In an ideal world, what do you want the Bulb community to be?

Hi everyone! I’m running a research project at the moment about our lovely community members and the Bulb community site more broadly. We’ll be talking with some of you over the coming weeks about your experiences on community, how the community site functions and where we could improve.

So, think big: in an ideal world, what would you want the Bulb community to be?

It’s a pretty big question, so here’s a few prompts:

  • What kind of content do you want to see from the community?
  • What kind of content do you want to see from Team Bulb?
  • What kinds of discussions do you find most interesting on community currently?
  • How is this different to what community is like at the moment?

Looking forward to reading your responses! :slight_smile:

I’d like to see more general discussion from community members, ideally environmental/energy/property related but a few off-topic threads are nice too.

I’d like to see almost all of the help queries (that 99% of the posts on here are about) moved to somewhere else to actually enable the above discussion.

I’d like to see general feature/energy/industry discussions being started by Team Bulb. Anything that you guys know about that we probably don’t know about would be nice to see. I’m sure there are plenty of passionate team members over there - just let them post whatever they’re interested in/whatever they’re working on.
I suspect that if team members are given time to have discussions on here then this kind of thing will come naturally.

I enjoy discussions on technology, and the weigh-up between energy efficiency and the embedded energy and waste of new products vs keeping old products.

Hi @“Caroline W at Bulb”, nice chatting with you just now.

I thought I’d summarise a few things we talked about for benefit of the discussion on here. As with @mowcius I would likewise like to see the majority of the help queries moved to somewhere else. Currently the community is swamped with what should be direct communication with Bulb. I don’t really understand why so many people keep posting on here, often including personal details, as if they think it’s private communication. Even though there’s a big “Help” button at the top of the page and comprehensive FAQs, somehow people need to be better directed in how to contact Bulb directly. Perhaps an account secure message system could be implemented, as with banks, since we do sometimes need to include details that aren’t best done over insecure email.

Once that’s out of the way, again as with @mowcius I’d like to see the community become a much more technical resource. I believe, rightly or wrongly, new energy suppliers such as Bulb, Ovo, and Ecotricity etc. are in the energy equivalent of the fintech sector. Like Starling Bank, Atom Bank etc., you’re more of a tech company first and an energy supplier second. I suspect many of your customers are going to be more technical than customers of the “Big 6”. We can see this from community posts on other suppliers, where there are lots of posts along the lines of “why are you forcing me to have a smart meter, I don’t want one!”, whereas the Bulb community is full of people posting “Why haven’t you installed my smart meter yet?!”.

To that end, what I’d really like to see is more engagement from the technical staff at Bulb, and not just the customer facing service desk staff. Posts like this one from @“Daniel at Bulb” about starting discussion on the design and use of the smart meter API. It would be great to have more discussion like that about the whole Bulb roadmap. Particularly more open beta trials like the current smart tariff. Your enthusiast and technical customers want to engage with you. They want to test stuff. We don’t care if it breaks, or if it falls over every other day. The earlier you can start trials of services, the sooner you can get feedback on what’s working and what isn’t before you’ve spent too much time on it.

To continue the smart meter example, say you’re working on an app to display usage data. The more open-source you can make it and the API to access the data, the more your community will get involved. Perhaps you could even post some sample code on GitHub showing people how to use your new API and encouraging development. Quite possibly they will end up making an app that is better than your own! And that’s great, because it’s free! There might end up being several community-driven apps that other customers can choose from. Suddenly, rather than thinking they might leave Bulb because another supplier has a better app and services, they’re now thinking I’d never leave Bulb because of how open and accessible everything is. The opposite of vendor lock-in (supplier lock-in).

I have an app for my Nissan Leaf to enable me to check the charge level and remotely start the climate control. it’s terrible. Half the time it doesn’t work, and they still have no idea when it might be updated to work with Android 9. But the API for accessing the car services is known, and there are several other apps available to use that are better than the one made by Nissan.

Let people get involved, and suddenly you have a whole new level of customer loyalty. But you have to get people onto the community first by promoting intelligent and technical discussion, rather than an endless page of “Why have you put my direct debit up?” :slight_smile:

I would like to echo the comments from above and would say we’ve also had this question a couple of times before.

I actually joined bulb in part BECAUSE of the idea of a community where we could not only talk to bulb, but build a customer ‘movement’ to do with renewable energy.

I am not an expert, but I hoped to learn. It is a shame that the boards have been allowed to fill up with repetitive customer service queries rather than community interaction. I have since joined other boards on this subject, but I would still like to feel like with bulb I’m contributing to changing behaviour in the UK, not just there to pay my charges through an app

Wow - I am in awe at the thought that has gone into these messages. I can only agree with all that has been said.

