Last year, energy debts and arrears hit £2.6 billion – the highest they’ve ever been.
Energy companies, the pressure is on to pave a smoother path towards debt resolutions – one that helps you stay reputable and profitable, while improving outcomes for your customers.
Here’s how to start creating that path.
Instigate top-down change
When it comes to creating stability for you and your customers amidst uncertainties, encouraging a company-wide cultural shift can help. This means uniting everyone – from your decision-makers to your customer-facing teams – with a shared vision, and the processes to make it a reality.
Setting these processes can also help you be proactive, rather than reactive. For instance, you could put a system in place that alerts you when a customer is at risk of defaulting, so that you can provide the necessary support before it happens.
Investing in technology can also help you implement and action these processes across the whole company – helping your teams to help your customers. A platform like Elifinty can help you digitalise quickly. As a cloud-based SaaS solution, Elifinity can integrate into your existing systems, quickly empowering your teams and customers to work towards financial health, together.
Learn from data and analytics
Data and analytics can supercharge your advisors to make more informed decisions that protect both your customers and your profitability. Analytics can help you identify vulnerable people and connect them to personalised debt support, all while automating case management for your team.
To begin, make sure it’s easy for customers to share their data with you. Through Elifinty, for instance, customers can take advantage of digital document uploads or open banking APIs. This allows support agents to create comprehensive customer profiles, giving them greater visibility.
Once you have this data, you can learn from analytics to better support your customers, such as by creating realistic repayment plans. You can also support your company, such as by estimating the scope of debt recovery accurately and efficiently.
See energy customers holistically
One-size-fits-all support solutions are unlikely to help you weather an unpredictable energy landscape. It’s by seeing your customers holistically – as people with changing financial and non-financial circumstances – that you can action more realistic support pathways.
This personalisation might look like having different payment plans for customers with 10% affordability from those with 80%. It might also mean offering self-serve solutions, such as benefits calculators and expense optimisation tools, to give customers the option to help themselves.
It’s important to consider the root of the issue if a customer misses a payment. Is it a short-term issue that’s likely to be resolved with minimal help? Or are there structural challenges that require a more targeted process? This nuance is key to encouraging more sustainable behavioural change.
With 14% of the people who missed a bill payment in 2023 doing so for the first time, making sure that it’s easy for customers to seek clear, non-judgemental support from you is more important than ever. Developing trust is also key to maintaining those relationships and protecting your reputation.
You might begin by adopting a multi-channel approach. Many customers are digital natives, so consider ways that you can communicate through in-app messaging and email. Automated notifications, such as payment reminders, can also support customers throughout the journey without your support teams needing to pick up the phone. However, it’s important to continue offering telephone and in-person advice too, as you may have customers who don’t want to engage digitally.
The language you use will also affect your customers’ relationships with you. Make sure to communicate in a way that acknowledges your customers as people, while also making their options clear. Do people who have missed a bill for the first time know that they can ask you for payment holidays? Are you explaining how changes to the price cap affect your customers in real terms?
Refer customers to expert help
Sometimes, the smoothest path to a debt resolution won’t begin with financial support. Connecting your customers to the most appropriate help is key to helping them build long-term financial resilience, while also freeing up time for your customer support teams.
Connecting customers to localised debt advice can help here, as debt advisors will understand the challenges facing communities and offer specialist help.
Another way forward is to help your customers resolve the most urgent issues immediately. For instance, Elifinty allows customers to access food vouchers, fuel vouchers, and energy hardship grants before they engage with debt advice.
Ensure smoother debt resolutions with Elifinty
We know that putting advice into action can be challenging, which is why we’ve created a helpful checklist for energy companies. It breaks down the above into step-by-step tasks, so that you have a smoother, fairer, and more sustainable path towards debt resolutions. We’ll be sharing it on LinkedIn when it’s ready, so keep a look out here.
If you’d like to learn more about digitalising your debt support processes with Elifinty, we also have a use case for energy providers. You can download your copy here.