How might we streamline the process of finding a utility service provider (i.e. water, electricity, internet, etc.) by making the transfer process simplified and easy for people who are moving so that it takes less time to search and activate utilities during a move?
While there might be variation in migration and relocation patterns among individuals, human migration is a pillar of human history dating back to prehistoric times. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average person in America moves residences more than 11 times in their lifetime. As of 2022, 8.7% of the U.S. population (~29 million people) moved. The decision to move can be daunting but the logistics of relocation can add to the stress of moving by being burdensome. The current process to find the right utility service providers can be challenging due to the number of steps to find the right utility service provider. Generally, there are multiple steps to search and activate service including:
- Determining who are your providers in the new location at least 2-3 weeks prior to your move
- Individually contacting providers
- Comparing prices and service options
- Deciding to cancel, transfer, or setting up a new service
- Confirming utilities were disconnected in old location and turned on in new location
A key takeaway per our user discovery research: Participants are price sensitive and prefer price transparency for services. Additional challenges included time consuming phone calls, price and service comparison that is overwhelming and difficult for consumers to make decisions during a move. Key insights include:
- When reporting search tools over 71% reported calling the service provider in their new location or conducting online research, respectively.
- Participants overwhelmingly (71%) would like a tool or a product feature to demonstrate price comparisons. Similar findings were reported via qualitative data.
- Of those who found the information gathering process stressful (n=4; 52%),
- The key stressor was not being able to easily compare prices that were within budget or affordable.
- A second key stressor was difficulty getting in contact with providers or spending a lot of time communicating. One participant voiced over long wait times getting information: “..customer service which was not easily reachable due to long wait times. “
- Feedback from user discovery research indicated most movers( 72%) took between 0-3 days to select their preferred provider.
The user research synthesis provides more in-depth insights from our survey.
Landing on the Solution
Based on our target users’ pain points and survey feedback, we knew we wanted to work on the following features and solutions for the problem space:
- As a new user of UtilityLink, I want to create a profile with my current and future location, so that I take advantage of the suggested options feature based on my current preferences.
- As a user who has competing priorities during a move, I want to be able to easily search for utility service providers in my new location, so that I can make a quick decision on how to activate utilities.
- As a user who is overwhelmed with choices, I want to simplify the information with filters that cater to my budget, so that I can make sound financial decisions.
Possible additional problems to address include:
- Improving the product so that end users do not have to contact the selected utility providers. A future version of the app could include options to allow UtilityLink to have a concierge-like service that completes the administrative and billing setup while keeping the user updated.
- How to monetize the service without placing additional fees on the end user.
Product Manager Learnings:
- Co.Lab was an incredibly enriching experience for me as it fostered my creativity and critical thinking abilities within the realm of Product Management. Rather than solely imparting theoretical knowledge, the SPRINT 21 bootcamp provided hands-on experiences that I can implement.
- I also loved that we began our work with defining the problem space rather than just jumping into a solution. By starting with the "why" instead of the "what," I gained a valuable perspective that guided me throughout SPRINT 21. Constantly questioning the "why" and keeping the users and target audience in mind became my compass during each week of the SPRINT.
- Finally, prioritization is key! Sometimes simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Focusing on doing one thing exceptionally well can be more impactful than trying to tackle everything at once. Remember as the saying goes, "don't try to boil the ocean."