Business Stream Case Study: How proactive credit-control was used to support customers during the Covid-19 crisis.
A subsidiary of Scottish Water, Business Stream is one of the largest water BTB retailers in the UK operating in both Scotland and England’s highly competitive non-domestic water markets. With over 12 years’ experience of operating in a competitive water market – longer than any other retailer – they are the chosen supplier for over 340,000 forward-thinking businesses customers – ranging from small corner shops to large industrial estates.
A responsible company, Business Stream is committed to make a positive difference to its customers, its people, the environment and the communities it operates within. This was demonstrated by the launch of their “Making a Positive Difference” vision in 2019.
The Business Stream commitment to putting their customers at the centre of the business was never more critical than in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the country into lockdown. With all non-essential businesses forced to close by law and with no clear date for re-opening the Business Stream leadership team knew this would have a massive financial impact on their valued customers.
Although there was an OfWat restriction on any debt collection activity during this period, the Business Stream executive team identified there was a strong customer-focused business case for increasing their customer credit-control contact. With the “stay at home” order in place many of their customers would now not only be unable to trade but would also have other needs for which Business Stream could provide support; some customers would now have vacant premises for which they could be accumulating unnecessary water charges, customers might need bills redirected for this period or find it convenient to move to e-billing, there were three-month payment holidays available to offer customers with a good payment history and agents could highlight the significant advantages to paying by direct debit. Meanwhile, by actively calling their customers, Business Stream would get an overview of their customer base’s financial position.
Once Business Stream had identified a clear need for proactive customer credit-control contact during COVID-19 the next challenge was to find the resource to deliver this when most of the UK’s businesses were in lockdown. They needed an outsourced partner who could provide remote, white-labelled support, in a style and tone appropriate to the current climate. With these objectives in mind, they approached Leicester based Barratt Smith Brown as they had a strong reputation for working with their clients to deliver highly tailored credit and collections solutions.
Barratt Smith Brown provided 11 dedicated agents who operated as a seamless extension of the Business Stream inhouse team. Working within existing Business Stream systems their remit was to secure contact with Business Stream customers and deliver a range of graded positive outcomes including:
- Payment in full
- Budget payment plan set up
- Payment deferral set up
- Direct debit set up
- Copy invoice sent
- Data enrichment
- Returned to customer service
Business Stream allocated BSB a ledger of 12,000 accounts, where the average balance was £920 per account. These accounts were in the 30 days + segment and had not been touched since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
With the advantage of being able to focus entirely on delivering this specific activity, the BSB team contact rates for this programme consistently outperformed the in-house team by 2-1. Based on the accounts which were provided with active contact details, over a 12-week period the BSB team achieved:
|Nº of accounts
|Total accounts with active contact details
|Positive outcome achieved
Martin Kirby, Head of Credit Risk and Collections at Business Stream
“Utilising Barratt Smith Brown as an outsourced, white-labelled partner enabled Business Stream to deliver our customers proactive credit-control contact during this critical period. This soft touch activity, focusing on positive outcomes rather than simply collecting monies, meant we could ensure our customers were aware of the COVID-19 support measures available, as well as give us the opportunity to work with them to resolve any potential short and long-term payment issues. This activity worked to strengthen our customer relationships, securing their valued business in the longer-term.”
Written by :
Ian Deacon, Director of Utilities Collections, Barratt Smith Brown
With a career that includes 18 years within British Gas business-to-business operations and finance, Ian is a highly experienced senior leader and analyst with extensive experience at developing and delivering industry leading business to business collection strategies.