According to the latest E Source benchmark study, the top-rated U.S. electric and gas utility websites belong to Wisconsin Public Service, Avista Utilities, Entergy Corp., and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The top-rated Canadian utility websites belong to Energie NB Power and BC Hydro.
This year, utility websites were tested using mobile devices as well as desktop computers. According to Kim Burke, associate research director at E Source and coauthor of the report, "We reviewed 11 different tasks on mobile devices because that represents the reality of how residential customers are increasingly accessing utility websites. This is especially true with tasks such as outage or emergency reporting. Our reviewers were delighted when they encountered sites that were optimized for mobile viewing. Clearly, it's becoming critical to consider the online user experience from both the mobile and traditional desktop perspectives."
E Source found that both utility customer expectations and utility websites have changed significantly since earlier reviews. Social networking is one aspect of the online experience that has evolved: 43 percent of the home pages reviewed included links to social media sites. "Social networking now accounts for the highest percentage of online activities," says Stephanie Spalding, E Source research manager and report coauthor. "Utilities are responding by listening to and communicating with their customers in that space. Including links to social media sites is one of the most prominent additions to utility websites since our last review—one that was well received by our reviewers."
Regional rankings are as follows:
Eastern U.S. PPL Electric Utilities is the top-ranked utility in the eastern region, and it was the only utility from this region to rank in the top quartile. PECO and National Grid earned second and third, respectively.
Midwestern U.S. Wisconsin Public Service captured the top rank in the midwestern region. DTE Energy and We Energies rounded out the top three.
Southern U.S. Entergy Corp. ranks highest in the southern region. Georgia Power and Dominion earned the next two highest scores, respectively.
Western U.S. Avista Utilities earned the top rank in the western region, followed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
Canada Energie NB Power, BC Hydro, and SaskPower are the top-performing Canadian utilities.
The "E Source Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Websites: 2011" assessed the websites of 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities. Between December 2010 and April 2011, a team of residential customers accessed and used the top 29 web and mobile features (both informational and self-service tasks) identified by E Source market research as the features residential customers most want to see on their utility's website.
"The reviews were conducted from the perspective of general Internet use, so these websites were rated against the best in class across all websites, not just utility websites," said Rich Goodwin, manager of E Source Customer Satisfaction Services.