Puget Sound Energy: The value of a holistic optimization program
Puget Sound Energy has served the region’s energy needs for more than 135 years. Like many utilities they needed to extend their expertise in customer service to the digital customer experience, PSE approached PK to improve the self-service capabilities of their website and lower the volume of calls to their customer service center. They were looking to significantly improve the performance of their site without making any changes to the established design and development frameworks. Reviewing the existing experience we quickly realized that the main challenge to overcome was user perception. Customers didn’t seem to believe that the web experience would provide the same level of service as a live person. It was up to PK to help build that trust in the Puget Sound Energy web presence.
It’s moments like these where having a holistic method of connecting the business goals with the needs of the customer can get you much further than ad-hoc A/B testing. We executed a rapid research program to identify how users interact with Puget Sound Energy, both on and offline. Organizations often have a lot of useful data at hand but struggle to see the full picture. By integrating user surveys, usability tests, CSAT, and A/B testing data we are able to understand the full context of the user experience and identify points of friction and opportunities.
- Up-leveling existing content
- Create new content to fill identified gaps
- Simplify and streamline contact options
Analysis of the web analytics data and call center data helped us determine where to focus optimization efforts, and where customers seem to have the most confusion. Customer input and interviews with the Customer Service team validated our data and provided context to create our hypotheses. Researchers and user experiences designers then used the research findings to create personas and scenarios the website would need to support. The optimization strategy was then aligned specific pinpoints that were discovered in the customer journey.
PK believed that if existing content were up-leveled to be more contextually relevant and placed on pages where users encounter the most questions, users would have fewer areas of confusion, and be more empowered to find answers on the website. To test this hypothesis the PK content and copy team clarified the language and messaging and ensured the proper supporting materials are available at critical touchpoints.
User research showed that users that had questions around billing were unable to find the content they needed. Basic content could address these questions without having to be specific to their accounts and could prevent their need to call. Answering common questions is a win-win that often gets missed with sites that aren’t built around the customer and content.
Our research indicated that there were many questions that users would have preferred to ask through the online Customer Service form, but they did not find the form before finding the phone number. Customers indicated that for lower urgency questions, they would prefer to submit an information request online over calling.
PK also learned from the customer service agents that there is a wide range in response times to the forms, however, and that in some cases, the form generates follow-up calls from customers with time-sensitive questions. We up-leveled access to the form, placed it more prominently on the contact page and clearly labeled what types of issues the form to lower the number of calls from people expecting an immediate reply to an urgent question.
These hypotheses were validated by a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis after the designs were pushed live. By keeping customer needs at the center of all our recommendations, PK was able to exceed expectations and deliver results with real impact for the PSE business.
- 22% fewer people called customer service to start, stop or move their service in the first month after changes went live.
- 12% more users were getting answers from the website that were calling for support each week.
- 42% more users said they would use the website for support in the future.
Making a big difference to your bottom line, as well as for customer satisfaction, doesn’t always require a huge investment in infrastructure, design, or revamping business processes. Sometimes having a clear, concise problem statement like lowering call-center volume is all you need to start down the path to increasing customer satisfaction while reducing the load on customer service.