Tackling billing issues in a changing water market

What can water companies do to improve billing practices and customer satisfaction? Echo’s MD, Nigel Baker, pops by to talk it through…

At Echo Managed Services, we recently undertook consumer research investigating the billing practices of a range of industries and found that consumers ranked water companies in the bottom half of the table, behind telecoms, credit card and broadband providers. So what can water providers do improve this important customer touchpoint?

Where are water companies currently going wrong?
Billing blunders are commonplace in every industry – whether it’s human error or a problem with an automated process, mistakes occur. But, it’s when errors happen on a regular basis, or become difficult to resolve, that more long-term problems, i.e. loss of customer trust and loyalty, occur.

Research shows us the billing issues that frustrate customers the most are receiving bills that are higher than expected without warning, bills that are complex and difficult to understand, and being put on a higher tariff than necessary. These are three key areas to address ahead of increased competition.

What are the consequences of getting billing wrong?
An obvious consequence will be loss of custom, where customers have choice. Our billing report found 45% of consumers would consider switching to a competitor due to billing blunders, while one in seven would switch instantly, without hesitation – a sobering statistic.

Customers are also becoming more confident in raising complaints and contacting industry regulators when problems arise. One only has to look back over the last 12 months to see the rise in the number of customer complaints against water companies – with ten out of the 21 water companies in England and Wales recording increases in written customer complaints.

What water companies should do to improve billing practices
Billing is a key touchpoint in the customer journey and it’s clear that poor experiences can impact the bottom line. So what steps should water companies take to improve?

Respond to errors quicker
When it comes to billing errors, it’s important a company is proactive in solving them. Customers want reassurance the issue will be investigated and resolved in a timely manner – in doing so, companies can expect a boost in customer trust and loyalty.

Clearer bills
Bill clarity was found to be the biggest concern of customers in our latest report, ‘The Secrets of Better Billing’. We found a third of consumers wanted companies to avoid jargon and be more transparent – doing so will not only make bills easier to understand, but also avoid unnecessary and repeat contacts.

It’s all about choice
Offering customers choice is a key component of good customer service – this is particularly important when it comes to how customers receive their bills. Our research found that whilst online billing is growing in popularity, almost one in four customers prefer to receive paper bills. Offering choice and not pushing all customers down the online route will likely improve customer satisfaction.

Bill reminders ahead of payment date
Something as simple as an automated email or SMS bill reminder, ahead of payment date, can have a massive impact on customer relations and debt mitigation. It gives a customer time to ensure there are funds available to pay the bill – lessening the likelihood of missed payments.

With Open Water almost upon us, and the likelihood of competition in the domestic water market, it’s important for companies to consider how they will appeal to customers – both business and household – who may face an ocean of choice. Reviewing and improving current billing practices and processes is a key way to deliver better customer service – which could be a key competitive differentiator.


Share this... Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn
Written by