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Utilities CX

Adapted CX: Connecting and Communicating with A Population in Distress

As Financial Uncertainty Continues, Here's What Brands Should Consider as They Connect With Customers

ACI Universal Payments recently published a survey illustrating critical insights to consumers’ minds with impacts to customer engagement for businesses and industries in the REIT, Utility, FinServ, and Retail Space.  ibex.Digital encourages our clients to review the data for themselves, and consider a few important engagement opportunities to help build and extend customer relationships.

Though news of plans to open the economy encourages optimism, the ground truth on unemployment still shows a severe lag getting people back to work. 

Almost 50% of younger people, 18-34, still have experienced unemployment or a reduction of hours or pay. 

Without certainty about returning to work, these younger customers face fears of the inability to pay bills, making living changes, or perhaps returning to live with their parents, as the Millennial generation was forced to do following the last recession.

And, that fear could be very real for this generation as nearly 27% of all bill payers reported failing behind on at least one bill in the immediate past cycles.  For younger bill payers, 40% reported being past due on at least one bill.  As a result, 27% of all payers reported seeking payment arrangements from their creditors.  Amid so much economic uncertainty, paying for housing, food, and keeping the lights on take special precedence for all customers.  In fact, more than 40% of payers reported a long horizon for getting back to par on their payment plans, suggesting that our customers have genuine fear of extended unemployment. 

43% of payers already past-due with at least one bill expect it to take at least 4-12 months to catch up on their payments.

Brands can use these insights to be sensitive to the special circumstances, be clear in communication of any special programs, and consider proactive statements to the most at-risk groups.  Imagine the genuine relief customers feel if their trusted brands deliver a message to their inbox anticipating their economic anxiety with a summary of special programs to mitigate that risk or pressure.  ibex.Digital recommends to our clients to examine special rebates, promotions, or subsidy programs to help defer bills or “right-size” plans to help consumers save money and reduce the risk of interrupting essential services.  Customers repay trusted brands with loyalty and advocacy, so these programs pay long term CSAT and retention dividends for everyone.

  • It comes as no surprise that Housing tops the list across all demographics in terms of payment priority. 
  • Utilities and Credit Card payments ranked high across all groups, as well. 
  • Surprisingly, the youngest survey cohort, 18-34, reported medical bills as the #2 priority, and that category did not make the top 5 for other survey respondents. 
  • Loss of benefits due to heightened incidence of unemployment or underemployment may be a factor in those priorities. 

Clearly, these priorities predict tensions for the utility industry, rental agencies, mortgage lenders, and FinServ categories as customers face tough decisions paying their bills or stretching their budgets for extended periods.  Proactive communication to customers about special programs, government support, and local promotions will capture their attention and result in high contact rates.  Industries who do not yet rely on digital communication should make a concerted effort through social and direct mail channels to direct customers to register for future email or SMS updates as the economy reopens. 


ibex.Digital recommends that our clients develop continuous communication with customers about payment programs throughout the lifecycle of the economic reopening.  Matching tone and topics with customer sensitivities keeps brands relevant, and a focus on delivering useful information keeps your high priority bill on equal footing with your customers priorities and needs.  That’s the best path to reduce payment delinquencies wherever possible and building CSAT and trust with your customers during the pandemic. 

ACI Worldwide’s survey delivers valuable insights into the customer headspace that brands in essential services can leverage to improve communication and engagement with their customer base to lasting enhancements to loyalty and CSAT.  ibex.Digital advises clients to lean-in fully to help customers stay fully informed and supported during this uncertain time.  These moments separate truly trusted brands from simple providers, and the best performing brands aspire to lifetime loyalty with their customers.

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