According to the latest E SOURCE benchmark results for the performance of North American utility web sites, the top-rated U.S. electric and gas web sites belong to Avista Utilities, Arizona Public Service, South Carolina Electric and Gas, Wisconsin Public Service, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Alliant Energy. The top-rated Canadian utility web sites belong to BC Hydro and Union Gas.
E SOURCE's "2009 Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Web Sites" assessed the web sites of 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities. Between December 2008 and May 2009, a team of residential customers accessed and used the top 31 web and mobile features (both content information and self-service tasks) identified by a 2008 E SOURCE market research study as the features residential customers most want to see on their utility’s web site. Testing the utility web sites on mobile devices was a new element of this year’s study. The reviews were conducted from the perspective of general Internet use, so the sites were rated against the best in class across all web sites, not just utility web sites.
E SOURCE found that both utility customer expectations and utility web sites have changed significantly since earlier reviews. Florence Connally, a research manager at E SOURCE, said, "Utilities are taking note that web sites are an important customer service channel and have taken strides to make them customer friendly. This year, utilities that offer more of the features residential customers want had more user-friendly web sites. In previous studies, we found outliers that focused more on customer experience and not on functionality and vice versa. That is no longer the case."
E SOURCE found that utility web sites are catching up with customer expectations, as demonstrated by the fact that utilities now offer 77 percent of the features that customers want.
Stephanie Cary, a senior research associate at E SOURCE, explained, "Electric and gas companies can never stand still. Just when they refine their web site offerings to match consumer expectations, new twists come along, such as our finding that consumers now expect to navigate the utility site through Google sitelinks."
Eastern U.S. PPL Electric is the top ranked utility in the eastern region and was the only utility from this region to rank in the top quartile. Pepco and Connecticut Light & Power earned second and third respectively.
Midwestern U.S. Wisconsin Public Service captured the top rank in the midwestern region. Alliant Energy and We Energies rounded out the top three.
Southern U.S. South Carolina Electric and Gas ranks highest in the southern region. Dominion and Progress Energy earned the next two highest scores.
Western U.S. Avista Utilities earned the top rank in the western region. Arizona Public Service and Pacific Gas and Electric were the next highest performers.
Canada. BC Hydro, Union Gas, and SaskEnergy are the top performing Canadian web sites.
"As more customers turn to their utility’s web site to report electric outages or pay their bills, the focus of these web sites needs to be online self-service. Utility web sites are at their best when there is a problem such as a gas leak or power outage, but surprisingly, we found that one of the hardest features to use is simply making a payment," said Andrew Heath, director of E SOURCE Customer Satisfaction Services .