Perhaps the one thing to add is that it’s important for people not to feel excluded, or that there is nowhere for them. Different customers have different needs. This could be solved by having two or three more categories in the posts. If someone has downloaded the app and cannot change their DD settings, then it is fair enough that they should ask for help from the community. But it shouldn’t be the same forum in which people are discussing APIs.

This is perceptive from @Hooloovoo

new energy suppliers such as Bulb, Ovo, and Ecotricity etc. are in the energy equivalent of the fintech sector. Like Starling Bank, Atom Bank etc., you're more of a tech company first and an energy supplier second. I suspect many of your customers are going to be more technical than customers of the "Big 6". We can see this from community posts on other suppliers, where there are lots of posts along the lines of "why are you forcing me to have a smart meter, I don't want one!", whereas the Bulb community is full of people posting "Why haven't you installed my smart meter yet?!".

Also endorse this and feel the same:

I actually joined bulb in part BECAUSE of the idea of a community where we could not only talk to bulb, but build a customer 'movement' to do with renewable energy.

I take the point about FAQs and the Help button, but people like to communicate in different ways. Let’s keep it friendly and welcoming. I don’t think you will ever completely avoid those customer service queries being posted, although definitely make the other channels as obvious as they can be.

I take the point about FAQs and the Help button, but people like to communicate in different ways. Let's keep it friendly and welcoming. I don't think you will ever completely avoid those customer service queries being posted, although definitely make the other channels as obvious as they can be.

Essentially the problem is lack of community moderation.

For whatever reason, people can’t be relied upon to post in the right place. There’s a post just this morning in “Everything but Bulb” asking for a specific account-related query. Perhaps a user-interface expert needs to be consulted on this, because it just baffles me how someone can apparently go down the following thought process:

  1. I need help with a specific aspect of my account.
  2. Let’s see, big “Help” button at the top of the page, no that doesn’t seem right.
  3. Big “Community” button, that’s better. I’ll try there. That doesn’t sound at all like it’s a public forum.
  4. Big “Ask a question” button. Yes, that looks good. That’s what I want to do.
  5. Drop down list “Select a category”. Ok, what options do we have?
  6. “About Bulb”. No, that’s not right, I have a question about my account not Bulb specifically.
  7. “Help and Support”. No, that’s not right either. I need help and support.
  8. “Everything but Bulb”. Yes! That’s the one! I’ll post my private account related information there.

Surely the path above can’t be what’s happening. So what are people doing?

I think step 4 above is the answer to why we’re getting so many duplicate posts where no one has read any previous threads. I think it would be better to remove that, so at least then someone has to click a category and has chance to see what’s already there before clicking the “New discussion” button. But as to how you get them to post in the right place, I’ve no idea. It’s a problem over the entire internet, so if someone at Bulb figures it out they should get a patent on the method quick!

Some active moderation here would improve the community dramatically. Either from Bulb or perhaps community volunteers. At least then threads could be merged and/or moved to a more appropriate sub-forum. I’m not sure the current software has the ability to do that. I do wonder why Bulb are going to the trouble of homebrewing their community rather than taking one of the free off-the-shelf packages.

I do wonder why Bulb are going to the trouble of homebrewing their community rather than taking one of the free off-the-shelf packages.
This is something I continually fail to understand. Paying someone for a couple of months (if that) to install, configure, brand, and migrate the forum across to Discourse, and then train some staff would not exactly be a great deal of money and it feels like it would resolve so many problems.

I keep being told that Vanilla has loads of add-on modules that allow you to customise it as required but I bet I could install and migrate this forum across to Discourse faster than someone could fix the current bugs and install a few add-ons.

I think the process may be more like:

  1. Search Google for generic query and “Bulb”
  2. First hit is community.bulb.co.uk
  3. Visit that link, realise that it doesn’t answer their query
  4. See big fat “Ask a question” button
  5. Post personal information on the forum in a random category as they don’t really understand what they mean

What i think lacks is quality checks before posting, during drafting and actual posting. There will be many customers that have not used forums before, or not as a custom to them compared to other veterans that have an establish practice with engaging in these types of communities.

There could be simple checks, that include:

(1) pop-up with certain signposting ideas to other areas, help FAQ, searching the forum first etc before even thinking about drafting a post.
(2) Reminder of community forum guidance and that it is public for everyone to see.
(3) A Redesign of the categories, at first glance ‘Everything at bulb’ is very opaque, and I would have to state that 3 categories for a complex set of needs with a vast set of customers is somewhat wanting.

