Our take on the Utility Week Consumer Vulnerability & Debt Conference 2021

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byHayfa Bukhari

On the 14th and 15th September 2021, team Aveni had the opportunity to showcase virtually at this year’s Consumer Vulnerability & Debt Digital Conference. This was the first time we attended a Utility Week event. It came at such a significant time as we see how the current energy market is facing major challenges in meeting  the needs of their customers. 

 

As debt levels continue to rise and more customers find themselves in vulnerable circumstances, utilities must overcome funding challenges, GDPR uncertainty as well as improve customer trust to be able to offer the best possible service to those in need. As this sector goes through its path to recover following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that energy and water companies work together to strengthen relationships, communication as well as engagement with customers in vulnerable situations. 

 

Over the two days we heard from a number of Utility Week’s guest speakers including leaders in  customer, regulation, strategy, billing, debt and collection . We were right at the centre of where we could collaborate and share knowledge at such a critical time for the industry. Throughout the day, the organisers lined up a variety of engaging speakers all eager to make a positive impact on the current challenges faced by the industry. 

 

In particular, we heard from Steve Crabb from Energy UK. He spoke of the vulnerability commitment founded in 2020 and how their commitments are driving change. The three key focus areas are: 

 

Collaboration: Organisations have been reviewing their funding of charities as well as other agentis to build partnerships for the first time 

 

Innovation: Suppliers who are participating have been rethinking ways they can use insights from customers with lived experiences to improve services

 

Leadership: All firms involved have vulnerability champions at board level or equivalent 

 

It’s great to hear how the vulnerability commitment is heading in the right direction and how companies will be increasingly  held accountable for their actions. This will also determine future trends and help to build a stronger foundation of companies that will strive to provide customers in vulnerable situations with the support they truly need. 

 

Another speaker which stood out was Anita Dougall from Sagacity Solutions. She was discussing the impact of using poor data. She highlighted how having invalid customer information creates poor eligibility identification and the importance of using innovation and technology to improve the way in which we interact with customers. 

 

She was able to point out how powerful data is and what can be done to best optimise the information. Utility companies need to clearly define what a vulnerable customer is as well as learn how to best serve them as well as record exactly what issues they are faced as a customer so they can be handled with care. As well as this, companies  must ensure the information held about their customers is clean, accurate and easily accessible to assess a customer’s eligibility. 

 

The key message taken from this conference is that vulnerability is very much a complex topic and needs to be considered in all aspects of our day to day lives. We must continue to do research and clearly define what vulnerable situations could impact a customer at any one time. Organisations need to be proactive and accommodating to ensure customer needs are met as well as continuous training and innovation from companies to keep up-to-date with developments and provide support where it is needed the most. 

 

Thank you to Utility Week and everyone who we met on during the two days, it was a highly informative event and we look forward to attending more conferences like this in the future.

 

To learn more about what Aveni can do for you and how we can support your business visit our customer vulnerability page.

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