The four pillars underpinning OFWATs price review process will soon move water providers’ focus away from the construction of submitted business plans and instead towards the delivery against the following core priorities: enhancing customer service; focusing on the affordability of bills; driving service resilience; and innovating. All of which are sizeable obligations. Additionally, water companies need to carefully balance and utilise capital in pursuit of attainment.
Increasingly the conversations we hold with utility sector partners are moving away from purely purchase price and instead towards the development of holistic solutions based around value creation.
Typically, these solutions now encompass cash generation, customer experience enhancement, innovation and commercial flexibility. It is apparent the evolving conversation within debt resolution is a clear response to the impending impact of PR1Y. The role of the debt specialist is rapidly moving out of purely the arrears arena and instead across the entire customer journey.
The broken nature of these journeys has for a long time formed the recurring basis for the supply of accounts into Lowell.
Vulnerability, affordability and understanding the bill
Through PRI9 OFWAT provides clear guidelines on the identification of vulnerable customers and the ability to provide effective bill assistance or rehabilitation.
There are clear benefits for the water sector and debt specialists to work collaboratively. Leveraging tools that identify customers in need of additional support and deploying techniques to improve customer financial wellbeing is increasingly important.
Furthermore, the amount of failure demand attached to billing accuracy makes a compelling case for water companies struggling to identify which customer is consuming supply, and across which periods, to work with organisations with extensive customer trace technologies and tools.
Lowell have experienced portfolio acquisitions where upwards of 70% of the traced customer base are at completely different addresses to those on record with the utility. Struggling to identify liable customers and not effectively identifying vulnerability and offering resolution tools, makes it inevitable that ‘understand my bill’ queries will cause higher call volumes.
Replacing SIM with C-Mex
Most interestingly in all elements of PR19 is the replacement of SIM with C-MeX. With SIM often criticised for its narrow view of just the water sector, and its failure to reward high performing organisations continuing to drive enhanced experience, there now exists a metric pulling the four strands of priorities set out by OFWAT together. These are all ultimately focused around improving customers’ service provision and experience.
Although the focus on resilience and responsive service provision sits outside the debt arena and firmly within operations, it must always be in born in mind if effective partnerships are to be achieved between water providers and debt resolution specialists. Each extra Pound recovered helps to fund the capital expenditure programmes so crucially at the heart of water providers’ business plans.
Making that connection begins the process of debt resolution specialists generating seamless customer-centric solutions that drive value generation and C-MeX performance.