It might be worth getting a community discussion on the user experience of the forum, clearly Bulb has increased its customer base and clearly user experience has increased over the last year. This thread could do that, but i do not think that was the original intent of the thread. I would have to also apply warning that Bulb may need to establish what it can do currently to help cultivate restricted options and help shape expectations.

It may also which the review its communication practices and policies. A lot of the questions poised that seem odd to ask on a community forum are not urgent that requires same day responses, and could possibility review how other companies deal with queries that are not urgent, for example talktalk now has a chat service that is more like instant messager that can have a dialog over a period of time.

I review on contact times for certain customers is highly needed, with more quires about urgent over the weekend prepayment customers.

In all honesty the FAQ is somewhat undesirable, with very limited user interaction and sometime poor keyword performance. There is very little about prepayment in FAQ.

Would have to agree the needs to be some form of community moderation.

I have just done some research in the FAQ and I have to agree with @JustSsavvy that one way to improve the forums might be to improve the FAQ. If you look at the popular queries on the forums, several of them are not covered. The main one is “why has my Direct Debit gone up so much?” and others include “Why can’t I change the DD via the app?” and “The system won’t let me submit my meter reading”.

Underneath the articles in the FAQ section there is first the community button and only if you scroll below that is there the “Other ways to get help” section with the three icons. So a simple improvement would be to move that up so that people find it first. Similarly, in the individual articles there is the question “was this article helpful” and if the answer is “no” then the reader has nothing other than a list of other articles. This is where the “Other ways to get help” banner would again be useful.

Also, if I read an article and answer “no” to the question “was this article helpful?” then nothing happens. Surely answering “no” should be a link that takes me somewhere to ask for help? Maybe I am missing something…

Then finally the Community front page seems to encourage people to post account queries in the forums. It says “We’re here to help” which is ambiguous (who is ‘we’ the community or Team Bulb?) then suggests some questions FAQs: How do I switch? - How do I pay? - Where is my meter? and immediately underneath is the big green button “ask the community a question”. This does imply that the type of question you would ask the community is similar to the examples given immediately above.

So the changes might be quite simple… and there must be lots of UI experts in your part of London, if not already on the Bulb team, who could help design improvements.

This is something I continually fail to understand. Paying someone for a couple of months (if that) to install, configure, brand, and migrate the forum across to Discourse, and then train some staff would not exactly be a great deal of money and it feels like it would resolve so many problems.

@“Caroline W at Bulb” One of the things we talked about was the option of having a different user account for the forum, separate to the Bulb energy account. I said I didn’t like that because it would be two logins to remember/store. Having thought about this some more, is the background to that question the issue of moving to different forum software? If the blocker to moving to something like Discourse is the current link between accounts, then I change my answer to that question. It doesn’t bother me at all having two separate accounts if it means a better forum can be installed.

I have just done some research in the FAQ and I have to agree with @JustSsavvy that one way to improve the forums might be to improve the FAQ.

Whilst I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, I think the main problem is that people just don’t read FAQs.

@Hooloovoo “I think the main problem is that people just don’t read FAQs.”

Yes, good point. They may be frequently asked, but the answers are infrequently read =)

One thing that I’ve mentioned to Caroline is how much I like the Monzo community forum (Discourse) that when you start typing a subject/post, it suggests ‘similar posts’ - this might reduce the duplicated queries a lot.

In my previous customer-facing tech support, I did realise that troubleshooters tend to help ‘novices’ more (as it steps them through issues to reach the right answer), but more ‘experienced’ people prefer just text searches as they tend to know what they are looking for and don’t want to go through 20 steps to find ‘smart meter tariff’. As I said to Caroline, it’s just finding the right balance of everything which is tricky - make the FAQs, help system/troubleshooter too good and people won’t use the forum, but don’t have a good FAQ/help system and every body will use the forum and it’ll get flooded with the same questions time and time again.

I have found the forum enjoyable as it is, with all members free to ask questions or share their knowledge. I have noticed a small number of responses lately which are a bit less than polite. That is a pity. All community members should feel free to ask questions if they wish and respondents should answer politely if they wish to participate.

I have found the forum enjoyable as it is, with all members free to ask questions or share their knowledge. I have noticed a small number of responses lately which are a bit less than polite. That is a pity. All community members should feel free to ask questions if they wish and respondents should answer politely if they wish to participate.

I do agree with this, with the caveat that on any internet forums the members are expected to do at least the minimum of their own research before asking a question. i.e., reading the FAQ and any existing threads on the topic.

