Assisting vulnerable customers and managing debt

Today, utilities are faced with an increasing number of customers struggling to pay their bills. Those customers tend to approach their utility company when they first experience trouble paying or immediately following a non-payment. In both cases, you are forced to react to the issue rather than working proactively to prevent it. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) may become overwhelmed by these frequent interactions with unhappy, stressed customers, which negatively impacts their motivation, career fulfillment, and mental well-being.

As a utility you must also navigate the demands of state and federal regulators, which set and enforce policies to protect vulnerable customers and ensure they have access to affordable and reliable energy. Additional laws and guidelines govern how your utility can engage with past-due accounts and collect debt, dictating how often and how assertively you can contact customers, as well as what types of information can be shared with credit reporting agencies.

All these factors contribute to what is ultimately a complex issue requiring a balance between collecting necessary payments and treating customers fairly.

The solution

To deliver the best customer experience, utilities must adopt a proactive, digital-centric approach to supporting those in need while managing debt. At the heart of this strategy must be a modern Customer Information System (CIS) that leverages the power of digitalization to:

  • Identify and track vulnerable customers to provide targeted support and assistance. Use digital communication channels like WhatsApp and text messaging to contact customers instead of letters or phone calls. This is cheaper, faster, and enables you to leverage technology such as AI and machine learning to improve operational efficiency and debt collection.
Online customer support
Customer base analysis
  • Conduct a proactive analysis of your customer base. Drawing on internal and external data, and historic and forecasting data, you can identify trends and patterns in the behavior of vulnerable or struggling customers. This enables you to predict and prevent potential issues before they arise. Your utility can gain valuable insight to assess financial impact and help your customer adjust their consumption behavior, ultimately reducing the size of their bill. Automating and optimizing processes such as billing and customer service with modern software frees up staff to focus on providing support to your most vulnerable customers. Digital integration and automation also enable consistent debt journeys with simpler reporting.

  • Enhance communication and provide self-service functionality, enabling your customers to easily access their information and customer support. Equipped with self-service access, customers are empowered to handle their debt in a private, straightforward way. This increases their likelihood of proactively engaging in the debt-collection process by enabling them to make payments or set up payment plans on their own.

Identify high-risk accounts
  • Act quickly by identifying high-risk accounts and proactively engaging them in the dunning process. Your collections teams can closely monitor customer data, using it to identify which debt collection methods and mechanisms are most successful, then prioritizing those to improve repayment rates.

By using a modern CIS like Itineris’ UMAX, you can identify your vulnerable customers and provide them with the support they need. Interested in learning more? Our experts are always available to share best practices.

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