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How to best serve vulnerable customers and those on the Priority Services Register

An in-depth guide for utilities companies on accommodating and meeting the needs of vulnerable customers, such as those on the Priority Services Register.

Vulnerable customers on the Priority Services Register

All customers deserve equal access to utilities. But for some people, losing access to utilities like electricity, water, and gas — even if for just a short time — is far more than an inconvenience. It can be not only extremely stressful, but also debilitating or life-threatening.

This is especially true for those on the Priority Services Register (PSR). This free, voluntary service provides preferential support from energy and water companies to vulnerable customers. This can look like everything from helping with meter readings and offering information in an accessible format to sending notice of planned power cuts to priority support in an emergency.

Although outages can’t always be scheduled or controlled, utilities providers can make sure they’ve done their due diligence in communicating issues with customers. Providing transparent, accessible communication is imperative for those who are on the PSR, part of vulnerable demographics, or even in debt. 

In fact, it’s predicted that one in four people in the U.K. won’t be able to afford their energy bills this fall, which means it’s more crucial than ever for utilities companies to prioritize customer engagement and loyalty strategies. Without it, customers may opt to switch to a provider that offers better communication. After all, customers’ main priority when on the PSR is ensuring they can maintain their day-to-day activities without spontaneous interruption.

So, who is eligible for the PSR, what are the services it provides, and what do accommodations look like for these and other vulnerable customers? Here, we’ll take a deep dive into how you can ensure you take care of your customers.

 

Who is eligible for the Priority Services Register?

People who are eligible for the PSR are those who:

  • Are of pensionable age
  • Are disabled, chronically ill, or have a long-term medical condition
  • Have a hearing or visual impairment 
  • Are recovering from an injury or bereavement
  • Have children under 5 in the household or are pregnant
  • Are dealing with mental health issues 
  • Have communication needs, such as difficulty speaking or reading English
  • Are dealing with other situations not on the list, such as needing short-term support after a hospital stay.

 

What services are offered by the Priority Services Register?

Eligible PSR customers receive access to services including:

  • Priority support in an emergency
  • Advance notice of planned work, planned power or gas cuts, or water supply issues
  • Help with meter reading 
  • Information in an accessible format, such as large print, Braille, or audio 
  • Identification schemes where company staff provides a password so customers know it’s a genuine call/visit and not a scam
  • Nominee schemes where bills are sent to a designated carer on a customer’s behalf

 

What accommodations are needed for those who are vulnerable, in debt, or on the Priority Services Register?

No matter why someone needs extra support from their utilities companies, they deserve consistent access to energy and water, clear communication, and transparency around interruptions to their service. 

This means utilities companies should make it a priority to communicate issues to their customers in advance so they have time to prepare.

Here are a few forms this communication can take:

  • Advanced knowledge of outages. People on the PSR need additional support during outages, so the more transparent that utilities companies can be about the nature of the interruption (e.g., the duration of outage), the better PSR folks can prepare — for example, stocking up on needed supplies, hiring extra help, or relocating to a medical facility. 

  • More transparency around appointments. Allow customers to communicate their specific needs ahead of time with staff or technicians, such as needing extra time to get to the door, or a special entry code. Send a profile of their technician so the customer knows whom to expect, along with detailed ETAs of when their technician is en route and arriving. This ensures the customer will be home and ready for their appointment, and can easily communicate any additional information to their technician. 

  • Customer engagement before, during, and after appointments. “Customer engagement” isn’t just a buzzword; improving the customer experience by providing touchpoints throughout the appointment process helps your customers feel heard and creates loyalty. This looks like giving them ways to reach you ahead of an appointment to ask for specific accommodations, sending reminders and detailed ETAs, and soliciting feedback at the close of an appointment. 

  • Easy rescheduling. Life happens; don’t waste the time of your team or your customers with no-access appointments. When customers can easily reschedule and technicians can be notified with enough time to adjust their schedules for the day, it improves your customer service, your first-time fix rate, and even your employee turnover.

  • Multiple channels of communication. Accessibility is key for vulnerable customers. Not every customer can view small print or small mobile screens and may require options like large print, desktop browser viewing, and translation or audio services. Make sure your website and support channels — whether phone lines, emails, chatbots, or self-service portals — are easy-to-use, consistent, and offer varying accessibility options. 

 

Localz helps utilities companies meet the needs of Priority Services Register customers

With personalised service delivery solutions that transform the customer experience, Localz offers utilities companies a range of ways to better serve their customers — especially those in vulnerable positions or people on the PSR. Our field service and mobile workforce solutions deliver a frictionless customer, field staff, and operational experience on the day of service via scalable location technology and communication workflows that save time and boost customer engagement.

Our customisable, configurable solutions include:

  • Automated messaging. Automate everything from appointment reminders to planned outage alerts so that customers can make necessary arrangements that ensure their health and safety, as well as access for technicians. You can even automate texts for customers within a certain area. These automatic messages let you provide touchpoints before, during, and after the appointment process without placing an additional burden on your back-office team. In turn, this improves first-time fix rates, reduces no-access appointments, and reduces chase calls to your call centre.

  • Technician profiles. To help lower a customer’s anxiety about who is at their door, offer them peace of mind that the person ringing is the person expected: Set up technician profiles that include information such as their name and a photo, vehicle registration, and a unique verification code. Send this in advance to the customer so they know exactly whom to expect and can use the code to confirm.

  • Location-based communication and accurate ETA windows. With Localz’ platform, utilities companies can give their customers a map of where the technician is, and even how many stops are left until they arrive. This means accurate ETAs — no vague hours-long windows that are known to cause high stress. When customers know when their technician is set to arrive, they can make certain they’re home and prepared to answer the door. 

  • Two-way communication. Perhaps even more critical for PSR customers, two-way communication provides a channel for giving everyone the information they need for a successful appointment. Customers can reach out to their technician with key information such as gate codes or that they need some extra time to get to the door. This open dialogue greatly lowers no-access rates and helps improve first-time fix rates.

  • Self-service portals. Reduce the traffic to your call centre and lighten the burden on your staff by offering customers a self-service portal. This allows them to see all the information about their appointment at their leisure, as well as reschedule, update information, and see details about their technician. Not only does this increase transparency, but it also benefits technicians: When customers can easily reschedule, their routes can be updated in real-time for efficiency, increasing first-time fix rates.

 

Let us help you be there for your most vulnerable customers

While it’s a must that your utilities company meets the needs of your most vulnerable customers, such as those on the PSR, everyone can benefit from better customer engagement. Localz’ platform helps you fill in the communication gap for anyone who needs it while giving you a competitive edge. Today’s customers demand transparency, ease, and accessibility — and they deserve equitable treatment and extra support when they need it most.

Get in touch with Localz today to find out more about our scalable, customisable solutions that transform the customer experience, make the day of service amazing, and help you engage and delight all of your customers for long-term loyalty.

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