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Anatomy of a redesign

NStar's rates aren't falling, but a more eye-pleasing and user-friendly electric bill is on its way

More than 900,000 NStar Electric customers may find something astonishing about their next electric bill: It actually makes sense.

For the first time in a generation, NStar has comprehensively revamped the design of the bills it sends residential customers, following a yearlong, $2 million process that included convening eight focus groups, reviewing 70 other utility bill formats, and executives listening in on hours of live calls from customers complaining about confusing bills.

It all started a year ago when NStar’s vice president of customer care, Penni McLean-Conner, got a call from chief executive Thomas J. May asking for a meeting about nothing short of ‘‘redefining the customer experience.’’

In the course of reviewing every way customers deal with NStar or get communications from the utility, it became clear that the 1970s-vintage, numbers-heavy, all-capitals bill — with seemingly as many line items as a tax return with incomprehensible names like ‘transition charge’’ — had to go.

‘‘It was,’’ McLean-Conner said, ‘‘such a pain point for our customers.’’