When unemployment skyrocketed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government stepped in to provide $600 per week in unemployment benefits. This assistance provided a much-needed financial life vest for day-to-day expenses such as paying rent, buying groceries, and yes–paying utility bills.
However, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund expires at the end of July and it is forcing Americans to make some weighty decisions about their expenses. For utility providers, that means that a higher level of delinquencies is surely on the horizon.
What can utility providers do NOW to influence payment performance prior to resuming disconnects?
Here are a few programs that have helped our clients strategically respond to the consequences of COVID-19. The key drivers for these programs were to improve customer care during a difficult time, while also mitigating the utility’s financial risk.
Deferred Payment Assistance
As a result of unexpected financial hardships due to COVID-19, there are many delinquent customers who WANT to pay their bills but are currently unable to.
Now is an excellent time to implement or review your deferred payment assistance programs, ensuring that your customers have efficient self-serve paths to establish a payment plan and successfully complete the plan they commit to.
Effectively promoting and communicating your program with empathy and the right digital experience is critical to its success. The right session flows and mobile centric experience will produce exponentially higher rates of desired behavior, influencing customers to resolve the issue outside your call center.
With our turnkey solutions, utilities are quickly and efficiently able to deliver a highly personalized experience to customers, at scale, resulting in predictable payment performance. Customer sentiment in response to these campaigns is overwhelmingly positive. Customers appreciate the opportunity to recover financially, and prefer using their mobile devices to set up their plan rather than speaking to a call center agent.
Furthermore, the mobile experience itself has resulted in an added benefit – many customers appreciate the gesture and are opting to pay their bills on the spot.
Pick Your Due Date Program
Rather than requiring payment due on your utility-defined calendar, consider allowing customers to select their own due dates based on their personal preferences or payroll cycles.
As with the deferred payment program, customers appreciate the flexibility and ease of the mobile experience, and utilities predictably increase payment performance.
Message Broadcast’s communication solutions result in payment performance at scale, informing customers and digitally influencing their next best action outside the call center. Take a look at the GIF to see an example of our Pick Your Due Date program.
Bill Credit ProgramCity, county and government-provided funds are assisting the customers that need it most while giving utilities unique opportunities to mitigate financial risk and improve customer satisfaction.
One utility has offered qualifying households a few hundred dollars of bill credits. The city funds were focused on residents who were unemployed due to COVID-19.
Message Broadcast engaged the utility’s customers, guiding them through the enrollment process using a Visual SMS experience. The digital experience invoked the camera on the customer’s mobile device to ingest an image of the customer’s unemployment benefits letter, automating the entire underwriting and approval process.
This program predictably prevented disconnects while reducing the number of calls to the utility’s customer care center. As importantly, it provided much needed relief to the customers that needed it most, during a difficult time.
During these tough times, customers are willing to help their neighbors by donating a few dollars. The right digital experience makes it easy for customers with a willingness to help, give customers in need a helping hand.
Utilities are using these digital experiences to inform customers about the ways they can help their neighbors in need, making it easy to donate to those who are struggling. In addition to showing a higher level of customer care, these programs are setting a new standard for empathetic payment assistance.
The pandemic has affected a segment of utility customers with an unfamiliar challenge. The programs listed above can help your customers through these tough times, provide an empathetic layer of customer care, and prevent the impact that disconnects have on the customer and the utility.
Talk to a Message Broadcast utility expert about our payment assistance programs to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to coronavirus-related delinquent payments. Now is the time to act, so when the next wave hits the economy and customers do not have that additional financial cushion—you’re ready.