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In Focus Collections


Left-right: Alan Smith; Richard Houlbrook; Samantha Barnard; Kate Robbins; Paul Sharpe >>


that we should be writing individual letters to each customer.


KR: It seems to me that it is a very sensible strategy to look at the number of times that a customer has been through the collections cycle and tailor the letters accordingly.


SBA: The key is consequences because, ultimately, for a utility, there are generally limited consequences to somebody not paying. You do not want to take someone through a litigation process, who is genuinely vulnerable, or cannot afford to pay. It is a


question of understanding the options and where you can go because, as long as it is driving the right outcomes, a nudge technique could be valuable.


Are consumers more understanding of the need to give data now than in the past? MW: Absolutely, if you can get somebody onto the telephone, then they will tell you the information that you need. People are fairly open, but that is once you have the conversation going – in fact, once you have the conversation going, you are 90% of the way there.


OFGEM is very focused on very high levels of customer fairness and energy companies are also very reputation- focused


AS: Getting that conversation going is very much what we do – it is placing that foot- print on the doorstep. A number of people do not respond to letters because they have had so many of them in the past from faceless organisations. We have welfare officers who go and knock on that door and


merely ask the customer to talk to us – it is someone who will help them and lead them through that initial engagement. People like to look somebody in the eye and have that personal one-to-one contact. We talk a lot about vulnerability and how to identify this, one clear method is to meet the customer face to face and have that engagement.


MH: This is very much how our collections strategies are structured now – it is not about collections or enforcement in themselves, it is about getting the customer to talk to us, rather than getting them to commit. We can worry about commitment at some point down the line once we have a dialogue.


Has this pressure for change in the utilities sector come from the FCA? LB:We have not necessarily had any direct contact from, or pressure put on us by, the FCA, but I do think that it is coming and it is something that we believe is the right


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@stevensdrake October 2015


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