Water companies’ apps way off expectations of Gen Z digital natives

Whilst 36% prefer to use an app to manage their essential services, only 25% do

Water companies must improve their mobile applications and strategies in order to engage the next generation of water bill payers, according to a new report.

Research into the attitudes and habits of the digital native Generation Z, commissioned by Echo Managed Services, and published in A New Wave of Customers report found that while more than a third (36%) of those yet to become bill payers say they would prefer use an app to manage their essential services, only 25% of Gen Z bill payers actually do.

Water companies’ apps are therefore not meeting the expectations of, or the company hasn’t communicated them well enough to, one in 10 (11%) of its customers. Reducing this gap is important in light of research which shows that mobile is Gen Z’s channel of choice, over PC or laptop, for all online activities.

The Institute of Customer Service’s UKCSI in January 2021 found that app usage in the water sector was also below the level of that in the energy sector – 1.4% of water customers said an app was their most recent point of contact vs 4.5% of energy customers. For context, the same UKCSI figures show that 12.7% of all banking customer experiences were conducted via an app – the highest of any sector.

Vicki Dixon, head of operations at Echo Managed Services, commented: “It is important that water companies continue to develop their digital platforms to meet the needs and expectations of the latest generation of billpayers. Currently there is a gap between those that want to use apps to manage payments and meter reading submissions, and those that do.

“To make the time and investment in a mobile app worthwhile, water companies must create an easy-to-use interface that is easy to navigate and use across different devices. It must also present a clear purpose and clear engagement opportunity, in order to enable a meaningful and effortless experience for customers. When built well, apps can build enhanced recognition and improve customer engagement. The key challenge to overcome when creating an app is keeping customers engaged, currently there is little need to interact regularly with a water company. It must be personally relevant and useful beyond meter readings and billing.

The UKCSI figures have also highlighted that, where customers use an app to interact in the banking sector, a higher than average customer satisfaction score was given.

Vicki Dixon, continued: “It is clear that in the future it will become even more important for water companies to be able to balance the communication preferences of all their customers as they face the challenge of maintaining a high quality of customer service across different touchpoints. This will ensure that specific user groups are not isolated, and essential service providers understand and acknowledge all parts of their customer base – remembering of course that not every Gen Z is a digital native.”

For more information about Echo Managed Services, and to read its Generation Z Report: A new wave of customers for water companies in full, visit: https://www.echo-ms.com/knowledge-centre/research-resources/a-new-wave-of-customers-consumer-research-report.

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