Utility firms improve online experience

Utility firms have improved their websites this year and firms such as Southern Water and EDF have made significantly improvements in customer usability.

Utility firms have improved their websites this year and firms such as Southern Water and EDF have made significantly improvements in customer usability.

According to the 2008 Utility Website Usability Report produced by consultancy Webcredible, 15 out of 17 firms have moved from having "desperately low" usability scores in 2007 to registering "more respectable" ones in 2008.

The firm evaluates 20 best practice guidelines and gives each firm a score between zero and five.

The average score last year was 47.7. This year's average was 58.7.

Southern Water had the highest score this year with 76, and a percentage increase of 22% over 2007's score.

Webcredible said website usability is important because utility firms can make massive cost savings if they interact with customers online. Energy companies in particular should focus on creating a good online experience because customers are free to switch to alternative suppliers.

"The online channel is a potential gold mine for utilities if they can get their customers onto their websites to carry out account activities such as switching tariffs, providing meter readings and even transferring from other providers," said Ismail Ismail, director at Webcredible.

"There are still far too many utilities not placing enough importance on their website usability which will no doubt lead to sustained or increased call centre volumes as customers are reluctant to use websites where they cannot easily complete the tasks they need," he said.

Energy suppliers (mark out of 100, and percentage change from 2007)

EDF Energy 76 +22

npower 75 +13

British Gas 64 +11

Scottish & Southern Energy 61 +26

Scottish Power 57 +9

E.ON 54 -16*

* E.ON was measured against last year's score for Powergen, now incorporated into E.ON

Water suppliers

Southern Water 77 +26

United Utilities 65 +12

Thames Water 64 +26

Severn Trent Water 61 +8

Northumbrian Water 57 +7

Anglian Water 56 +4

Wessex Water 55 +14

Yorkshire Water 52 +14

Southwest Water 51 +1

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water 41 -8

Scottish Water 32 +14

Source Webcredible

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