• Utility-Customer Relationships
  • Distribution Network Operators
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The Digital Experience of Customers Engaging with DNOs: Part 2

Alex Jakeman
Jul 02, 2020

Power pylon

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

Comparing UK DNOs Digital Interaction Maturity to Leading Actors in Other Sectors

In a three-blog series, Guidehouse is sharing insights on how distribution network operators (DNOs) are adapting and evolving to maximize the value of digital channels. Our first blog presented the need for change, this blog assesses how the digital experience of customers interacting with DNOs compares to leading actors in other sectors. 

In maximizing the value of their digital channels, DNOs can leverage findings from sectors further along the digital maturity curve, such as energy retailers. Two key elements that determine the quality of online website experiences are accessibility and privacy, which are the focus of this blog. 

Website Accessibility Represents an Opportunity for DNOs

A website's accessibility is essential, as it determines the range of customers who can perceive and understand the website's information. Public sector and essential service companies, such as DNOs, have a legal duty to comply with accessibility regulations, they must ensure content on their websites is available and accessible to all. Non-public sector companies, such as energy retailers, have a moral duty and commercial incentive to ensure website content is accessible and inclusive to all customers. Considering that they operate in a highly competitive landscape, failing to be attractive to specific customer groups could jeopardize their revenue streams. As DNOs increasingly aim to leverage flexibility services from customers, it will be vitally important that they market these services on accessible platforms that enable all customers to access and benefit from these services. 

A website’s accessibility is measured using the industry-standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Using Sitemorse's automated assessment technology, Guidehouse has assessed the website accessibility of all UK electricity DNOs and compared this with the website accessibility for seven UK energy retailers. The assessment provides each website with a score between zero (lowest/worst) and 10 (highest/best).

The figure below highlights that, on average, energy retailers achieve significantly higher accessibility scores than electricity DNOs. DNOs strive to ensure information about power cuts and electricity connections is accessible on their websites by using innovative products such as Browsealoud and ReciteMe. However, these products do not guarantee compliance with the WCAG and the Sitemorse scoring reflects a significant opportunity for DNOs to improve the accessibility of their websites. 

A Comparison of the Average Accessibility Scores for DNOs and Energy Retailers

A Comparison of the Average Accessibility Scores for DNOs and Energy Retailers

Note: While the y-axis only goes to 6, the accessibility score is out of 10.
Source: Guidehouse)

Ensure Privacy to Improve the Customer Experience

Online privacy is an increasingly important topic for organizations. Since the e-Privacy Directive of 2009, the law has required consent for the use of cookies with 2019's clarification by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Applying cookies without consent is becoming ever more frowned upon, and misuse of cookies is an indication of distrustful online behavior that can impact company brands. Using automated privacy assessment technology, Guidehouse has assessed the privacy of all UK electricity DNO websites and compared this with the website of the NHS, a leading public sector organization. The assessment determines compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) that stipulate the consent requirements for applying cookies on websites. Website privacy can be assessed by using www.rethinkingprivacy.com.

The figure below highlights that on average DNOs are at high risk of non-compliance with PECR, while the NHS is at a low risk of non-compliance. With an increase of privacy complaints received by Data Protection Authorities (DPAs), DPAs will increasingly issue fines for a breach of the regulations. 

A Comparison of Privacy Index Scores for DNOs and the NHS

A Comparison of Privacy Index Scores for DNOs and the NHS

(Source: Guidehouse)

To be a high performing company that maximizes the value from the digital transition, you need to deliver accessible and trustworthy digital customer experiences. To achieve these experiences, you should proactively monitor compliance with regulations that impact your digital communication channels and regularly engage with customers to drive continuous improvement. Companies that are negligent to these factors will miss out on new revenue opportunities and could face penalties or legal action. 

Our next blog, to be released next week, will conclude the series and share insights on how organizations need to adapt and evolve to deliver world-class digital customer interactions.