By Zahra Dhanani, Industry Analyst –
Prepay programs provide customers with more options and help utilities reduce uncollectible debt and labor costs.
Options. Today, customers expect lots of them, and they expect them right now. Many companies feel that the only way to stay competitive is to offer everything and the kitchen sink. But how can utilities, especially one with a smaller customer base, do this? Can you afford to take the financial risk?
Flint Energies’ prepay billing program, called Pay Your Way, allows members to buy electricity when they choose. The program has a wide variety of participants including those who are budget conscious, temporary residents as well as those who are experiencing some financial difficulties. Interested consumers can track their usage on the phone or online. It’s an apt way to turn unconcerned into seasoned conservationists, helping Flint Energies in turn. There’s even an argument that can be made for filing prepay under energy efficiency programs.
Participants can use a multitude of payment channel offerings, including the Flint Energies app (SRP does offer something similar through their app), online, the IVR, and more. Alert notifications can also be set through select channels to help manage payments. The best part about joining? If a customer is a member already, you can switch over to the program anytime for free.
Since 2012, the program has more than 10,000 members and has collected $1.7 million in small, incremental debt payments.
Perhaps more impressive than the debt collected is the amount of positive feedback the program has received. What started out as relief of sorts for low-income customers quickly expanded in popularity outside of that segment. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen though. Modesto Irrigation experienced similar enthusiasm from all their customers with the Power Up Billing program.
With both these programs, the effects spread beyond just customer satisfaction, especially affected was contact center. With fewer customers calling in for payment arrangements, labor costs are reduced, call volume dropped, and CSRs were able to devote time to other tasks. Even departments like collections and field personnel will feel an expense decrease.
It all comes back to allowing customers to have options and being sure you make the right decisions about what kind of options you want to provide your base.
For more information on Flint Energies’ prepay efforts, please download a copy of the case study from our Insight Center.