Today’s blog entry is a reblog of Sierra Energy Group and Energy Central author Christopher Perdue. He reports that given the prevalence of smartphones, it is surprising that most utilities have not exploited this channel to allow customers to pay their bills and manage their accounts. A recent announcement from TXU Energy may signal that this is changing.
Chartwell Inc. hosted its 2011 Summit on Mobile and Web Customer Interaction in Phoenix. There I was treated to case studies from many utilities in North America on their mobile and web initiatives. Overall, I’m very impressed with the progress we’ve made as an industry. It was clear that several recurring themes emerged:
- Customers Drive Mobile Development
- Outage Reporting is Critical for Mobile
- Customers Favor Text Alerts and Text to Pay
- Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Sites is Something Utilities are Grappling With
- Social Media is Key to Building Communities and Driving Mobile Adoption
- The Sky is the Limit with Smart Grid
Hey, Another Electric Utility Launched an App!
First, I want to applaud our peers at Memphis Light Gas & Water for launching their first mobile app. As someone who’s actively involved at AEP building out our mobile strategy and determining the feasibility of adding rich features in a mobile web or app environment, I know that it’s a challenge on many fronts: determining the features customers want, deploying the development resources committed to building an app (whether outsourced or in-house), and crafting a user experience that is usable in the confines of a mobile phone’s small screen.
Unfortunately, the app falls short in some areas of usability and customer features, which I’ll discuss below. I offer my critique as constructive to our friends at MLGW, and not bashing or berating in any way.