A customer using a touchscreen display to get her tickets via the self service kiosk
PHOTO: Shutterstock

This article is part 1 of a 2 part article series sponsored by POSSIBLE.

To fully engage with today’s customers, organizations need to provide experiences that not only meet but also anticipate the needs and preferences of those consumers. Companies can match customers’ changing requirements by creating a user-friendly front end which is tightly integrated to all of the back-end systems that contain customer information.

Meet innogy Polska, a utility which delivers energy, mostly electricity, to approximately 850,000 customers. The utility’s parent company is innogy Group, which has its headquarters in Germany, and which serves additional key markets including the Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Poland, and the U.K. While innogy Polska has commercial customers among small businesses and enterprises, the majority of its customers are consumers who live in and around Warsaw, the capital city of Poland. The utility is keen to further develop its customer base both by attracting new customers and by upselling additional services to its existing consumers.

CMSWire recently talked to Magdalena Borek-Dwojak, digital and customer experience director at innogy Polska, to hear more about ‘Moje innogy website,’ the utility’s reimagined customer self-service portal. ‘Moje innogy’ translates to ‘My innogy’ in English. We were interested to find out more about innogy’s journey to change its self-service portal; the close relationship established between innogy and its digital agency, POSSIBLE; and any advice Borek-Dwojak might have for peers considering embarking on similar endeavors.

In Search of a Modern, Responsive Portal

As the first utility in Poland to offer customers a self-service portal over a decade ago, innogy Polska was eager to change and update the experience, which was often inefficient and slow. “It was a non-standard, bespoke solution, which had been built by a local organization,” said Borek-Dwojak. The utility was also coming to the end of the current license so it was a perfect time to consider whether innogy Polska wanted to continue with the existing solution or look for something else.

“We didn’t want to continue since the portal was old-fashioned, it wasn’t responsive, and it wasn’t well integrated to our back-end systems,” said Borek-Dwojak. “We wanted a portal where we could use real-time data live and which was scalable and responsive on mobile devices and on tablets.”

While Poland is catching up with some technology trends already underway in Europe, the country has already leapfrogged the likes of the U.K. and the U.S. with its broad usage of Internet banking and mobile payments, which are enhanced by the widespread availability of free Wi-Fi and fast connection due to LTE. So, for innogy Polska, being able to offer its customers a “well developed” self-service portal, which could render well on a variety of devices, was a must-have in a fast-changing city like Warsaw, according to Borek-Dwojak. It was important that innogy Polska’s new portal could provide consumers with similar capabilities to those already being offered in other verticals such as internet banking, insurance, and telecoms.

The desire for a new portal was also part of an over-arching initiative by innogy Polska to improve user experience, moving away from digital experiences being company-focused to becoming primarily customer-centric. As well as providing a tool that was simpler for consumers to use, the utility was keen to offer that same level of ease of use to its customer service agents who would also have access to the new portal. By having a single place from which to access all relevant customer information, innogy Polska staff would be empowered to help and advise customers using real-time data.

Integration between the new portal and innogy Polska’s existing different back-end solutions was a key piece of the project. These solutions included two CRM systems as well as Bluemedia e-payments, Google Optimize for A/B testing, and Medallia for user satisfaction surveys.

Finding a New Digital Agency

Initially, innogy Polska worked with its previous digital agency to start developing a new customer self-service portal on Sitecore, which “was a completely new platform for us.” The utility was keen to have visibility into what the agency was developing and was unimpressed by the quality of the code.

As Borek-Dwojak notes, innogy Polska was eager for not only a great look-and-feel for its consumers, but also the ability for custom development and tight integration with its back-end software. She advises other organizations to perform early quality checks on the code their digital agencies are creating as a litmus test of whether or not they’ve chosen the right partner to move ahead with for the long term.

In looking for another digital agency, innogy Polska considered three or four organizations and talked to a number of customer references across Europe. The utility selected POSSIBLE, an international WPP and Wunderman Group digital agency.

Several factors worked in POSSIBLE’s favor – its strength in user experience, its expertise in Sitecore as indicated by its platinum partner status, its knowledge of software integration, its experience in prior projects, and its established presence in Poland with its office in Katowice. Also of keen interest to innogy Polska was the digital agency’s ongoing engagement in projects for other customers including the U.K. government, which involved addressing accessibility issues.

In getting the project started, POSSIBLE held a series of workshops and user consultation sessions to understand not only the current portal and its integrations but also its limitations and what additional functionality was needed for the new portal. The utility wanted to expand the capabilities of the Moje innogy portal so that it could handle online payments, provide advanced search and advanced account history, as well as invoice and multi-account management.

Becoming Agile

Previously, innogy Polska had used the waterfall methodology for development but POSSIBLE introduced the utility to the Agile framework and Scrum implementation. “It’s been a great experience for our team working with the POSSIBLE team, both remotely and face-to-face, but the Agile framework didn’t come naturally to us,” Borek-Dwojak said.

The utility was used to the highly structured waterfall methodology where the focus is on delivery milestones. In switching to the more incremental and flexible Agile approach, Borek-Dwojak wanted to ensure that innogy Polska had clarity on the timeframe in which functionality would be delivered. What she found particularly helpful was working with a legal advisor to come up with documentation which clearly defined those deliverables. The digital agency’s team was “helpful” in providing organizational support related to Agile, she added.

“If you’re doing Agile for the first time, you’re not so familiar with the velocity of the project so the concern is that you might start off with two- or three-week sprints, but then end up with a project that lasts two years,” Borek-Dwojak said.

In all, including testing, the project to develop the new Moje innogy portal took one year. The two teams from innogy Polska and POSSIBLE formed a dedicated joint group drawing on a mix of cross-functional skills in user experience, design, testing, product management, product marketing, back-end and front-end development, and communication.

Measuring Success

Initially, innogy Polska tested the new portal with its own staff and then offered a subset of its customers the choice of using the old or new version of the portal, which gave the utility a buffer to fine tune the new portal’s customer experience. Borek-Dwojak feels that innogy Polska did the right amount of internal preparation to ensure the success of the new portal.

Once happy with the testing, innogy Polska switched all of its customers over to the new portal and encountered no significant issues, despite having built in the ability to extend the use of the old portal for several months, if required. The utility had taken metrics with its old portal and so was able to compare the performance of the new portal with that of its predecessor. “From the user point of view and from our business point of view, everything is much, much better,” Borek-Dwojak said.

The utility’s customers embraced the new portal, with more than 260,000 consumers using Moje innogy on a monthly basis. In comparing the new portal with the old one, there is 56% more traffic, with 83% percent more pageviews monthly, and the average session lasting 32% longer. Overall, traffic to the portal has increased over 60%, with mobile traffic by itself up by more than 246%, and traffic from users of tablet devices up by over 67%.

Continuous Improvement

In partnership with POSSIBLE, innogy Polska won a 2018 Sitecore Experience Award for its Moje innogy self-service customers portal in the category of Best Use of Sitecore as a DXP (digital experience platform). The project was also rewarded internally with an innogy Retail Excellence Award in 2018.

The utility continues to gather feedback from its customers on their interaction with the portal across all channels and devices, how they like the services provided, and how easy it is to find information. As with any endeavor focused on customer experience, innogy Polska knows the value of continuing to refine and improve that engagement in order to better serve its consumers and to attract new users.