Unprecedented – A word we have grown tired of this past couple of years, but all too fitting when describing the events in the energy market this year. With record high prices leading to a record number of suppliers leaving the market, the domestic energy supply market has never been so volatile.
Research from Cornwall Insights suggests there are only 28 suppliers left in the market, down from 47 domestic suppliers in the industry during the first few months of 2021, with market exits affecting over two million customers. With continued high energy futures prices for the remainder of this winter, this crisis is far from over.
Learning the hard way
It’s not news to us that customer switching can be susceptible to human error in the supply world, and this is amplified when moving a large quantity of supply points from one supplier to another, such as during the supplier of last resort (SoLR) process.
Just last year with the collapse of my previous employer, I unfortunately found myself in the position that many of our industry colleagues are in today. Wrapping up an energy supply business with the uncertainty of employment looming can feel like death row. The day-to-day job becomes increasingly stressful with panicked customers and third parties contacting you daily to get clarity along with the deadlines to finalise migration work; you can’t help but feel overwhelmed.
Last year, as part of the process to close a supply business, we were tasked with cleansing large quantities of customer data before transferring this data to the incoming supplier. Spreadsheets with missing flows, rates and financials were sent over and a crack team of staff facing financial uncertainty were tasked with manually filling the blanks.
Everything was seemingly going to plan until we realised that thousands of customer bills had been released incorrectly due to discrepancies in the data. Opening bills from the incoming supplier and closing bills from the supplier leaving the market did not match up, leading to the customer being charged incorrectly for their energy usage.
This led to strained relationships between customers and their new supplier, an increase in human resource cost to the new supplier and added strain on the outgoing supplier’s already compromised financial position. Ultimately, this required the outgoing supplier to delay redundancy for some of its employees to fix these issues, and this incurred greater costs.
Protect the customer with tech
There is a way to avoid these types of issues though. Suppliers taking on customers through the SoLR process can alleviate human resource pressures and protect customers from billing errors by digitising the capture of customer data from ElectraLink’s Data Transfer Service. This ensures a smooth transition to the new supplier, allowing the customer to pick up exactly where they left off.
Our Network Services and Energy Market Insight (EMI) divisions have built solutions, such as FileCloner, that allow suppliers to get copies of ongoing flows without disrupting the flow of data to the current supplier. For back-dating all historic flows, our EMI team can upload files, such as previous reads, estimated annual consumption records, customer details and much more, onto a shared point for quick and easy access when updating customer accounts. This guarantees that there are no gaps in the customer’s data, which in turn protects the customer from billing issues that can derail the relationship before it has even begun.
If you are in the process of taking on a supplier’s customer base through the SoLR process or another form of acquisition, and would like to know more about how you can ensure smooth transition for customers, please reach out to myself at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.
Words by Nathan Armstrong, TPI and Business Sales Manager
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.