The majority of utility companies are still in the habit of relentlessly pursuing bad profits and in such doing themselves more harm than good. Let me start with explaining what we mean with bad profits? Simply put it, bad profits arise when utility companies puts the bottom-line before its customers.
A typical example of a utility process that results in bad profits is the chasing of open bills by sending customers multiple over-due notices increasingly focussing on penalty charges and disconnection warnings. Of course a certain percentage of customers will pay the outstanding bill after receiving these threatening letters, however what are the hidden cost of such actions? If a customer feels they are not treated fairly or compassionately they will remember this, and in the future when the opportunity arises they will jump ship and you could be losing a good customer for ever.
If a customer does not pay their utility bill would it not be better to try to find out the reason why and if the circumstances warrant to mediate an outcome that benefits both parties instead of resorting to a one directional, generic, and cascading threatening communication. Chasing bad profits is short sighted and in most cases totally unnecessary in today’s time and age. Customers will eventually turn their back on companies who have a culture of aggressively chasing outstanding debts. In a time where customers have a choice and where churn rates are deteriorating to the point where utility retailers may lose half of its new customers in less than three years, chasing bad profits might not be a good business practice.
So how can technology help eliminate bad profits or even better turn bad profits into good profits. With today’s technologies such as “big data” and ‘analytics” the information is available to utility companies to differentiate between “notorious” bad payers and customers who struggle to keep up with their utility payments due to circumstance outside their control. I am sure most of us have in one point in time experienced reduced cash flow due to reasons mostly outside our control, it could be that you are between jobs and the next pay check does not arrive for another month, or it is the start of the school year and your kids school fees are due, maybe your car broke down and costly repairs are needed, or it could be an unexpected high dentist bill. Once a utility company recognizes that even a customer is willing they sometimes are not able to pay their bills on time, the utility company can use their contact centre to reach out to these customers and add the human touch to the whole transaction of chasing overdue bills.
In a time where more and more of our interactions seems to be through social media and electronic gadgets, speaking to a person who understands someone’s situation, shows compassion and can guide a customer with an overdue bill towards a long term payment plan, implement a delayed payment programs or direct debit can do wonders. So think before you send out the 3rd or 4th “overdue bill notice” –let alone disconnection warnings, and see if a more “human” touch would not result in better results.
How do you see utility companies using communication to provide a more human touch to interactions?