Case Study

Promoting channel shift in the utilities industry

Helping create a 400% increase in online payments for Castle Water
One Housing Redesign

Sector
Role
Challenge
Utilities, Water
Lead UX Consultant - User journey mapping, user research, analytics, heat map analysis, workshop facilitation, wireframe creation
Redesign the Castle Water website to increase customer transactions online and improve self service
Methodology
For this project the research had to answer the following questions:
How can we bring an ageing website up to date to reach current customer standards?
How do we increase the number of customers using online transactions?
How do we improve the payment system to reduce stress on the finance team?

To this end the following research methods were undertaken:
  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Customer service interviews
  • Analytics review
  • User Journey mapping workshop
  • Heat mapping analysis
  • Competitor analysis
Personas
The User
After spending the day with Castle Water we had highlighted five key user types
The five user types we has to keep in mind when designing the site were:
Small business owners
Office managers
Farm owner
Head of procurement at large businesses
School leavers looking for careers


"Starting off with some discovery work, they quickly grasped what we were looking to do and developed a set of requirements and wireframes, that really hit the mark."
Example user journey map
User Journey mapping
I ended the day at Castle Water by facilitating a user journey mapping workshop. This is a great way of getting to know the key user tasks how they currently have to go about completing them.
These key tasks were:
Paying a bill
Switching water provider to Castle Water
Moving in/out of an office
Submitting a meter reading
Setting up a direct debit
We mapped out each method of completing these tasks, taking care to note down pain points and opportunities for improvement. I then digitised these to present back alongside the personas to ensure we were on the right track.
Waterplus a competitor
What was the competition doing?
There was three main competitors highlighted being:
Water 2 business
Business stream
Water plus

The main takeaways from these sites that we could look at for improving Castle Water were:
Clear highlighting of key user journeys in prominent CTAs
Focus on sustainability
Strong branding
Simple navigation
The idea we took away as being a great solution was the idea of a 'task grid' at the top of the page. This was a clever way of highlighting end of journey pages apart from the main navigation. That would be a component we would want to recreate.

Insights
'Water efficiency' is no longer just an industry slogan
Utility companies in this age can't ignore water efficiency and sustainability. Ignoring this directly impacts the ability to win business. Customers are increasingly conscious about the environmental impact of their water usage.
Both individuals and businesses are seeking a supplier which has a clear commitment to sustainability.
Castle Water felt that this important message was being lost in the old website and wanted it to be a bigger part of the brand.
'It's not just about saving money, it's about saving the planet. That message is currently lost on the website.'
There was only one page dedicated to water sustainability and it was lost deep in the IA. Since going live the page had only seen 0.19% of all traffic. We would need to change this.

Self-service is a must
Customers want as little contact with their water supplier as possible. Generally, they want to exchange information (meter reads in exchange for accurate bills) with minimal friction and without human intervention. Outside of that, contact is primarily only when things have gone wrong.
"Customers now expect prompt service regardless of whether or not their utility is open... The good news is that they don't necessarily expect to reach a customer service representative 24/7; your website operates 24/7 and your customers expect to be able to handle their business 24/7 online." - WaterSmart.com, How to get customers to stop calling customer service and start self-serving online, 2018.


Interview snippets
Lack of a 'My Account' function
The lack of this feature on the site was harming the trustworthiness of the website and increasing friction. It is now a standard for utility suppliers to have the ability to login. Users should have their own area to upload meter readings, check usage and pay their bills.

IA not suitable for the user
As I've mentioned before, I constantly see sites structured around the internal structure of the company and not the user needs. There is a lot of good content on the Castle Water website but much of it is difficult to find or not structured logically. As a result customers were struggling to complete basic tasks.
Too many navigation items increases the time spent trying to find what you're looking for. Many menu items on the old site were irrelevant to users and key pages were buried within the IA.
Heat map showing 'switching' CTA placement
Calls-to-action weren't prominent enough
Many call-to-action buttons were buried deep in pages or not prominent enough. This reduced the likelihood of a customer transacting with Castle Water.
As an example 'switching' a core business goal for the website had its main CTA 'Request a quote' so far down the page only 20% of visitors on the page were seeing it.

Recommendations
The following are the recommendations made based on the research:

#1 Simplify the IA
Reduce the clutter and make the IA more user focussed. With 10 links in the primary navigation and a quick links menu containing another 14 this was causing too much confusion and lack of focus.
We would create key task panels at the top of the homepage and a simplified navigation. I would go on to do Treejack testing on a proposed IA until Castle Water was happy with the results.


#2 Make the top tasks accessible with one click
Our research showed that there are five core user tasks. They represent 76% of all actions that users are undertaking. We would make these easily-accessible with one click from the top of the homepage.

#3 Create a sustainability hub
As mentioned in the research a key part of the ability to attract and retain customers was their commitment to sustainability. A 'hub' for this information would help Castle Water get their message across to potential and current customers.

#4 'My Account' portal
Utility customers expect the ability to log in, check bills and make payments. This would increase trust with the company and improve the user experience. It would also reduce the amount of calls to the customer service centre.

#5 Redesign the forms
The forms were very complicated and disengaging. They required users to input lots of information that isn't always easily accessible. Utilising the login functionality would mean users wouldn't have to key in information again and again as we could store this for future use.
Wireframe Examples
Conclusion
Castle Water needed a website that would better serve their business goals and users. They were struggling to get customers to make transactions online. And customers were becoming more and more frustrated with both the website experience and the customer service.
The result of this project was:
400% increase in online payments in the first week
All payments being validated.

"We have seen some great results from the site in a few short weeks since launch, including a four-fold increase in online payments, which are all fully validated."

I worked on this project whilst working at Squiz in 2019

My work
Made on
Tilda