The utility industry has severely changed in the past few years, making companies and customers face unprecedented challenges. One of the immediate issues is the post-pandemic effects that resulted in a significant increase in utility debt. Many customers have been unable to pay their bills due to reduced income, unemployment, or health issues. It has created a financial burden for utilities, who must balance their revenue requirements with their social responsibility. Thanks to Open Smartflex’s digital interactions, smart processes, and data-driven reports, utilities can start an empathetic and efficient recovery.
In the last couple of years, the world has experienced significant transformations that have impacted the way people live and the sustainability of businesses. Among the sectors affected, the utility industry stands out as one of the most heavily impacted, facing unprecedented challenges that affect both companies and customers. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), more than 20 million American households struggle to pay their utility bills . This post-pandemic situation poses a tremendous threat to the financial stability of utility companies and the well-being of the communities they serve.
So how can utilities balance the need to recover past-due bills with the desire to support their customers in this difficult time?
The answer begins with understanding utilities’ current landscape and customers’ specific needs to design strategies that increase payment options and interaction channels, enhance customer segmentation, streamline collection efforts, and reduce operational costs. To do so, utilities need a flexible and modern CIS solution, like Open Smartflex, to create new and customer-friendly ways to collect growing utility bills.
With Open Smartflex, utilities get a 360° CIS solution to manage all customer-related processes efficiently. The solution offers traditional and advanced CIS capabilities extended into three dimensions: digital customer experience (DCX), meter data management (MDM), and mobile workforce management (MWM), utilities can interact with customers, design smart processes, and access data-driven reports and dashboards in one place.
Let’s take a look at three key capabilities of Open Smartflex that help utilities improve customer relationships and maximize collection efforts:
1. Personal and Digital Interactions:
There is no doubt customers are shifting to a more digital approach when interacting with their utilities. According to Forrester, 55% of customer service teams report an increased customer preference for interacting over digital channels in 2021 , building a clear path of online CX for utilities. With this in mind, Open Smartflex helps utilities communicate with their customers when, where, and how they prefer. By analyzing data from multiple points, designing event-triggered actions, and using chatbots through instant messaging platforms, utilities understand their customers’ financial needs and send communications out to help them access convenient and flexible payment options.
2. Smart collection process:
In order to assist customers in recovering from their debts and to help utilities manage their increasing debt, it is necessary to establish processes that can identify and classify customers, and automatically trigger appropriate actions. Open Smartflex bases the collection plans configuration tool on those conditions to help utilities reach each customer segment with the appropriate activities that prompt payments. Under the hood, Open Smartflex runs all functionalities on the same database, meaning data is shared seamlessly across all processes to categorize customers based on their payment behavior, risk profile, or preferences. It also offers smart workflows to design automatic payment plans.
3. Data-driven reports and dashboards:
Choosing how to act in these uncertain conditions requires utilities to use data that improve their decision-making processes. Open Smartflex allows utilities to access real-time reports and dashboards to understand activities’ performance, analyze strategies’ effectiveness, and monitor current plans to change or improve them efficiently. This information also helps utilities comprehend their customers’ specific conditions and identify trends and patterns to promote an empathetic approach to collections.
By offering these capabilities, Open Smartflex has helped utilities in 19 countries design digital-first collection strategies that streamline customer-centric actions, reduce operational efforts, and automate internal processes. In fact, one of our utility customers has held a 98% overall collection rate, in a country with challenging economic conditions.
Ultimately, Open Smartflex is a customer-focused solution that helps utilities maintain a positive relationship with their customers, avoiding damaging their trust and loyalty while showing empathy and understanding to customers facing financial difficulties. Come visit us at CS Week (Booth 517) and learn how your utility can boost collections performance while improving overall customer experience.
 National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) – https://neada.org/
 Intercom (2021) How the pandemic has changed customer support forever. https://www.intercom.com/blog/forrester-research-how-the-pandemic-changed-customer-support/