London, July 2012 - Severn Trent Water has signed up to the Equifax Insight closed user group, which provides a data sharing facility for the UK’s consumer credit providers.The first water company to share its customers’ default payment data with a credit reference agency, Severn Trent Water is aiming to improve the effectiveness of its credit management and debt collection processes by being able to access other credit payment performance data in return. Crucially Severn Trent Water’s initiative particularly focuses on helping vulnerable customers - by having access to more data on their financial circumstances, Severn Trent Water can separate the ‘can’t pays’ from the ‘won’t pays’ in order to apply the most appropriate collection activities.
With 8 million customers across the UK, from the Bristol Channel to the Humber, and from mid Wales to the East Midlands, Severn Trent Water is one of the largest water companies in the country. By joining the Equifax Insight closed user group it is aiming to tackle losses from unpaid debts in order to be able to invest more back into its water services.
Severn Trent Water has utilised data services from Equifax for a number of years. By accessing public data such as electoral roll and county court judgments it has been able to confirm residency of customers and determine the appropriate payment method for their services. Now, by joining the Equifax Insight closed user group, Severn Trent Water will share its own default data on its customers with other organisations that extend credit to consumers. In return, Severn Trent Water will be able to access a more detailed profile of credit behaviour by consumers which will help them better understand their own customers.
Severn Trent Water’s sharing of its customer credit data in the Insight closed user group is also expected to bring benefits for traditional consumer credit providers, giving them a greater depth of intelligence on customers’ financial commitments.
“As the level of losses from bad debt rises as a consequence of the economic downturn, it is vital that we find ways to improve our understanding of our customers’ financial commitments, as well as trace gone-aways”, explained Jamie Gibson, Debt Strategy Manager, Severn Trent Water. “Having worked with Equifax for a number of years, we already have a very good understanding of how credit data can support our debt collection strategies.”
“We are very excited about the prospects of now being able to access the Insight closed user group database to give us an even greater depth of knowledge about our customers’ credit commitments. In particular, we believe this will help us support the customers that are most financially vulnerable because we will have a fuller understanding of their circumstances. We also believe our customer data will enhance the credit decision strategies of other consumer lenders.”
“We have worked closely with Equifax to ensure that we provide our customers with very clear explanations of how and why we are using credit data. For example our collections letters will clearly give customers the opportunity to settle late payments before they are added to the Insight database, and all our customer contact centre staff are fully trained to help customers if they experience financial difficulties.”
Ben Ecroyd, Business Development Director, Equifax Utilities added that as one of the first water companies to share data with a credit reference agency, Severn Trent Water is breaking new ground for the industry.
“Water companies have a particularly difficult customer relationship challenge because of the mandated requirement to supply water to all residential addresses. It is therefore crucial that these organisations have the best understanding of their customers’ financial status in order to manage them most effectively.”
“Severn Trent Water has taken the initiative on this issue and we expect that, by sharing its own customer default data, and thereby being able to access Equifax Insight data in return, a significant impact can be made on reducing the losses it has from bad debt and gone-aways.”
“There is a strong desire for greater data sharing by the utilities companies with other consumer credit providers and Equifax is playing a central role in facilitating this. We have a wealth of data and the analytics expertise to help all the utilities companies, including water and energy, gain the best possible understanding of prospective and existing customers and, therefore, create the right credit management and collections strategies.”
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