User experience is key to leveraging mobile apps for outage communications          

By Russ Henderson, Senior Research Manager –

As customer service becomes more mobile-driven across industries, utilities increasingly see mobile apps as vital to the customer experience, including the outage experience.

While mobile apps are a desirable channel for consumers – and are highly satisfying when they’re used for outage communications – they are also relatively little-known and seldom-used in comparison to legacy channels such as customer service representatives or the IVR. This is due in part to low customer awareness of mobile apps, indicating the need for more effective marketing efforts.

However, marketing only gets customers to download the app. It’s the user experience that makes them keep it and use it. My latest report  (available to Insight Center members only) uses benchmarks from consumer and industry surveys as well as interviews with industry experts to explore best practices for getting customers to download your utility’s mobile app and make them want to keep using it. 

Among the key takeaways of the report are:

  • Mobile apps satisfy customers, but awareness and usage are relatively low. When service outages take place, customers tend to seek outage information via IVR or CSR. Yet, customers who use, or are simply aware of, their utility’s mobile app tend to be more satisfied with their utility. A reason for this disparity is that few customers are aware their utility offers an app. 
  • Marketing is key to participation, and user experience is key to engagement. This report shares many tactical methods for both getting customers to download your app – including methods for obtaining and retaining high scores on app stores as well as crowd-pleasing UX design.
  • Utilities foresee a strong focus on mobile apps. Utility industry professionals surveyed by Chartwell named mobile-app and text-based customer service as the most important developments over the next five years.  
  • Many utilities now offer an app, and additional utilities are likely to launch apps. While relatively few customers are aware that their utility offers a mobile app, most of the largest utilities in the U.S. and Canada now offer mobile apps, and the number is rising.