Mobilising Data to Support Vulnerable Utilities Customers
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Customer vulnerability is sweeping across the UK as an increasing cross-section of the population struggles to keep up with the rising costs of food, energy, and fuel.
In a recent affordability study by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), researchers found that residents of the most deprived areas of the UK were struggling the most, with around 1 in 3 (34%) adults having difficulty paying their monthly household bills, compared with their situations in 2021.
Around 1 in 10 (13%) of the same adults reported already being behind on gas or electricity bill payments, whilst lower-income adults were more likely to report that their household could not afford an unexpected expense compared to adults with an income of £50,000 or more per year.
OFGEM’s study shows that these numbers will only worsen, creating a massive need for enhanced customer experience (CX) to improve the lives of vulnerable, high-priority customers.
Amid this crisis, utility companies are sitting on vast amounts of valuable data that — if utilised correctly — can help identify vulnerable customer groups and ease the financial burden for many families.
Thankfully, the utility industry doesn’t have to face this challenge alone. OFGEM has made over £30 million available under the Vulnerable Customer and Monoxide Allowance (VMCA) to support vulnerability identification and data improvement, challenging the market to work harder to solve the issue. The Business Process Outsourcing and Customer Experience industry is also mobilising to innovate alongside utility brands, uncovering new data modelling and analysis techniques.
Here at Gobeyond Partners, we’ve worked closely with clients to develop data-led innovations and insights to help organisations target vulnerable customer sub-segments and develop supportive contact strategies.
In partnership with one of the UK’s gas distribution networks, our team helped to enrich the organisation’s existing database by overlaying it with publicly available data sourced from the Priority Services Register (PSR), increasing the volume, detail, and granularity of indicators used to identify and support vulnerable customers.
By analysing patterns in this expanded database and clustering together customers that showed signs of vulnerability, we could identify people with previously unknown vulnerabilities and better understand their needs. From there, it was simply a case of funneling that information to frontline vulnerability teams, empowering them to improve their customer conversations. We also implemented a closed-loop feedback dashboard that monitored KPI progress and went from the data sourcing stage to delivery within just six weeks.
In our initial pilot, we matched 98% of households to a vulnerability segment, revealing that 68% of customers showed one or more signs of vulnerability, such as unemployment, poor health, and housing category, among others. Front line advisors were provided with notification of the potential vulnerability of these customers; able to offer tailored, appropriate support if required
Innovations like this empower companies to provide excellent customer service, helping them to help their customers during difficult times, especially across what is likely to be a protracted period of rising costs and financial hardship.
If the utilities sector can mobilise in similar ways and effectively mine their data, companies can better understand the needs of their customers and any vulnerabilities and then work to improve their lives, solidifying customer loyalty through this uncertain time.
Hayley Monks is Gobeyond Partners’ Managing Director for the Utilities sector.
Hayley previously held a wide range of senior executive roles in British Gas, before founding Think, Inspire & Create (TICL) in 2015, a business process improvement consultancy with a unique visual approach to helping clients to re-engineer and re-shape their organisations. Hayley is also co-founder of the Women’s Utilities Network and is passionate about connecting, supporting and developing women in the sector.