote and is likely is put off many visitors. Asking for this information at the end of the process ensures that someone is already further through, making them more invested in the process and less likely to give up. As any customer service manual will tell you, it is as important to look after your existing customers as your potential ones. Most utility companies require that a user register before they can manage their account online – something that consumers expect to be able to do. One company asks for the following security information in order to register (not including account number and name): username; confirm username; date of birth; memorable date; memorable date hint; password; and confirm password Security is important, but this is excessive. Customers may be put off just looking at the size of the form. Instead, this company could break up the process of registration, by asking only for name, account number, email and password, and ask for additional security information when the user logs in for the first time. By this point, the buy-in from the customer is already there. Customers want ease and simplicity. If something like changing an address is a lengthy and difficult process, they will likely look at getting a new supplier for when they move homes. Excessively long forms and online processes is a sure-fire way to lose customers online. Tom New, marketing director, Formisimo

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