5 Time Stealers That Make Energy Companies Inefficient – Despite Digitalization

Even though companies in the energy sector are making progress with digitalization, many are still encumbered by inefficient processes, not least when it comes to invoicing and payment. Learn which administrative processes are robbing energy companies of time and keeping them from benefiting from all that digitalization has to offer.

A sector in transition

Historically, the energy sector has not been at the forefront when it comes to digitalization. To a large extent, this has to do with electricity being a relatively invisible product that customers expect to just work without them having to think about it (rather like the water coming out of their tap). For most customers and for quite some time, switching to a different energy company hasn’t been something that they have easily considered or acted upon. And because of that, energy companies have lacked the incentive to invest in new digital solutions.

In recent years, however, energy companies have started to embrace the digitalization trend. One reason for that is new, digitally-savvy competitors entering the market. Another reason is new generations of customers who have different expectations and behaviors than previous generations. Together, these factors have caused even the traditional companies to start embracing digital solutions to a larger extent.

The spike in electricity prices at the start of 2022 put the spotlight on energy both in the media, and in the everyday lives of ordinary people. A comprehensive survey shows that for around 83% of customers, invoices are the only contact they have with energy companies. So, as energy prices rise, it’s become necessary to put more focus on customer loyalty.

Digitalization improves more than just the customer experience

Offering seamless, digital payment experiences is the key to keeping customers satisfied in today’s energy market. But invoicing and payments are not only an essential part of the customer experience, they also represent a large portion of an energy company’s internal administrative work. Inefficient processes steal time and resources that accounting and customer service departments could put to better use, such as by working in more data-driven and proactive ways to increase customer satisfaction.

5 common time stealers with invoicing and payments

All too often, digitalization has focused on moving paper to the computer screen, without really changing administrative processes themselves. Because of that, even companies that have made a lot of progress with digitalization still haven’t managed to shed many of their time consuming, manual tasks. Are you working in the accounting or customer service department of an energy company? How many of these administrative time stealers do you recognize? And if you could get rid of them, what would you and your colleagues rather spend your time on?

1. Erroneous payments

With each manual task that is part of invoice processing the risk that something goes wrong increases. Some of the most common errors occur when customers manually enter the payment reference number from a paper invoice; it’s easy to do something like accidently leave out one of the digits. This simple mistake can cause a lot of irritation, especially if the customer winds up getting a late payment notification for an invoice that they think they’ve already paid. It is also a time consuming task for the customer service and accounting departments to manually match payments and invoices to the right customers.

2. Direct debit

Outdated direct debit processes cause extra work for customers and energy companies alike, even when processes are digital. For example, to set up direct debit, customers might need to look up their energy company via their internet bank, or go to the website and fill out a form. For energy companies, each application needs to be registered, set up, and activated.

3. Undelivered emails

Sending invoices by email rather than by post is a step in the right direction ( it saves paper, it’s more efficient, etc.). But, what if an email address is incorrect – maybe it’s no longer valid or the customer made a mistake when entering it. When that happens, the email can’t go through and the customer won’t receive their invoice. Typically, customer service will need to manually troubleshoot to find out where the problem is, then obtain the correct email address – a process that can take a lot of time. There is also a significant risk that the mistake will go unnoticed and not get corrected until the due date has passed, thus making it a late payment with extra cost to all parties involved.

4. Failed transactions via electronic billing or direct debit

Customers appreciate electronic billing and direct debit because they are relieved from the task of scheduling payments manually for a specific date. Payment will be made automatically as long as there are sufficient funds in the customer’s account. However, if payment fails due to insufficient funds, the customer will not typically realize it until they get a late notice with added fees. This usually causes irritation and results in customer service tickets.

5. Partial payment or deferred due date

Rising energy prices have shocked many households. Because of that, many have needed to contact their energy company in order to defer payment, or to split one invoice into partial payments. For energy companies, calls from worried customers and the administrative burden of changing the payment terms has been very time consuming. And not infrequently, the same customer will contact customer service multiple times to check on the status of their case, the remaining balance, or what the new due date is.

What can be done to avoid these unnecessary time stealers? To get the answer to that question, be sure to check out our article on the digital solutions that streamline processes, leading to better customer satisfaction.

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