Currently this is not happening, which can become frustrating. Additionally, many posts do not even contain full sentences or make use of basic grammar, which is “a bit less than polite” when you’re expecting help from someone. I think this is due to some issue with the user interface on this site/forum where people seem to think they are typing search keywords into an algorithm, as opposed to posting on a forum. Once the user interface problems are resolved, I think a lot of the existing problems will go away.

I have found the forum enjoyable as it is, with all members free to ask questions or share their knowledge. I have noticed a small number of responses lately which are a bit less than polite. That is a pity. All community members should feel free to ask questions if they wish and respondents should answer politely if they wish to participate.

I totally agree with your sentiments especially as I could be one of those respondents who sometimes may come over as impolite in responses even though this is unintentional on my part.

The problem we have is that the same questions keep coming on the forum ad nauseam instead of the person asking the question doing just a little research on the help pages or the forum to see if they can find an answer before posting.

The sad part is that even when we provide an answer to a query there is no feedback from many of the posters as to whether the answer given solved their query.

Thank you all SO much for the amazingly thoughtful responses! Really nice to see contributions from this round of research and people that have been part of previous research too! :smile:

We know there are loads of obvious things that need fixing - for example, better signposting between Help Centre and community, which is finally on its way.

I love the ideas for more community integration in terms of API etc, and I’ll try personally to share any interesting articles on the environment or energy generally.

Using your feedback and the other data we’ve collected from this research and previous, we’re collating a list of features for the community, which will hopefully be on their way soon. Thanks again!

Wow, great feedback thanks. I’m pleased to see the honesty too. Without it, we wouldn’t get better.

@mowcius We’ve started to get better at sorting the Help and Support articles from the About Bulb articles. This is manually done each day (or two). This should make things a bit clearer.

@Hooloovoo We can certainly start posting some more content on the Everything but Bulb section. It does get a bit neglected.

Your recent posts about your smart usage have been super useful for us, so please keep them up.

We’d love for our Community members to also post questions about technology too. I’ll make sure the right person at Bulb responds.

@JustSsavvy

(1) pop-up with certain signposting ideas to other areas, help FAQ, searching the forum first etc before even thinking about drafting a post.
(2) Reminder of community forum guidance and that it is public for everyone to see.
(3) A Redesign of the categories, at first glance ‘Everything at bulb’ is very opaque, and I would have to state that 3 categories for a complex set of needs with a vast set of customers is somewhat wanting.

These are some good ideas!

Discourse is an option @mowcius. You are right that it would take our engineers time to fix up the Vanilla platform but it is certainly possible. Technically, we can do what we want with Vanilla, which is pretty cool.

We hope to nab some of the engineers time soon. I know we’ve been saying this for a long time now. We’ve experienced such fast growth at Bulb that there have been urgent projects that our developers have had to concentrate on. The Community has not been forgotten though. Will and I are on a mission to make Community better.

@JustSsavvy We do already have an integrated chat like TalkTalk. You can speak to our energy specialists from 9-6 Monday to Friday. This sits on our sign up page and help centre. It has suggested Help Centre articles and a links to Bulb account too. It’s actually our most efficient form of communication with members so we’re looking into how we can make the most of it.

@francis_evans

The power of the search function is poor which doesn’t help members when trying to find other Community posts. One suggestion has been to add Help Centre as suggested articles which could reduce duplicate posts. Again, this is something we can add to Vanilla.

There have been a fair few questions about direct debits in the past couple weeks. But generally speaking these are not our FAQs. We recently had payment review for some members meaning there have been more questions than usual. I’ll raise a ticket with the comms and copy team to add ‘why can’t I submit my meter reading’ to our Help Centre.

@RichyB and @Allanr have asked for a new economy 7 help article and this will be up soon. We need these suggestions to keep coming so we are making the content that is useful for our members. We don’t always pick up on these things so thanks.

We totally agree. The Community homepage is not very helpful for our members. In fact, changes to the homepage are being looked at as we speak.

For a start, our developers will be:

  • Changing the ‘We’re here to Help’ to ‘Join the Community’
  • Removing the questions with something like: “This is the place to talk to the team and other Bulb members about Bulb, green issues and life in general. If you need help with a specific problem, start in the help centre.”

This should help direct people to our help centre before asking us a question.

@Allanr :frowning: @“Caroline W at Bulb” was given some great feedback by you guys. There was an overwhelming desire for a ‘thanks’ or ‘solved’ button. We think that’s a great idea. Especially when you’ve given such a good answer.

The sad part is that even when we provide an answer to a query there is no feedback from many of the posters as to whether the answer given solved their query.
In my experience thus far any response at all is rare. :/