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TXU Energy has an app for that

In today's market, customers expect their service providers to communicate through a variety of channels, according to their individual preferences. When a utility can provide choices in how and when customers can interact with it, that can build a better relationship with the customer.

Given the prevalence of smartphones, it has surprised me that most utilities have not exploited this channel to allow customers to pay their bills and manage their accounts. A recent announcement from TXU Energy may signal that this is changing.

Earlier this month TXU Energy announced the launch of the TXU Energy Mobile App for the iPhone. The new app connects TXU Energy's residential customers with some of the most popular features available through the company's Web site. Using the free app, they can pay bills and choose payment options. Future enhancements coming throughout the summer will provide added features.

The app also provides instant auto-sync between customers' iPhones and their online TXU Energy accounts. As a result, any changes the customer makes via the app are automatically reflected in their online accounts and vice versa.

I was surprised to hear the news about the new app, as just last month TXU Energy launched a mobile Web site. The Web site is designed with a similar look and feel to the company's traditional Web site, and is optimized to provide the design and options that make smartphone use more convenient for users.

I was initially skeptical of the mobile Web site. As a general rule, I don't like to use my Web browser a great deal on my smartphone, as the fonts are too small and it's not always easy to navigate. However, when I tried the new site, I have to say that I was impressed. The mobile Web site automatically provides a "mobile-friendly view" of the key features available on the company's site, with no download required. The site can also be accessed from any smartphone via m.txu.com.

The new app and new mobile site follows the launch of the company's smart meter-friendly solution, the TXU Energy MyEnergy Dashboard, a tool that helps TXU Energy customers understand how and when they're using electricity at home, by month, day and hour. It also complements the mobile Web-enabled Brighten iThermostat, an energy savings solution that the company launched with wireless access in 2010.  The programmable thermostat gives customers hands-on access to their real-time thermostat settings from virtually anywhere via computer or smartphone. 

It is worth mentioning that TXU is not a traditional utility. It is a competitive retailer in the state of Texas, and competes with numerous other retailers in the state. So I'm sure that part of the drive to provide these offerings is a way to differentiate itself from the competition.

It's also worth noting that mobile traffic to TXU Energy's Web site had increased 200 percent over the past year. With that type of growth, it is probably wise to provide an interface that more easily allows the user to interact with their service provider.

However, as utilities attempt to connect with their customers in ways that fit their lifestyles, I look for more utilities to provide similar tools for customer engagement.

 

Christopher Perdue
Vice President, Sierra Energy Group
cperdue@energycentral.com
310.471.7396
Twitter: @chris_perdue

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Thank Christopher for the Post!

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