British Gas, part of the Centrica plc, is the UK’s largest supplier of energy with over 12 million customers across the country. The company is committed to sustainable practices and continually invests in renewable resources and energy efficiency.
British Gas understood that energy bills have long been perceived as a complicated and disconnected part of their customer’s journey. Focused on providing their customers with the most optimal experience, British Gas saw this as an opportunity to create a clearer, more intuitive and more personalized energy bill, to be accompanied by a more helpful charging structure.
Creative Director, Europe and the Middle East
People’s expectations of brands have dramatically changed. People want to feel in control and so every part of the brand experience, even a bill, needs to contribute. When you are sending out over 43 million bills each year, as British Gas does, you need to get it right.
Under the guidance of the then newly appointed managing director, Phil Bentley, British Gas made a promise to its customers that they would become more transparent, fair and simple. Lippincott was asked to be their partner in delivering on that promise.
Of all the possible interactions for a company, the bill is arguably one of the most important.
Of all the possible interactions for a company, the bill is arguably one of the most important. For British Gas, over time its bill had evolved into a communication with too much distraction, too many steps and too much effort required to discern the essential information. We wanted to redefine that experience into a branded dialogue that was communicated in new and effective ways. So we looked at how to transform the bill from being a “demand for money” to a guidepost for saving money.
Our goal was to empower customers with a sense that they could not only understand their energy consumption but also influence its use. The new bill would also create a gateway into British Gas, which up until now remained a largely invisible company.
Part of the design solution boiled down to a less-is-more approach. We understood that by streamlining the bill’s content and giving it more breathing space, people would feel less threatened and thus be more likely to engage with it. However, the greatest influence for the design came when we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. Clearly delineated, color-coded sections became organized around the basic questions customers wanted their bill to answer: What do I owe you? When do I have to pay? What if I have a problem? Can I save money? And where do I go for help?
Language too had to be deconstructed. The bill now explains exactly what the customer is paying for, translating a “kilowatt-hour” into something that the customer easily understands. “Credit” is now “We owe you,” “billing periods” are now “seasons,” “complaints” are now “problem solving.”
One of the core offerings British Gas has long provided are recommendations for ways to save money, through both appropriate tariffs and energy efficiency promotion. Yet our research revealed customers were distrusting of communications surrounding this offering. We sought to remedy this with intuitive design, honest language and transparent pricing.
British Gas experienced an immediate 10 percent reduction in calls from usual billing call rates following the launch of the new bill. This represented over 3,000 calls a week, saving the company £750,000 annually. Customer satisfaction also improved greatly, with 78 percent of customers agreeing that the bill is clear as opposed to 61 percent before. Customers have embraced the intuitive design, with one stating that: “It’s like talking to a friend … it feels like British Gas really cares.” The redesigned bill has also been praised by UK government departments and public organizations designed to protect consumers.
reduction in calls to the call center
thousand saved per year
of customers agree that the bill is clear
Consumers could be winning the war against a confusing energy market as British Gas announced that it would be revolutionizing its energy bills. British Gas has brought a range of new measures into place to make understanding your energy simpler, which includes energy bills that are easier to read.
— uSwitch website
Information Design, 2014