Improving the customer experience through payment processing

 

Legacy industry platform

Until recently Utilita, like many UK energy providers, used a common third-party payment platform set up years before by the energy industry. But this payment platform couldn't offer Utilita the real-time visibility of transactions it now wanted. And growth in Utilita's peak top-up volumes—which could reach up to 16 transactions per second—was starting to over-stretch this third-party payment system. As a result, Utilita's customers couldn't always reliably complete their top-ups.

 

Confusing customer experience

When Utilita launched its own mobile app for checking meter balances, there was no option to integrate it with the payment app. Not only did customers have to use two separate apps, but a top-up made in the payment app could take 24 hours to reflect in the Utilita app, leading to a disjointed experience for customers.

 

Limited functionality

It was also impossible for customers to top up both gas and electricity with one payment. And the cost of transactions to Utilita meant they couldn't offer top-ups any smaller than £10—which could sometimes be a stretch for customers on a limited budget.

We needed more control and visibility, and a platform that could handle exceptional peak loads.

-Ian Burgess, Chief Technology Officer for Utilita
Utilita is a large UK provider of gas and electricity that specializes in serving customers through pre-payment meters. He's referring to the time, not long ago, when Utilita had very little control over the top-up experience of its customers.

Time to differentiate through a better customer experience

It's difficult for utility companies to differentiate on product, so—price aside—competitive advantage often comes down to the customer experience. And the context for customer experience has shifted dramatically.

3x as much online business in a few years

Utilita had seen its online business grow from around 20 percent to 60 percent in three-to-four years. So perception of the brand was increasingly shaped by customer frustration with the disjointed and not-always-reliable digital top-up experience. The company was determined to do something about this.

Working with Cybersource and Visa has been a revelation.

-Ian Burgess, Chief Technology Officer for Utilita

It was a big step for Utilita to take control of its own payment process, especially given the highly regulated nature of the energy industry. But less than a year after Utilita started exploratory talks with Cybersource and Visa, all commercial, regulatory and technical considerations had been sorted. And then things moved quickly indeed.

 

Smoother experience

Within three months, Utilita was connected to the Cybersource payment platform and offering its credit customers (a minority of its customer base) the ability to pay their bills seamlessly and intuitively, directly through the Utilita app using Visa Checkout.

 

Ready for peaks

Three months later, top-ups for pre-payment customers became available in the Utilita app, and some weeks later through the Utilita web portal. The minimum top-up is now £2, it's easy to top up both fuels at once, and the Cybersource platform easily handles peak volumes.

 

Strengthened security

While not directly visible to customers, Utilita is helping to protect sensitive payment data from compromise with Cybersource’s tokenization and secure hosted payments services. 3-D Secure, the authentication protocol for PSD2 SCA, is also supported, helping future-proof the business.

Exceeding expectations

Nobody thought we could deliver on the payment piece so quickly, but Cybersource had a can-do attitude and passion for the project that matched our own, and the expertise to help us get it done.

-Ian Burgess, Chief Technology Officer for Utilita

The fruits of great teamwork

MOBILE APP

55 percent uplift in app uptake

Immediately after the launch of the top-up feature, takeup of Utilita's mobile app grew some 55 percent faster than it had in the previous eight months. Positive reviews and ratings quickly followed, with Utilita scoring four stars on Trustpilot not long after the launch. The app also won the Best App category in the Uswitch Energy Awards 2020.

INTEGRATED PLATFORM

Lights out on needless worry

The fact that Utilita top-ups are now handled through an integrated platform means that meter balances—and crucially, low-credit alerts—are now accurate as a matter of course. Customers can stay on top of their expenditure and fuel availability with greater confidence, and feel comfortable about topping up "just in time". 

CUSTOMER-FOCUSED INNOVATION

Fully switched on

The partnership has continued apace. Cybersource expertise in integrating payments has helped Utilita to accelerate the redevelopment of its mobile app from the ground up, to create a more flexible platform for customer-focused innovation. It also opens up the door for Utilita to become even more flexible with its emergency credit and Power Up features, which extend important lifelines to those who need help keeping the lights on.

SECOND-BY-SECOND VIEW

100 percent real-time visibility

With the Cybersource payment platform integrated into Utilita's CRM and analytics systems, the company has a second-by-second view of every payment. They can track (for example) how long it takes to top up or how many app users top up both fuels at once, and immediately spot if there are any issues impacting customers. With these and other insights, Utilita is better placed to deliver meaningful service improvements.

MORE RESPONSIVE SERVICE

Transformed responsiveness

Visibility translates into much more responsive service all around. A recent payment processing connectivity issue, for example, was spotted before a single customer could call to complain. When customers did call, the customer service team already knew what the problem was and could respond appropriately.

SMOOTHER ONLINE EXPERIENCE

Virtuous circle

Having taken control of payment through partnership with Cybersource, Utilita finds itself in a virtuous circle. Because customers have a smoother online experience, they have less reason to call customer service. This frees representatives to deal more effectively with customers who do have an issue, so those customers then have a better experience and faster resolution. Everyone benefits at every interaction.

Confidence moving forward

We've only just begun to think about what we can do with the flexibility and visibility we now have, but we already have a roadmap of payment-related innovations to work on. And we know that wherever our ambitions take us, Cybersource will be there to help us on the journey.

-Ian Burgess, Chief Technology Officer for Utilita

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