Energy & Utilities project

British Gas: A strategic partnership

We’re partnering with the biggest brand in energy in the UK to help with their transformation into a customer-obsessed, service organisation.

We’re working with, and helping build, a digital organisation that can create awesome experiences for millions of customers.


Opportunity
To deploy design leadership and cross-functional, design-led, product teams to help British Gas organise and to deliver a world-class, digital experience as a departure to customer reliance on contact centres.
Outcome
Enhanced design governance, a measurably improved digital experience for millions of customers, plus savings for the business of up to £10 million directly attributed to our work.

A Service Design approach

With each product team, we approached the initial strategic phase of the work with a service design mindset - using tools and techniques like user interviews, ethnographic research, design sprints, future state mapping, and service blueprints.

This allowed us to zoom out from the product journey or capability the team was assigned to and see the bigger customer experience picture. It also provided us with the data we needed to really focus on and champion customer needs and pain points within the business.

Finally, working in this very visual way allowed us to easily expose and collaborate on the work with different business units making sure we were going forward with feasible solutions.

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“From the response to the brief to current day, Idean has contributed a wealth of experience and design thinking, all wrapped in a sharp focus on the customer.

They have brought true integrity to the partnership, while fully integrating with my wider teams. Idean has helped us further our learning culture and have stood with us to ensure that the importance of customer experience has penetrated all aspects of our delivery.”

Paul Roberts, Global Digital Director, British Gas


Product Design at scale

British Gas has done an awesome job in adopting an evidence-based approach to design, powered by their onsite testing lab. The result of this is simple - the product is driven by the customers and their needs. They have around 20 product teams working across digital self-service and sales, organised around the key jobs the customer needs to get done.

We’ve been working with British Gas for one year and have embedded design leadership, two full cross-functional product teams as well as designers to help lead four other teams. By bringing together experts in product strategy, design and engineering in an agile environment, we are able to run both continuous discovery and delivery methodologies. The result meaning we are always learning and always pushing that value directly back to customers every sprint.

We’ve also evolved the design process by working closely with Design Operations to run new governance and collaboration models to further ensure knowledge is being shared and designers are working effectively across product teams.

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Agile Delivery

Our empowered and self-organising Agile product teams have a broad range of technical skills allowing them to deliver with a high level of autonomy. Using the Ember.js framework our technology teams rapidly delivered new features in close collaboration with our designers, resulting in high quality implementations of the visual and interaction designs.

Our technical leads introduced coding standards for our teams to speed up our adoption of British Gas ways of working and this also allowed them to contribute to the wider developer community in turn sharing learnings and experience.

As well as front-end functionality our teams also supported Spring Boot API development for our product teams and others. Ongoing monitoring of the APIs using British Gas’s Apps Dynamics dashboards allowed us continue to drive improvements in production.

All of this is supported by a Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CICD) pipeline including automated testing that enabled releases on demand when features are ready. Multi-variant testing and canary releases are used throughout to test features with real users in production wherever possible.

A new Design System

In such a large digital organisation with so many product teams working on different parts of the experience, a design system was needed and we were chosen to lead this team. We are in the early stages of adoption of the new system but the value is being proven both externally through the testing of new components and internally through new and healthy collaboration and dialogue between different parts of the business.

The potential for this new design system is huge in terms of uniting the business around design, development and a customer-centric culture as well as driving business value through efficiency in design and engineering and an improved and consistent customer experience.

Finally, when the system matures with a comprehensive range of components and standards, the designers will have more time to devote to discovering and solving customers’ problems instead of working on interface elements. This will promote more innovation and step changes in the customer experience.


“From the very beginning this was an amazing collaboration across lots of departments and skillsets, with executive buy in from our Centrica Group Chief Marketing Officer, Marg Jobling. Personally, I believe that this was truly a turning point in how design is recognised in our company. It shows how we are evolving with the right ambition to drive us forward in digital.”

Paul Roberts, Global Digital Director, British Gas


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Thought leadership

Through our strong partnership with British Gas, we are starting to help them evolve their digital organisation to one that is built solely around the customer and can deliver a level of service experience that will set them apart from their competitors.

British Gas has created a great customer-focused design community and we want to help further embed design as a strategy within their organisation.

To help socialise some of our thinking we’ve also scheduled a series of talks for the staff at British Gas in order to help inspire and educate. The talks were designed to be both inspirational and practical, ending on actionable tools and lessons for people to try out in their day to day work.

Example talks include ‘Understanding Design Systems’, ‘The Importance of Design Research’ and ‘Organisational change with Design Thinking & Systems’.

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Some program highlights

Our Identity & Authentication team, through our qualitative research, noticed that customers were often confused about their account status as they didn’t visit the site very often. This meant people with accounts were trying to register and people without, trying to log in. We responded to this by getting rid of login and registration and making things super simple; if you’re a customer you can ‘access your account’ meaning you simply pop your email address in and we work out what kind of customer you are behind the scenes.

As a result of this insight-led work, 1.4m customers a year now get directed to the correct journey for them, and into their account, without them even knowing if they had registered for an online account.

On top of this, the team also added SMS verification allowing an additional 5k+ people per week to independently access their accounts for the first time. This represents an annual potential saving of £1.17m.

Our Billing & Payments team were tasked with creating an entirely new feature, allowing customers to pay for services like boiler installs, that were handled offline, online. Through customer research and business process analysis, we were able to design a thoroughly tested, minimum viable product. This MVP is now live and will allow a proportion of the 150K people who call the contact centre each year to settle an excess invoice to pay online. Based on the current adoption rate of our pay online service, that could amount to an annual cost saving of £750K.

Through this product team’s research, we also discovered a process improvement opportunity in the contact centre agents’ pre-authorisation payment workflow. A process change to make the pre-authorisation of payments mandatory has led to possible savings of up to £6m a year as a result of reductions in disputed excess.

Customer & business impact

We release our work into the live environment every sprint, helping millions of customers get their job done more efficiently and having had a better experience.

Many of these customers could have previously hit obstacles which would have prompted them to call the contact centre. Each one of these calls represents a cost to British Gas so our work has helped the business save a significant amount of money.


“Personally, I’d call out the individual skills from the executives to the frontline people delivering the products. It’s great to be amongst people who really get digital and share a curiosity about our customers’ needs. Regardless of skill domain, there is a strong Idean family trait that gives all those individuals a familiar feel. Together we have worked hard, delivered great products and had fun along the way.”

Paul Roberts, Global Digital Director, British Gas