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More than seven million UK households have had a negative experience when facing an issue with their bill, according to new research.

A quarter (26%) of water customers admitted to having a negative billing experience, showing that a large number of service users are being let down by poor issue response across the industry. The findings are highlighted in The Secrets of Better Billing, a study commissioned by utility billing software business Echo Managed Services, creator of Aptumo.

Just 16% of the 1,000 UK households polled said that their provider was keen to listen and quickly correct any billing problems – with almost a third of customers neutral or unhappy about the way that their provider deals with billing issues.

Worryingly, one in ten (9%) found that it was hard to get their supplier to listen when contacting them regarding a problem, with a further 7% left feeling that their supplier didn’t want to take responsibility for an error.

10% of UK households were either unhappy with how their supplier deals with billing, or felt that their supplier made it difficult for them to get in touch, leaving customer satisfaction at less than adequate levels.

Andy Mack, software services director at Echo Managed Services, commented: “Despite an increased focus on better service across the sector, it seems customers are still facing problems with their billing. Just one in six feels as though their provider is keen to listen to them and correct problems, which is a figure that clearly has room for improvement.

“A better standard of issue response can be achieved by ensuring customer service teams are empowered and well-equipped to deal with billing concerns, this includes support from the right systems that provide a comprehensive single view of each customer and their history Consumers should be able to easily access the support and help they need if an issue arises with their bill. Customer touchpoints can be few and far between, so it is crucial that any issues are resolved quickly.”

When it comes to dealing with water bill issues, telephone is the preferred contact channel for almost half (49%) of billpayers, who wish to discuss the nature of the bill and their problem directly with another human.

Email contact (26%) was the second most popular channel of contact, followed by live chat (16%), showing that digital channels also make up a large proportion of customer’s contact preferences.

Andy Mack continued: “The human touch is still an important part of customer contact for half of billpayers, however suppliers must not neglect the development of other digital communication methods, which are more convenient and approachable for a considerable proportion of customers. The figures highlight the importance of a consistent omni-channel experience which allows customers, with different preferences, to get the service and resolution they need in the easiest way possible.”

“These findings illustrate that there is still room for improvement when it comes to meeting Ofwat’s customer service expectations as the sector moves into the next AMP. Finding ways to prevent poor issue response should be high on every water company’s agenda.”

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