British Gas / ME
UK gas provider's app targets young customers and house-sharers by minimising effort of meter-reading and bill-paying
UK energy provider British Gas has launched a pilot customer account management and service brand Me (Mobile Energy) to meet the needs of house sharers and younger customers.
Central to the service is a well designed app with a simple home screen showing energy costs and the proportion of gas and electricity used. Online account management lets the customers choose fixed or meter-based bills, easily set up direct debit payment and split bills, should they live in a house-share. Available for iPhone or Android, the app can predict bills and lets the user submit meter readings, a feature of the existing British Gas app. Me will eventually follow its predecessor's functionality by comparing the user's energy use with other households in the local area.
Further features include a call back option, requesting customer service employees to call the user at a specified time to discuss their account. When moving house, customers can key in their new details and take their account with them to the new property.
There's also a website which has the same functionality as the app alongside details about what to do in emergencies and about how to register with British Gas. British Gas commercial director Will Orr also plans to include further functionality such as mobile heating control. London-based agency Rufus Leonard developed the app.
This is well thought-out service design: anyone who has been in a shared house knows the hassle of dividing up energy bills and staying on top of payments. British Gas is right to target a younger rental market too: with recessional lending squeezes and high property values barring the majority of 20-somethings from ownership, this is definitely a growth market right now.
With a UK customer base of 12.5 million, British Gas is wise to start slowly with a fairly simple payment app before rolling out additional features such as mobile heating control. So far British Gas has shown it is willing to utilise digital flexibility to contact their customers at suitable times and will notify users if their fixed-price payments exceed actual energy use. Perhaps it could go further in the future: it's worth considering what British Gas can potentially do with data provided by young customers. Banks, for example, alert customers nearing overdraft or budget limits. Energy providers already able to compare household usage could begin to work with their customers to help minimise gas use.
We've reported on the Swedish energy provider E.ON and how it's worked with its customers in this way to help limit use of its product. While that might seem counter-intuitive from a marketing perspective, with squeezes on energy resources and rising fuel costs, it's really the only relevant way that energy brands can resonate with consumers.
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