Your electric cooperative has likely had a website for some time, but when was the last time you evaluated how it’s working? It doesn’t require a complete redesign to determine if your content is working and how to improve it.
After building websites for over one hundred electric cooperatives and utility organizations, we know a thing or two about what your members are coming to your site for and how they expect to find it. Using that knowledge and data provided by Google Analytics from many electric cooperative websites, here are the top pieces to consider brushing up for a better member experience.
Starting & Stopping Service
Someone new to your service area will likely first visit your site to establish electric service as well as other utilities. This first-time site visitor will be unfamiliar with your cooperative and site layout. Simply placing a link to a PDF application on your site isn’t sufficient in welcoming and helping new members join your cooperative. Consider this the first impression. Take the time to clearly and briefly guide them through the process. Bulleted lists and content visualization are great ways to convey the process without overwhelming your newest members.
New electrical service, new construction, or creating a line extension can sometimes be a lengthy process. Consider building out your “Steps to Service” to guide them through it. If your new member will need to be in touch with their city, county, or parish, make that contact information readily available on that page. Let them know if there is an anticipated turnaround time after submitting their application. Lastly, if there are documents that they will need to provide or supply to other parties, such as contractors, list those as well.
When it’s time for a member to stop or transfer service, make the process as easy as possible while also showing your appreciation for their loyalty. Whether applying for or stopping service, use online forms in place of PDFs whenever possible. This streamlines processes for you and your members and allows you to provide a custom confirmation and follow-up email once service is finished.
Billing & Payment Information
While your cooperative members may check your website for news or outage information, they’re most often visiting to pay their bill. If your cooperative offers multiple billing and payment options, it’s important to include them all so members know their choices. Add a frequently asked questions section during the website design process if there is additional information you’d like to convey.
A great way to present this information is with content visualization. Rather than blocks of paragraphs, you can sum up the information into a few sentences or bullets. Add images or icons to support the content. The page can be divided into clear sections, making it easy to understand while separating billing from payment services.
If you offer special billing programs like leveled billing or payment assistance resources that require additional explanation, keep the information on the main billing page short and link to a subpage with further explanation. The same goes for making payments.
If you have multiple drop-off locations, link to your Contact Us page where that information already exists. If it takes several steps to sign up for Auto Pay or an Online Payment Portal, try to sum up the process and direct members through it.
This one is vital but often overlooked—how can your members get in touch? Make it easy for members to reach you by laying out their options all in one place. When listing office phone numbers, be sure to note the hours of operation of those phone numbers. An email option for non-urgent questions or general inquiries is important but can be easily achieved with an online contact form. This will allow you to avoid putting email addresses directly on the site. You can also send the submissions to more than one person or department if necessary.
Many electric cooperatives already have their rate information on their website, but it’s in the form of a PDF which makes the information less search-friendly, less responsive on a mobile device, and often times not translatable or accessible.
- Moving your rate information into the web content is essential in removing obstacles for all members, regardless of spoken language or disability.
- You can display the information in bullet points, tables, and accordions to make it easy to navigate and understand on your website.
- Listing the last time rate information was updated is a great way to let site visitors know the information is accurate.
There is a lot more content on your cooperative’s website, but these are some of the most important steps to start with as you begin planning your strategy for your web design project to ensure your electric cooperative is setup for providing a successful experience to your members when visiting your new website.