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NiSource looks to mobile for consumer satisfaction


NEW YORK – Utility company NiSource is deploying a crossplatform mobile strategy because it recognizes that its customers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices to manage their finances.

Executives from NiSource spoke at the Netbiscuits World 2011 conference on the “Mobile as a utility for utilities” panel. During the session, the company outlined its mobile plans and presented a look into the utility company’s first foray into mobile.

“We recognize that we are an energy company, so more than anything else mobile has to be easy for our customers to do business on,” said Charles Crews, director of customer programs and business improvement at NiSource, Merrillville, IN.

“Wanted a mobile-optimized Web site because we only wanted to focus on the most important things,” he said.

NiSource provides gas and electric services to 3.5 million consumers in seven states.

Consumer first
NiSource first began developing a mobile strategy in May 2011.

One of the main criteria for the company was to create mobile services that lined up with the daily habits of its consumers.

“Consumers don’t choose their utility companies so it is imperative that we understand our users,” Mr. Crews said.

“By talking to our consumers, we were able to learn that they wanted information about our services and the ability to pay for bills on their mobile devices,” he said.

One of the pieces of information consumers were interested in was learning how to save money on their bills.

The company also wanted to let consumers know about power outages.

Power on mobile
Kevin Johannsen, IT manager at NiSource, Merrillville, IN, also spoke on the panel.

To determine its consumers’ needs, NiSource surveyed 670 consumers on what they were looking for with a mobile solution.

The company found that consumers wanted to be notified of big services changes to their bill via mobile.

“If a consumer has a gas leak, they want to report it and get an answer back quickly,” Mr. Johannsen said.

“Our goal is to be a leader in the utility mobile space,” he said.

“Consumers are looking to get information in a total of two to three clicks.”

NiSource plans to launch its mobile Web site in mid-December.

On the site, users will be able to login with their account number and pay for bills.

Consumers will also be able to view electric outages on a map and report problems.

Additionally, NiSource is rolling out other mobile services in 2012, including applications and a SMS program.

“Our key focus is making sure that we push out tools to our customers to make their lives easier,” Mr. Johannsen said.

“When we see outages, our Web traffic skyrockets,” he said. “What we want to do is getting that type of information to people when they need it.”

Final Take
Kevin Johannsen, IT manager at NiSource, Merrillville, IN