Driving business change for SSE working towards their net zero future


Working with SSE Energy Solutions to accelerate their mission and their business through a programme of customer centricity; delivering products to market faster, enabling customer self-serve, and reducing internal costs.

As one of the UK’s largest energy firms, SSE generates renewable energy. With an ambitious vision to be a leading energy company in a net zero world, cxpartners were appointed to drive radical business change to support this goal.

In order to achieve their vision, SSE sought to increase their competitive advantage, improve internal efficiencies and increase revenue. The answer? Building a customer-centric organisation from the ground up.

Using our Customer Centricity Maturity Model, we developed a change programme for running high performing capabilities across People, Processes, Governance, Facilities, and Communications. To do this, we established a design studio within the organisation which enabled them to deliver digital self-service products to market twice as fast, which solved customer challenges more effectively, and reduced the reliance on support agents and the cost of manual intervention.

Succeeding in a competitive market

In order to create a more efficient business, with removal of manual processes, SSE needed to help customers interact and self-serve digitally. A channel shift would reduce internal costs, and therefore enable them to offer the best prices to customers, and invest further in renewable energy.

However, in a sector where interactions between energy brands and customers are few and far between, SSE knew that making efficiencies in the wrong places and damaging the customer experience carried huge risk.

How could they improve the experience they provided, both for their customers and their frontline colleagues, whilst increasing efficiencies and reducing cost? And how could they realise the benefits of this as quickly as possible?

The answer was to place people - customers, frontline colleagues, SSE delivery teams - at the heart of the design process - and use this insight to not only optimise digital touchpoints, but their operating model as well.

A long-term partnership

We were appointed to deliver a multi-year programme that would transform it’s customer centricity maturity, and reap the significant rewards in cost saving and growth that this would bring.

Our Design Studio Model was adopted by SSE leadership and we deployed a studio team to shape a roadmap or workstreams that would enable SSE to transform across 5 dimensions

People: Building an employer brand and team capable of connecting stakeholders closely to customers

Process: Embedding user centred design practices into team workflows

Governance: Providing leadership with powerful customer insight with which to make the right decisions

Facilities: Setting employees up for success with the right tools

Communications: Formulating the architecture to enable strategic direction information to be shared across the business

Our design studio with SSE is based on three key principles:

  1. We establish a facility for continuous customer insight gathering
  2. We build customer centric capability
  3. We develop a model for continuous improvement

Initial results

In its first 6 months, the studio has halved the time that it takes SSE to deliver new experiences to market. And these new experiences enable customers to complete tasks in half the number of steps. This has resulted in huge improvements in customer satisfaction, and has made massive internal cost savings for SSE.

1. We establish a facility for continuous customer insight gathering

Working together, we have transformed customer touchpoints, using research to inform design decisions. As a pilot programme, our team tackled the customer account area, testing proposed designs with users.

Through research, it was quickly apparent that while there was a wide range of customers - from small businesses to huge multi-site organisations - the proposed designs completely overwhelmed the customers with less complex needs. By designing an ‘expert’ interface for everyone, there was a significant risk that it wouldn’t work for anyone.

Working collaboratively, the SSE team were able to observe the research and experience customer reactions first hand. Together we were able to design an experience that worked well for all customers. Importantly, this pilot sparked a different way of working for SSE - with their stakeholders willing to change their plans when it was obvious that this would achieve a better outcome for customers.

With a better understanding of why research and iteration should be used early in the design process, we were then able to apply the same methodology to some of SSE’s other customer touchpoints including meter reading, payment, third party intermediaries and onboarding.

Now, every product at SSE has interactions with customers through regular research. Our studio makes it as easy and quick to mobilise as possible - with a panel of customers that means we can spin up research whenever it is needed. The design studio has facilitated a real hunger from SSE to hear what customers think as often as possible.

How can we do the best thing for the customers now and evolve the solution as technology improves?
Alan Robb,

2. We build capability in customer centricity

Whilst SSE knew that they needed to focus on improving digital journeys - they recognised that the barriers to greater, more sustainable impact were within the organisation itself. After gathering information about their capability in customer centricity practices, we shaped our workstreams to make small interventions across the organisation that would have a big impact on their ability to sustainably meet market needs, and get ahead of the competition.

UX Capability

Our design studio model was adopted as the best template for building out long term capability. We developed the team structure, role descriptions, and employer value proposition that would enable SSE to hire the best talent to deliver their mission.

Operating model

Our collaborative process relies on robust workshop facilitation, frequent share-outs, and a workflow that enables insights to drive product design that makes an impact. Our teams coached SSE product managers and cross functional team members to carry out this style of working. The result? Faster, more efficient delivery, and better experiences for customers.

Validated product roadmaps

We developed a technique for infusing product roadmaps with features that would solve customer problems. This was possible through a slick user research programme where insights could be gathered from real customers within 48 hours. SSE has continued to inform its roadmaps in this way

Employee experience

Support centre agents were at the front line of customer challenges. We developed software for them to solve queries more easily and support customers in a deeper way. And we knew that others at SSE required the right tools to collaborate well, which is why we hosted Miro, Slack, and Zeplin in order for teams to work together easily and quickly.

Design System

Easy and slick sharing information, insights, and assets is core to the process of building robust experiences for customers that are consistent and reliable. To do this we created a design system that enabled scrum teams to share patterns, and a scrum of scrums model that enabled teams to work in tandem whilst focussing on their specific efforts.

3. We develop a model for continuous improvement

Our studio was established to investigate, define and establish a new way of working for SSE which could move the organisation from slow release cycles to a model of continuous improvement.

By combining delivery with coaching and training, we are able to help SSE’s internal teams to deliver change faster and with greater impact for the long term.

Furthermore, by creating tools which SSE can keep using, we are ensuring that the positive changes are far reaching and permanent. This has included:

  • A bespoke continuous improvement model including a design system, delivery model and governance framework.
  • A template for product teams to enable them to ship products faster, with reduced risk and improved outcomes.
  • A customer blueprint which provides an evidence-based ‘north star’ to orient development work.
  • A roadmap that outlines the steps SSE needs to take to build a great customer experience. This informs backlogs for their product teams and enables them to work together to achieve the ‘north star’ that the blueprint provides.
  • The set up of a ResearchOps capability which makes mobilising research simple and quick.

An ongoing commitment to people

The design studio has given SSE teams the skillset and tools to self-sufficiently deliver products in a customer-centred way. They have clarity on what a great customer experience looks like, and how to get there. They have accelerated velocity of product teams. They have radically improved cross-product team communication.

In its first year, our design studio has delivered huge gains for SSE - halving the time that it takes them to deliver new experiences to market. The studio has created great internal efficiencies for SSE by speeding up their internal processes, enabling customers to self-serve and improving their competitive advantage.

We continue to work with SSE on the next phase of the design studio, focussing on:

  1. Upskilling their internal teams to deliver innovative products and services in line with customer need
  2. Building out their UX capability (team) and employer brand
  3. Supporting other SSE subsidiaries, such as Airtricity, to develop a customer centric model for their B2C business
  4. Developing SSE’s API architecture to enable them to deliver the fast, automated, and personalised, experiences to customers that they need
Halved the time to take new experiences to market
Enabled customers to complete tasks in half the number of steps