National Energy Action has said that, although the government plans to cap bills at £2,500, this will still leave at least 6.7 million UK households in fuel poverty and serious financial difficulty.
The combination of bill shock and financial difficulties will cause a lot of anxiety amongst customers. In August, Citizens’ Advice reported they were receiving 2 calls a minute about fuel poverty, and the situation will only get worse.
This comes against an already challenging backdrop, with vulnerability increasing and more people struggling to pay their bills or manage their debts following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the FCA reported that almost 28 million people in the UK displayed one of more characteristics of vulnerability and this is only set to increase as we move into what is predicted to be an incredibly challenging winter for many.
Under both Ofgem and the FCA, utilities businesses already have a regulatory responsibility to treat these vulnerable customers fairly. And it is likely that Ofgem will step in with further regulatory requirements designed to protect vulnerable customers during this challenging period.
As a result, businesses must be prepared to provide the necessary level of support, while also stepping up their customer service provision to ensure they can effectively handle the increased number of calls.
Proactivity is key
Due to the severe nature of the current situation, it is essential that utilities companies take a proactive approach. Doing nothing or hoping to ride it out simply isn’t an option- energy companies need to act, and they need to act now.
Measures need to be put in place as a matter of urgency to ensure CX teams are able to respond to a significantly higher volume of enquiries, while handling those enquiries with empathy, knowledge, and compliant with all industry regulations.
In addition to a surge in calls from customers regarding price increases and their ability to pay, delinquent accounts are also expected to rise.
Collections teams play a key role in the customer experience, and the way the delinquent accounts are handled will have a significant impact on customer perceptions of the business and brand loyalty.
Taking a proactive but empathetic approach will help to prevent delinquent accounts where possible, and improve debt recovery. Alongside the business and moral case for this, it is also extremely likely that Ofgem will step in and implement regulations, so businesses need to ensure that they are seen to be helping their customers deal with the crisis.
Outsource to Foundever
Successfully navigating this crisis in a proactive way, requires flexible, informed, and experienced support.
We can help utilities businesses scale up in response to the surge in demand.
Alongside extensive experience of working within the utilities sector and a proven track record of achieving exceptional, transformative CX results, we understand the unique challenges of communicating with vulnerable customers. We’ll ensure that the right people are taking calls from vulnerable customers, providing the necessary emotional and regulatory support, as well as meeting all compliance on your behalf and helping you meet Ofgem’s Energy Company Obligation.
And you won’t need to replace your existing teams or BPO – we can provide a ringfenced solution to tackle this unique problem, complementing your existing teams rather than replacing them. For more information contact Edward.Preedy@foundever.com