Utilities just ahead of banks when it comes to customer trust…

Whether it’s settling our mobile phone bills, taking out a gym membership, or paying our gas and electricity instalments, we’ve all had experience of setting up and usually leaving a Direct Debit to run it’s course. Recent stats suggest that the average UK consumer has 6 Direct Debits set up with their bank and 68% of us prefer to pay most of our bills in this way. Yet, billing disputes, inaccurate communication and a general bad customer service seem to be all too common.

As a Digital Direct Debit service, working with over 14,000 merchants across the UK and Europe, GoCardless is lucky enough to have gained experience across a range of industries. Each have unique challenges and requirements, but a recurring theme across all is the growing desire to use new payment technologies to improve customer experience and ultimately regain trust in their service.

I thought I’d share some content from a recent article written by our VP of Sales, Robert Whiteside, and published in Utility Week last month. The article explores the challenges that many energy and water suppliers now experience and highlights the benefits that a digital solution can provide:

“For years most complaints against energy suppliers have been about billing. And errors in charging compound customer anger over prices. The corrosive effect of this on customers’ trust is well documented — the latest Edelman “trust barometer” has the UK energy sector — at 38 per cent — just above the back marker, banking, which sits at 32 per cent.”

In times gone by I guess we just had to forgive big businesses for billing mistakes. Legacy systems and paper based workflows meant that poor accuracy, human error and the inevitable frustrating support calls were just part and parcel of the billing process and consumers bore the brunt. This no longer needs to be the case; consumers expect more transparency and more flexibility.

The technology is here to:

  • email or prompt a phone call when a payment fails or a Direct Debit is cancelled;
  • enable customers to set up a Direct Debit from a mobile phone or tablet in minutes;
  • validate instantly a customer’s bank details to reduce the chance of failed payments;
  • give customers flexibility in their choice of frequency and dates of payments;
  • integrate with CRM, billing and finance systems to provide customer support with real-time information on a customer’s payment history.

Advanced payment technology brings competitive advantages to any business. In utilities, GoCardless’ system comes with an additional promise: to allow customers to expect ease rather than frustration when dealing with their supplier. For the suppliers, timely and targeted customer engagement could shield them against further damage to their reputations and help the rehabilitation of the sector.

Whether you’re a consumer or a supplier it would be great to hear your thoughts on what’s mentioned above and what your experience has been when dealing with Direct Debit payments and processing.

You can find out more about how we help utilities companies here.

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