British Gas, in collaboration with Rufus Leonard, developed an app that enables its customers to manage all aspects of their energy account via their smartphone
British Gas identified the young urban professional segment of their market as underrepresented in their customer mix and wanted to develop a proposition that would be attractive to this segment. Research showed that this segment kept on asking the same questions. “Why can’t it be easier to keep an eye on how much I spend on my bills?” “Why do I have to sign up to a new energy company every time I move house?” ”Why can’t it be easier to split bills with my housemates?”
To create an energy service that goes beyond energy and gives the young urban professional customer complete control of their British Gas account in a manner that fits with the way they live their lives.
The number of households renting privately has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, and many young people living in rented accommodation were not particularly engaged with energy and had little connection with their energy usage or their energy company. At the same time, technology is becoming ever more powerful, allowing for even greater possibilities.
British Gas recognised an opportunity to create an energy product that met the needs of this renting, tech-enabled group, making energy simple, intuitive and accessible; making it easier to pay bills in a shared household by showing how much each person owes; and making it easier to take their energy account with them when they move house.
Will Orr, Commercial Director, British Gas, said: “We’ve co-created this service with a younger audience so they can manage their energy in an app. It’s an energy company in your phone and we’ll continue to build new and useful features into the me experience as we go.”
Rufus Leonard worked closely with the British Gas project team in one joint location allowing the service to be created and to go live quickly. Entirely manageable through a smartphone app, the new energy service has been designed primarily with the young urban professional market in mind (although anyone is welcome to use it), with every element tested by the target group to make sure it adds value to their lives. This meant that we were really strict about the functionality we included. If the feature didn’t make a significant difference to the customers’ lives then it wasn’t included.
Some key features within the new app, all aimed at making the audience’s life easier, include:
Predicted bill: where customers can enter their current meter reading to predict how much their bill is likely to be at the end of the month.
Meter readings: where customers can enter their actual readings to receive more accurate bills. This section also includes a torch to help take the readings.
Bill splitter: the ‘bill owner’ can calculate how much each flatmate owes and send reminders direct from the app so no one ever misses a payment.
Moving home: where customers can enter their details and track the progress of their switch over.
Get in touch: where customers can either request a call back or contact the British Gas customer services team directly and for free.
The sole focus of me is to provide a rich service that completely fits with the way this ‘smartphone generation’ live their lives. So much so that British Gas are running a pilot scheme where customers will be encouraged to provide feedback to help develop the app further.
Will Orr, commercial director at British Gas, said that company will continue to listen to customer feedback, making ongoing enhancements to the proposition.
The app is available for anyone to download from the App store or Google Play, but is being advertised at young people in rented accommodation primarily via social media.
This is a new energy service with features that are a first for the energy sector in the UK.
It’s a huge step forward for the sector as a whole. Great customer engagement is about being human; identifying the challenges and issues we face in everyday life and working together to improve that experience. Whether that be eliminating the need to wait on hold on the phone, or enabling making it easier for renters to split the bills; often it’s the littlest things that go the longest way to a superb customer experience.
British Gas has recognised an under-represented market of renters, following figures that show the number of people in private rental accommodation has doubled since the mid-1990s.