• Utility-Customer Relationships
  • Distribution Network Operators
  • Utility Transformation
  • Energy Transformation

The Digital Experience of Customers Engaging with DNOs: Part 1

Alex Jakeman
Jun 25, 2020

Power pylon

This blog was coauthored by Marcel Volkerts and Lawrence Shaw (Sitemorse Ltd).

The energy transition changes the relationship and interactions between distribution network operators (DNOs) and their customers. DNOs face two concurrent challenges: they need to offer new services and products and they must offer them through channels they only recently started to explore.

At Guidehouse, we focus on agile solutions with sustainable outcomes for our public sector and commercial clients, helping utilities around the world with IT strategy and digital transformation. In this three-part blog series, we share insights on the digital experience of customers that engage with DNOs to improve website performance, usability, data privacy, and compliance. The series will cover:

  1. The drivers for change: How customer expectations and DNO needs are changing, and how digital communication needs to reflect this. 
  2. What does good look like: How do DNOs compare to other leading actors in other sectors? 
  3. Pathway for improvement: Identifying a path for improvement that positively enhances the customer experience and DNO needs. 

For these blogs, we've teamed up with Sitemorse, a leader in digital compliance assessment. Its automation has been assessing the digital capability of websites for over 15 years.

DNOs Need to Enhance Digital Customer Interactions to Deliver the Smart Energy System of the Future

The unbundled nature of the UK energy system means that retailers, generators, system operators, transmission system operations, and DNOs all have unique interactions with energy consumers or prosumers. As the energy system becomes decentralized, decarbonized, and digitized, the types and number of interactions between these organizations and customers will change. Historically, customers would only contact their DNO during a power cut, but DNOs increasingly provide demand side management programs and procure flexibility services from customers, resulting in new types of digital interactions. 

Traditional vs. Expanded Interactions Between Customers and DNOs

Traditional vs. expanded interactions between customers and DNOs

(Source: Guidehouse)

The emergence of an online, always-on, service-focused society (probably best personified by retailers like Amazon) has resulted in increased customer expectations for responsiveness, availability, and transparency.

In response to this changing landscape, DNOs have to adapt and evolve. Successful companies will develop strategies that direct how digital technologies will influence their organizations. UK DNOs recently published digital strategies that describe how they will enhance digital capabilities to improve customer experiences. Although several DNOs highlight digital channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, Guidehouse’s experience strongly suggests company websites remain the predominant interaction channel. Presenting an intuitive, accessible website that meets standards for privacy and accessibility, such as the UK's Accessibility Regulations 2018, will be vital in achieving the customer interactions that are fundamental to delivering the energy system of the future. 

The ever evolving and dynamic nature of information on company websites requires continued focus to maintain the accuracy and transparency of information between customers and DNOs. Frequently, websites are set up using a framework that delivers an exceptional customer journey based on a few critical use cases. However, as information changes and use cases evolve over time, the user experience can drift from a high performing site to one that presents barriers to user interactions. 

In our next blog, to be released next week, we will share insights on website performance across DNOs and other leading companies using Sitemorse's independent website assessment technology. Our initial analysis shows that, on average, energy retailers achieve a website accessibility score that is a factor of two higher when compared to DNOs.