Website redesign, usability studies, Sitecore implementation, and advanced personalization for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)

Helping the sixth largest community-owned utility in the U.S. transform their user experience with Sitecore.

SMUD is a community-owned utility providing people-centric energy solutions with a relentless focus on value to rate payers. We collaborated to design a website that engages customers through personalized content while prioritizing high-value communications and rapid completion of tasks customers care about most.

2019 Sitecore Experience Awards Honorable Mention

Sitecore Experience Awards 2019 Honorable Mention

The Sitecore Experience Awards 2019 recognizes brands that have built truly customer-centric digital experiences with Sitecore® technology. The SEAs are awarded to Sitecore customers and their partners whose entries clearly demonstrate that their Sitecore solution delivers an outstanding experience for all users from partner developers and internal customer marketers to business and IT users and end-user customers.

SMUD website on multiple devices

Challenge

SMUD is part of an electric utility industry being disrupted in multiple ways. SMUD’s legacy website was difficult to maintain resulting in outdated content. The website was unable to deliver the enhanced experience SMUD customers have come to expect. The look and feel was dated and non-conforming to modern standards of accessible design. Additional SMUD needed a platform to unify their customer experience across multiple websites, including tie-ins and measurement of their social, television, billboard, and radio campaigns.

Results

To understand SMUD’s audiences and innovation opportunities, we ran collaborative design sprints with key players from across the experience-savvy SMUD organization. The resulting designs, which were also usability tested with SMUD customers, were appealing, accessible, and met the needs of content authors to create a great digital experience.

SymSoft implemented the Sitecore Experience Platform for SMUD, leveraging Federated Experience Manager (FxM) to unify experiences across the SMUD website and account management portals. The solution allowed SMUD’s Digital User Experience team to leverage advanced personalization rules, tied to goals (such as enrollment in paperless billing), to measure success and deliver relevant content to each individual customer. SymSoft also provides 24×7 managed support for SMUD’s Sitecore solution, maintaining reliability and performance.

After launch of the project, SMUD was ranked the 3rd best performing utility for the overall satisfaction in the 2019 Utility Digital Experience Study conducted by J.D. Power. The study is based on evaluations from 15,894 customers of the 67 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities.

Project Highlights

Client stakeholders participate in a UX design workshop

Customer-Centric Design

Several Design Sprints were used to kick off the project. These sessions involved approximately one dozen SMUD stakeholders and were used to create, construct, and user test prototypes for key interfaces of the website. Once the designs were approved by SMUD’s team, usability testing was conducted with SMUD customers, allowing the team to measure the success of the new designs. This provided an opportunity to make appropriate adjustments and ensure that the path to customer task completion was smooth.

The most important customer experience requirement was exposing and introducing key actions to the visitors as early as possible. Customer account, online bill payment, service management and services status are literally one click or tap away. Additionally, our team worked closely with the internal team of user experience experts and photographers at SMUD to ensure that the design specifications could be realistically fulfilled through content creation.

Sitecore® Experience Platform™ and advanced personalization with Federated Experience Manager (FxM)

SymSoft implemented the website using the Sitecore® Experience Platform™ , including Web Content Management, Analytics, and Personalization.

As part of the project, SymSoft also implemented FxM and custom personalization rules, allowing SMUD to explicitly personalize content across their various non-Sitecore account portals. The resulting customer experience was unified, presenting information and services that were relevant to each individual customer.

The SMUD website on a laptop

Responsive web design system with highly reusable components

The SMUD.org website is comprised of a number of highly reusable components for content authoring. Each component is designed to work in numerous contextual situations (such as the home page, langing pages, and detail pages) to maximize their simplicity and efficiency. For example, an “abstract” appears on just about every page of the website, sometimes grouped with other abstracts, and sometimes as a call-out to support adjacent content.

The overall design system (templates and components) was delivered in web formats, allowing SMUD’s development team to then take those assets and adjust SMUD’s other web properties for a consistent look-and-feel across experiences.

Project in Numbers

Trained Content Authors

Service area residents

Average minutes on site

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