Recognising the need for affordable bills, we have implemented a range of industry-leading support schemes including lower tariffs, capped bills, and payment matching schemes. Tailoring payment plans to customer affordability is a key goal and the advent of improved data availability from open banking stimulated an innovative method of improving our customer journey.
Our idea was to utilise open banking technology to verify customer income in real time to improve the accuracy and efficiency of our customer affordability assessments. We implemented an improved customer journey in three key steps:
- Gaining agreement to use open data for the affordability assessment;
- Obtaining customer consent via an online consent portal; and
- Receiving a summarised view of a customer’s income straight from their bank account, including evidence of benefit payments.
Open data now forms a key part of one of our most sensitive customer journeys, and initial results showed 45 per cent of customers who were offered the option to use open banking accepted.
Customer feedback on their experience of open banking is very positive, with customers saying it was easy to use and 88 per cent saying they would use it again, despite never having used it before.
Open banking means we can help customers get the right affordability support in minutes, when the traditional process would have taken weeks.
The use of open banking has streamlined customer eligibility for reduced-rate social tariffs. Were it not for this solution, customers applying for help with payment of their water bill would have had to manually collate their income and expenditure information, including evidence of benefit receipt, in preparation for their telephone affordability assessment.
What previously would have taken weeks, can now be done in minutes, with the added benefit of increased accuracy.
Open banking improves first-time completion rate, meaning customers are given a decision on tariff eligibility there and then and a sustainable payment plan can be agreed.
Open banking could help facilitate the introduction of a national social tariff, as proposed by the Consumer Council for Water: the efficiency we’ve delivered into our affordability assessment process will help us manage the expected increases in volume of applications for support, meaning we can help more customers with payment of their water bill.