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Building Bulb

Making it easier for our members to get the support they need

An illustration of Bulb members signing up to the Priority Services Register

Last year, we relaunched our sign-up form for the Priority Services Register (PSR). It was recently shortlisted for a D&AD writing award, so we thought this would be a good time to explain how we worked together to make a product that works well for our members.

The PSR offers help to members who need extra support

Energy companies offer a variety of services to customers who need extra support, ranging from people with young children to those who have a long-term health condition. The support includes things like help with meter readings, providing statements in accessible formats, or support during emergencies and power cuts. This is called the PSR.

But at Bulb, we suspected that lots of our members weren’t signing up to get the support they needed. And we knew that some members were signing up to services that might not actually help them.

So we took a look at the PSR sign-up form, and discovered that it wasn’t as easy to use as we wanted it to be. And we realised that by finding out about people’s individual needs, we could offer them the support that was best suited to them.

Our form wasn't helping enough members get the support they needed

When we built the old PSR form a couple years ago, we wanted to make it easy to use. And we did a pretty good job! The language was clear. We’d tried to make it as inclusive as possible – we even avoided referring to the PSR by name, because our research showed that some people who might benefit from extra help don’t consider themselves to be a ‘priority’, and might be put off by that language. And members just had to answer a few questions to sign up.

We started by asking people to choose which services they wanted, followed by some questions about their eligibility. This was for 2 reasons: We wanted to offer all eligible people the full menu of options. And our research suggested that some people might be reluctant to apply for extra help if they have to prove they need it first.

A picture showing Bulb's original PSR form
A screenshot showing how we asked members which services they'd like to register for in our original PSR form.

But by offering people services before checking their eligibility, we risked disappointing them if they turned out not to qualify. And we weren’t making it clear why people might benefit from each service, which meant they were often choosing services they might not need.

To understand why this is a problem, let’s look at paper statements. Some members need paper statements, for example because they don’t have easy access to email or have low digital literacy. But sending them to people who could easily get statements by email is less green, and it increases our costs. Increasing costs makes it harder for us to keep our prices low.

The next problem was on our eligibility page. On a single page we displayed all the different conditions and circumstances that would make someone eligible, from being aged 60 or over, to being partially sighted or blind, to recently returning home from hospital, and so on. Even though we grouped conditions together, the page was unwieldy, and might have made it tough for people to find the condition that applied to them.

A picture of Bulb's original PSR form
A screenshot showing the elegibility page of our original PSR form.

Finally, the form didn’t feel very Bulby. The warmth and positivity we like to give our products just wasn’t there - even when we were giving the member good news, like confirming their eligibility.

Designing a form that offers services based on needs

When we started redesigning the form, we had a few goals in mind. We wanted to:

  • find out about people’s needs first, then recommend services based on those needs

  • break up the form into a larger number of smaller questions, to make it easier to use

  • make sure the language was as clear and inclusive as possible

  • use illustrations to help guide members through the form and add a bit of warmth

Shannon, the product designer for the project, made a prototype that used a conversational approach, asking a series of questions about people’s situation at home, and any health conditions they might have. This helped us find out about needs, without explicitly asking about eligibility.

Our user researcher Zara tested this approach with a range of potential users with different needs, including some who’d previously signed up to the PSR. While the conversational approach worked well, we spotted some issues with how we described certain physical and cognitive needs. And it wasn’t always clear to people what kind of support we were offering - some thought it might be financial.

And for this product to work well, we’d need to make sure the wording was clear for everyone who might use it.

Using this feedback, we refined the prototype and got the final version ready for launch.

Sometimes a longer form is a better form

When members arrive at the new form, they’ll see a high-level summary of the kinds of support we offer, and the people it’s meant for. And we reassure people that while we’ll ask about their eligibility, we won’t ask for any proof. We didn’t want anyone to be put off by having to prove something like a health condition or difficult situation at home.

We then ask people a series of simple questions, grouping questions together around the themes of household, personal circumstances, and physical or mental conditions. This helped reduce the cognitive load, making the form easier to use even though it was longer.

Most importantly, we worked hard to make sure we were using the right language to describe different health conditions. We consulted with guidance on inclusive language published by NHS Digital and GOV.UK. We spoke to accessibility experts to make sure the terms we were using would be widely understood, and tested that the form reaches the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ AA standard. And where there was any risk of ambiguity, we used examples to clarify.

And throughout the form we added illustrations, made by our longtime illustrator Aurelia, to show what each page was for and add the positive feeling we aim to communicate in our products.

Once we’ve got all the answers we need, we’re able to suggest services we think will help make a member’s life easier. And we email the member’s selection to them, so they can find the information later on. So if you choose an obscure password for engineers to confirm their identity during home visits, you don’t need to worry about forgetting it later on.

Several screenshots showing Bulb's new PSR form
Screenshots showing how the new PSR form helps members choose the services they need.

We’ve also broadened the scope of our support services so we can offer help to more people, including those without easy access to the internet, and those who’d prefer to use a language other than English. And we’ll look for opportunities to broaden this further in the future.

The proportion of Bulb members getting our support services has doubled

We relaunched the PSR form last summer. Since then, the conversion rate of the form (meaning the proportion of people who successfully complete it) has gone up around 140%. We've doubled the proportion of Bulb members who are getting our support services, while making it much more cost effective for us to deliver those services.

On their own, those stats make this a real success for us. But this was also a great example of different teams in Bulb working together to help our members. Beyond the Content, Design and Research (CDR) team, this project also involved lots of people in our Priority and Extra Care Services team, including a product manager, developers and vulnerability specialists. By having the clear, shared goal of helping more people get the support they need, we were able to work together with great results.