Energy is a product with low margins and little differentiation. This makes the job of an energy retailer complex at the best of the times – it’s a constant balancing act between customer service and cost to serve, the only variables that make your energy supply business stand out from the competition.
So, delivering good customer service must be balanced against keeping costs as low as possible. At the same time, it’s vital to understand and manage compliance with ever-changing industry regulation – balancing a complex set of requirements around the Licence Conditions is tricky – and understanding the constant flow of information from the regulator and changing government policy is vital to ensuring that your business model stays compliant.
Sounds simple, right? Of course not! That’s why partnering with organisations across the sector that can specialise in certain aspects can be so fundamental to success.
Why is getting it right from the start so important?
We’ve been working with energy suppliers for many years and have seen the full range of issues as they occur. Experience tells us that energy is not an industry that forgives easily – It can be very difficult to recover service levels from a build-up of errors– but can you stop issues from occurring in the first place?
The first critical stepping-stone is to try and solve customer problems on first contact, which can stop issues from escalating and means less bad debt further down the line. A customer is unlikely to settle a bill in dispute – so as soon as you can resolve the issue, the sooner the bill will be paid, and the debt is unlikely to escalate, compounding the problem. But how do you avoid those expensive customer contacts in the first place?
Reducing Customer Contact
Getting the first bill right is critical to preventing errors from snowballing (and avoids that first customer inbound contact) and means you can build up a trusted relationship with a consumer. That means suppliers should be taking a razor-sharp focus on the onboarding of new customers.
Some key questions that you should be asking yourself before things start to go wrong. Do you have the correct data from your customers, and do you know what your system does with that data? Where are the gaps? Who is working on the issues, both in terms of preventing them and solving them?
First things first – have you gathered the right data from customers to make sure you can bill them? Has the first Direct Debit been collected correctly? Are you actively checking for failure, and is the data you’ve got from the previous supplier correct?
Getting your systems set up correctly is critical here, too – have you got debt tolerance and meter read tolerance set correctly, for example? Too tight, and you will get ‘pinged’ with errors and failed bills constantly, and too loose, you’ll set yourself up for disaster further down the line when large amounts of debit or credit may build up in the system, impacting cash flow and damaging customer trust.
Lots of questions, but how about some answers?
Granted, we focussed a lot there on potential pitfalls and things to consider. But, when in business are things simple, when do we get the luxury of having to consider only one or two things? The good news is that there are people and organisations that can help.
As an outsourcer with extensive experience in utilities, we have helped solve many of these issues for energy suppliers. From end-to-end processes to a more modular approach. Each supplier is different, and therefore, so is our approach to solution design.
Key to our offering is being able to support from both a customer-facing perspective and also working on back office tasks in the background, ensuring everything is running smoothly. It gives us a holistic view so our experienced agents can truly support customers and avoid future contact.