The UK Government-endorsed Simple Energy Advice service aims to give people tailored suggestions on how to increase the energy-efficiency of their homes. The goal is to encourage individuals to make improvements that help the country meet its low-carbon targets. A successful Softwire alpha phase had identified the need to replace an existing call-centre-only service with a digitally led self-service version. We had also shown what form the new service should take. The Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) selected Softwire to deliver the beta phase, which included building the service and producing all the necessary content. This was a high-profile, public-facing project. As well as being on the agenda of BEIS ministers, it was to be widely publicised during the first-ever Green Great Britain Week in 2018. It was therefore essential we delivered on-time and that the service was robust.
Continual user testing shaped a service that was both easy to use and engaging, while rigorous load testing ensured it would remain available under the expected usage volumes.
Extensive user testing
As we had during alpha, we ran weekly user testing sessions. These included facilitated lab testing in different UK regions, as well as remote sessions where target users were sent tasks to complete in their own time. This blend ensured we got as representative and realistic a view as possible from our wide target audience. We launched an early private beta that ramped up to 1,000 users, enabling us to gather detailed analytics data on how people were using the website. With much of the service based around a series of questions people fill in to get their tailored advice, the user testing and analytics enabled us to identify which questions were slowing people down. Our content designers spent time refining and re-testing these, to make it easier for people to get their tailored suggestions.
Engaging video content
Our user testing also identified a desire for video content in certain places, so we oversaw the creation of clips to complement the other content on the site and make the messaging more engaging.
Ease of maintenance
To keep up with ever-changing energy legislation, we designed the website to be easy to update. The majority of content is editable through a content management system (CMS), which BEIS’s own team can use.
Robust load testing
We needed to ensure this high-profile service would deliver under the anticipated user volumes, particularly with media interest expected to be high. We used various cloud platform features to enable scaling, designed-in other best practices to create a genuinely robust platform and load-tested the service to ensure it would perform.
Assisted digital support
Lastly, having identified the need for assisted digital support in the shape of a small contact centre, we built in the ability to transfer customers’ journeys from the website to the contact centre operator if required. We also provided BEIS with guidance on expected call volumes and the level of training the operators would need, so they could recruit and train an appropriate number of staff.
The new service sees user numbers double compared to its predecessor, with a significant proportion of site visitors completing the full journey to receive their tailored energy-saving advice.
Following the successful private beta, the public beta went live on-schedule ahead of Green Great Britain Week, meaning BEIS was able to close the legacy contact centre and replace it with the lower-cost alternative we specified. In its first few months, usage of the digitally led service has shown an upward trend, with twice as many people now accessing it every month as were using the call-centre-only service. Moreover, the average time people spend on the site is more than sufficient for someone to answer the questions and review the suggestions. And with 25% of all site visitors completing the full questionnaire and receiving their tailored advice, the service is delivering an impressive conversion rate, thereby meeting its goal of ensuring an ever-greater number of people benefit from bespoke energy-saving advice.
Softwire is now providing ongoing support for the Simple Energy Advice service.