UK consumers are increasingly standing up to poor performing service providers by purposely withholding payments, according to new research – with 48% saying they had withheld or defaulted on payments in the past as a result of poor customer service or billing issues.
The survey of 1,500 households, by Echo Managed Services, revealed a number of reasons for debt outside of consumers simply not having the financial means to pay. Almost 1 in 3 people hadn’t paid because the bill was incorrect or higher than expected; 14% because the bill was difficult to understand or there was a mix-up with it; and 6% because they’d received poor service. Just 28% of people said that late or non-payment was as a result of not having the means to pay.
The research also revealed that higher income households are less tolerant of poor service, with 1 in 10 of those earning more than £40,000 per annum having withheld payment for this reason in the past, compared to just 1% of those earning less than £10,000.
Echo are now urging service providers to improve their billing processes and customer service standards, in order to mitigate some of the reasons behind avoidable debt and to avoid losing valuable customers in a market full of competition and choice.
“There are many reasons why people might not pay a bill and although a lack of income would be the obvious reason, our research clearly indicates that these days debt cannot be attributed solely to financial circumstances. Consumers are now much more aware of their rights and have the freedom to exercise them. They might be less tolerant of poor customer service or inaccurate billing, or think that failing to pay won’t necessarily lead to debt collection procedures, for example,” said Monica Mackintosh, customer services director at Echo Managed Services.
“That’s why it’s so important to understand customers and their reasons for missing payments so that the debt can be mitigated before it becomes an issue, or be resolved as quickly as possible. Making sure bills are clear and accurate, regular pre-bill customer engagement, and early intervention such as payment reminders are essential. In addition, a range of internal and external data sources can provide a strong indicator of customer behaviour and propensity to pay. But data alone does not provide the answer and should be used to support personable and empathetic customer service to ensure customers receive a positive experience” she added.
The report also revealed that although most customers do feel guilty about missed payments (59%), a surprising 3% think that regular debt is acceptable and 4% think it’s acceptable if they have more pressing needs, such as paying for an annual holiday. Over 1 in 4 think it’s acceptable to get into debt in extreme circumstances, while 6% think it isn’t an issue to be late with payments and that it causes no harm.