Data capture, quality and usefulness have often been points of negativity in the utilities sector. The data that is available and how it could be used were key considerations for us when we first entered the sector. With this in mind, we asked our Data Integrity Analyst, Dan Highley, to reflect on how we have advanced our understanding and usage of data, and how this benefits our utility partners.
Data and its utilisation within Lowell has evolved significantly in the past two years. It’s crucial that we make a clear distinction here: original client data, will always be exactly that. We can’t create data that doesn’t exist or hasn’t previously been captured. What we can influence, though, is the bringing to life of data sets to inform what we acquire, what our approach to managing customers’ needs to be and how we ultimately build the right experience.
Examples of data sets that have proven vital, yet may not have appeared crucial when we first entered the sector, include: the period of time after the end of supply before a final bill is raised, a different billing address to that where supply was consumed and the MPAN number with its location.
My role is to scrutinise data files before acquisition. This identifies accounts that need to be removed from debt sales due to their high propensity to result in queries with the original creditor. Examples include: less than 14 days’ supply; high balance, short supply periods; property demolitions; and service removals. Removing accounts before debt sale reduces recourse levels and provides a better experience for customers.
We also inspect the data to ensure customer journeys are consistent and that source dates are aligned. This can include examining whether supply start date, end date and release of final bill date all follow a sequential and logical order.
Through my data integrity analysis, Lowell were able to look at our interpretation of how an account becomes statute barred. We had previously interpreted back dated Change Of Tenancy (COT) accounts as statute barred given the often sizeable time difference between end of supply and when the first final bill was issued. We’ve found that the vast majority of back dated COT accounts are outside of any back-billing concerns, often due to people making no effort to close their account appropriately.
We worked through some back-dated COT accounts with one of our utility partners to gain comfort on why the data showed such an apparent time difference between end of supply and the eventual issue of the final bill. This review identified instances of billing code adjustments being appropriately made with evidence provided as to why the customer’s meter submissions had been incorrectly applied. This resulted in periods of liability becoming unbillable, and ultimately strengthened our confidence in billing accuracy and the correct application of statute bar using the first final bill date.
One of the things I’m most satisfied about in my data integrity role is the input I’ve made regarding which accounts our utility partners sell and how the data we request helps to improve this process.
We’ve built a minimum data standard for utilities that makes the process of sale much simpler for potential future partners, which allows for transparency of on-going performance.
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