Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf: A Beautiful Calamity of Uselessness

It’s obvious as soon as you enter the guest room at the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf that they’ve spent a lot of money making the rooms modern and sleek. Flat screen TV, stylish furniture, aesthetic bathroom, even an iHome iPod clock radio all contribute to a visual delight, sure to appease the well traveled or weary guest seeking the comforts of a modern home.

But when you actually start DOING things in the room, you quickly find it’s a case of design for its own sake and not for meeting people’s needs or goals. Continue reading

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Utility Web Week West

This week, I’m at Utility Web Week West, hosted by Conferences Connect. Hearing some great presentations from utilities and utility vendors. Thought provoking discussions about mobile web, apps, online customer self-service, and best practices in user experience. We’ve heard from SCE&G, SoCalGas, Duke Energy, KCP&L, iFactor, eSource, Union Gas, and more. Plus, I sat on a panel discussing online self-service and electronic bill payments. It’s a fun group to associate with. I hope to provide a better recap when I have more time.

TXU Energy Has an App for That

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.

via TXU Energy has an app for that | Intelligent Utility.

Be Humble, Helpful, Human in Your Error Messages: Examples from Twitter and Facebook

I’m thinking about error messages, and how two examples I stumbled upon just today — both short, both probably related to some temporary system problem, and both on popular social media sites — contrast wildly in their approach and in the resulting customer satisfaction I’m now feeling. One site uses humility, helpfulness, and humanity — and the other is completely devoid of those qualities.

The two sites I’m talking about you’ve probably heard of: Twitter and Facebook. Continue reading

Usability Testing Vendor Products

Author’s Note: This blog was originally posted on March 30, 2011, on a company Facebook page. Now that I have a WordPress presence, I thought I’d post it here. Plus, there’s some good news at the end.

This blog posting looks at some recent examples of usability testing of vendor products, the challenges and resistance we faced from the vendor, and the lessons we have learned about why it’s valuable to conduct vendor testing while the project stakeholders observe live.

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Chartwell Inc hosted its 2011 Summit on Mobile…

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

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MLGW App is Mostly Useful, but Somewhat Unusable

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.

Continue reading