Payment plans are the most popular form of debt management support for water bill payers

As the cost of living crisis continues, new research shows that payment plans are the most popular form of financial support for water customers.

Almost two-fifths (37%) of water customers who have struggled to keep on top of water bill payments were offered support in the form of a payment plan, helping them settle their balance owed at intervals to suit them.

The research from Aptumo, the water CIS and billing software powered by Echo Managed Services, published in the Affordability and The Water Sector report found that 100% of bill payers offered a payment plan, accepted it in a bid to get back in control of their finances.

The study of 2,030 UK bill payers found more than a quarter (26%) of water customers who had sought support have taken debt advice in recent times. The same number of bill payers (26%) have also taken a payment holiday or had their charges ‘frozen’ for an agreed period to cope with rising household bills.

The offer of affordable repayment options to help clear outstanding debt was also a popular support option, offered to one in four (25%) of struggling bill payers. A fifth of customers who asked for support were also offered alternative tariffs to reduce their bills.

Rachael Merrell
Rachael Merrell

Rachael Merrell, customer services director at Echo Managed Services, commented:

“With inflation still stubbornly high, many households are continuing to struggle to stay on top of their bills despite their best efforts. However, reassuringly help is at hand for all customers. Water companies must make sure that financial support is clearly signposted, and that customers do not suffer alone. By showing the comprehensive support options available, water customers can choose which method is right for them to help get them back on track.

“Water companies can also undertake further work to remove any perceived stigma around asking for, or accepting, support to pay household bills by training their support staff in broaching the topic sensitively.

“Segmenting customer data allows for targeted communication to customers based on their circumstances and preferences. This helps to develop deeper customer relationships. Billing and payment information should always be clear, non-technical and jargon-free, so those who are vulnerable, struggling, or anticipate facing a change of circumstances can understand the options available to them.”

The research also highlighted some differences in generational attitudes towards asking for help with bills. The 22-25 age group is a staggering 686% more likely to ask their water provider for help than billpayers aged 55+.

Rachael continued:

“On average, it appears that younger and more mature customers tackle financial management differently. Therefore, all service providers should avoid falling into the one-size-fits-all trap. When it comes to debt management in particular, support can be offered in a variety of ways.

“Making debt guidance widely available means using every channel to deliver the message: clear signposting online, messaging on envelopes, and of course, through skilled and knowledgeable contact centre teams. With financial forecasters predicting that it may take years for pressures to lessen, continued investment into communication will ensure customers feel supported throughout this worrying period for many.”

SourceEcho MS



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