By Tory Paez, Tricia Anklan and Margaret Bellon
Utilities across the country are in the spotlight for how they work with “at risk” customers. In other words, customers who are unable to afford critical utilities – electricity, water, and gas. Recent examples include Detroit’s management of delinquent turn-offs, which was escalated all the way to the United Nations, and Austin Energy’s low-income discount program, applied incorrectly to residents who don’t need assistance. Customer assistance programs are often administratively complex and highly-susceptible to public scrutiny.
Nationwide, utilities and customers are finding there is a significant need to determine more effective ways to assist and support customers facing financial hardship. As the cost of utilities rise, and customers become more informed of available programs, there is a growing demand for assistance programs. Each utility faces unique and difficult challenges related to customer hardship and assistance. And each of these challenges directly impact the way in which a utility can meet rising financial, operational and political expectations.
West Monroe Partner’s Customer Assistance Program Development brings unique and specialized experience to make customer assistance program improvements, meeting the specific needs of each utilities’ operations. Our areas of impact will enhance a utility’s ability to manage customers facing financial hardship, and will assist utilities in meeting financial, operational, and political expectations. West Monroe provides value to utilities, social agencies and customers by focusing on the following components:
A robust and well-executed Customer Assistance Program has the ability to yield four primary positive results: increased monetary revenue and funding, increased access to the utility resource, decrease in volume of delinquent customers, and enhanced community relations.
Beginning with an operational and organizational assessment of utilities and social agencies, West Monroe utilizes current state understanding and analysis to identify future recommendations to enhance the processes and procedures within and across utilities and social agencies to best support customers facing financial hardship. By designing and improving a streamlined customer assistance program, utilities can minimize service disruption for at-risk customers, improve operational metrics, and increase standing in the eyes of local regulators and the public. We are passionate about making utilities an accessible resource to all – in a way that optimizes outcomes for both customers and utilities.
For more information on how you can leverage a Customer Assistance Program within your utility, please contact Tom Hulsebosch, firstname.lastname@example.org and Mike Wayman, email@example.com.