Elevating United Utilities' digital customer experience

United Utilities provides water and wastewater services to over 7 million people in the North West every day.

We have enjoyed a 10 year partnership with United Utilities, delivering over 5,500 days’ worth of services. In that time, we have supported their digital ambitions with advice and support on strategy, UX, implementation, support and maintenance, and managed hosting.

While working with United Utilities, we have helped them to:

  • Shift a huge number of customers onto digital self-serve channels; it's enabled United Utilities to comply with Ofwat regulations and reduce costs within their customer services department.
  • Improve customer experience with useful tools; from campaign sites about water safety and water usage, through to water quality calculators, safe dig applications, share price feeds, planned works and bathing waters - integrating with multiple third party tools.
  • Support their many stakeholders with digital strategies and microsites for a number of different parts of their business; including their Corporate and Wholesale divisions, Business Retailer portal and Cumbria transformation programme.
  • Provide customers with access to their digital tools 24/7; through the provision of 24/7 support, maintenance and managed hosting of their CMS and associated websites and portals.

Challenges

We work alongside United Utilities to ensure its digital estate supports its two key ambitions: ‘to deliver a customer service you can rely on’ and ‘to be easy to do business with’. But in 2017, it became apparent that United Utilities' existing platform solution and user-experience was no longer achieving that.

United Utilities wanted to deliver personalised and contextually relevant information to customers.

To do so, they needed to move their main customer website from its OpenText/RedDot CMS platform, onto a new and more modern content management and customer experience platform, using the Episerver DXC hosted on Microsoft Azure. United Utilities also had to bring its two other websites – Cumbria and Corporate - onto the new platform, to streamline content management and simplify the lives of its content editors, whilst its MyAccount portal, created outside of Episerver DXC, would also need to be content managed through the new platform.

Solution

To ensure United Utilities are giving customers more of what they want, the new website caters for all common customer cases. This includes information on current incidents, updates on planned works, and a water quality checker. An FAQ component and site-wide navigation menu was also added to simplify the user-experience and provide easy access to critical information for customers.

To further keep pace with rising regulatory pressures, we implemented a bespoke address checker functionality to assist customers during emergency situations. For example, if United Utilities identify a problem with their water supply, this function can be enabled on the site and help customers determine whether the supply to their house is affected. The front-end of this tool sits in Episerver, while the back-end is in Microsoft Azure. This enables United Utilities to provide customers with real-time information.

To improve the employees’ experiences with the content management system, we consolidated all of United Utilities' sites into the Episerver platform to allow for the re-use of page components across each. And its MyAccount portal now exists on a bespoke solution that has been built in Episerver. This creates a single, content managed navigation that is shared across both the MyAccount area and the main customer-facing website and gives United Utilities access to Episerver’s out-of-the-box personalisation tools.

These changes enable United Utilities' website to show people information catered to them, based on their profile and behaviours.

Results

  • The new platform reduces the cost of expanding all sites with new features in the future, whilst making it easier for content editors to use. It also has improved the visual appeal and usability for the customer.
  • There is a 60:40 split of non-desktop:desktop visits in the first six months since launch. Mobile accounts for 46% of visits, and tablets a further 13%.
  • Since January 2017, at least 70% of page views have been to self-serve or task-based areas of the site. Help & Support and Services account for around 46% of traffic alone.
  • Transactional areas of the site are proving successful with high conversions: 5% of all visits result in a customer paying a bill.
  • The site was awarded bronze in the ‘Service and Support’ category at the Episerver awards.

Key Takeaways

The longevity of our relationship with United Utilities comes down to the strategic and supportive nature of the work we do together.

As part of our ongoing partnership, we work with United Utilities to analyse insights and identify opportunities where the user-experience can be improved.

One example of this is with the website search feature, which was returning less than satisfactory results from a number of common search queries. This included ‘postcode’ searches and common
requests like ‘find my account number’. Neither of which delivered content or information of value. While a postcode search would rarely return any meaningful content at all, an account number search would provide a set of results which didn’t offer an obvious resolution.

To improve the customers’ experiences, we worked with United Utilities to improve the feature using AI.

By implementing the Language Understanding Intelligence Services (LUIS), part of the Cognitive Services cloud in Azure, into the search engine we enabled the website to interpret the intent of customers’ searches in real-time. Once the intent is recognised and understood, we are then able to interrupt the journey with a relevant feature or call-to-action; if the customer was searching their postcode, they would be shown live current incidents, planned works and information on water quality.

Customers searching the United Utilities website for queries like their postcode or account number retrieval information, now receive an improved user-journey. This helps reduce frustration and improves the overall experience.

We are now working to further improve the accuracy of the language model for those intents, and have built the solution into its FAQ function.

Need help improving your customer experience? Get in touch.