No one likes a surprise bill in the post, whether you’re an energy consumer or an energy retailer. The advent of smart meters and direct debit payments was supposed to make life easier for households and businesses alike, yet evidence shows that the system isn’t keeping up. At Flux, we believe in creating seamless, intuitive experiences that increase customer satisfaction and minimise operator intervention. Doesn’t everyone want a fairer, smoother way to pay their energy bills?
Customer complaints and feedback in the UK paint a grim picture that’s backed up by expert investigation. Energy regulator Ofgem, which covers England, Scotland and Wales, believes that energy suppliers currently hold £1.4bn (NZ $2.75 bn) of customer overpayments. It wants to automatically return these overpayments annually, meaning some households could receive up to £1,000. Ofgem says some energy companies could be using these accumulated overpayments to shore up their businesses at their customers’ expense. Its chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, said stopping this practice would be a positive step towards easing financial hardship. According to 2019 data gathered for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 13.4 per cent of households in England experience fuel poverty (they are unable to afford keeping their homes warm). While regulation is one way to fix the issue, we think a smarter, faster and more intuitive billing solution could be the answer. Meet Smoothpay.
A smoother customer experience
While the basic concept of the traditional direct debit is sound - paying a set amount each month should mean varying energy costs even out across a year - the UK experience shows that it’s no longer truly fit for purpose. In most cases, systems are largely designed to prompt customers to increase direct debit payments and very rarely nudge them to decrease them.
At Flux, we’ve devised an elegant and easily configured alternative: Smoothpay. Like the name suggests, Smoothpay is designed to be a truly effortless customer experience that’s designed to keep accounts at a zero balance at the end of a billing period. Ordinarily, most direct debit customers pay a fixed amount every month that can’t be changed without operator assistance. With Smoothpay, customers are presented with a live recommended number and are prompted when they need to take action to adjust their payments so they stay on track. Enabling self-adjustment in this way helps to avoid potential bill shock or the need for admin intervention. It’s a win-win.
Smoothpay avoids the risk of overcharging or under-paying by continually assessing the amount a customer is paying at key points, such as when a reading is entered or when any financial transaction occurs (including fees, credits, ad hoc payments and billing).
With Smoothpay, a supplier can control the tolerances of the actions a customer can take, so they don’t go too far off track in either direction. Imagine it like an account health check, which assesses how far a customer ‘drifts’ from the recommended payment amount. In addition, we set a percentage threshold that allows customers to self-adjust the payment amount. For example, if the configurable algorithm recommends paying £100 a month, we can allow a customer to select a range of between £90-£100. Further controls are put in place to manage when a customer goes beyond the self-adjusting range.
Every time we bill and take a further payment with Smoothpay, the range adjusts. This means that if a customer gets ‘off track’, they’re prompted to make adjustments to ensure they are paying the right amount. As a result, customers should never fall hugely behind in payments, or accrue large credit balances.
Like all Flux’s customer engagement solutions, Smoothpay can be configured to suit the needs of your business, with multi-brand support and billing frequency by account. Smooth pay, like Flux’s Shopper, post-pay, solar tooling and other experiences, is supported by omni-channel communications. This kind of wrap-around support means there are no nasty surprises for you or your customers, just one smooth, seamless, hassle-free experience. Who doesn’t want that where their bills are concerned?
At Flux, our highly configurable billing SaaS products help you win (and keep) customers. Want to find out more? Talk to us.