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In the past, payment reminders were sent to EDF Luminus customers in the traditional way. Seven days after the due date of the invoice, a first reminder was sent by letter, an expensive and time-consuming procedure. “After we were taken over by EDF, we looked at how they were sending out reminders,” says collection manager Tim Kusters. “They had a system that they called Julie Tag: an automatic phone call to customers in which a voice informed them that their invoice was overdue.” EDF Luminus was interested in the solution, but wanted to extend it with text and e-mail possibilities.
“We then contacted Proximus, where we were already clients, and asked whether they could provide such a solution. Together with their partner, The RingRing Company, it could be in operation very fast.” In January 2014, the first tests were done with a computer voice, but that drew negative customer responses. For that reason, the decision was made to work with human voice actors. “We call our system Laura-call,” says Kusters. “Now we make a friendly phone call on the second day after the due day in which we remind the customers of the outstanding invoice. We also give them the chance to create a direct debit. If the phone is not answered after three attempts, we send a text message. If we don’t have the customer’s mobile number, he gets an e-mail.”
The results of the new system are spectacular. “After a Laura-call, we have to send out far fewer additional reminders than previously, which means a lot of money saved on postage and paper. Our contact center also has to deal with far fewer questions; fewer than 1% of the customers contact us as a result of a Laura-call. The response from customers is also positive: we are sometimes even thanked because we saved them from additional costs. EDF Luminus also regards the service as a free service for its customers,” Kusters explains, “instead of a stern reminder for customers who pay late once in a while.”
Trump case – ease of use
To get the system to do its thing, almost no intervention on the part of EDF Luminus is needed. “We only have to upload the customers’ data to the SFTP server in the morning and then our job’s done. All the rest happens automatically.” EDF Luminus pays a fixed rate per call with an additional rate per second for the calls. “That rate per call is negligible,” says Kusters. “And the price per second is also better than expected. If they go through the whole script, we have the customers on the line for 90 seconds at the most. To give you an idea: this system costs us one-fifth of the old system by letter. So it’s been a really good investment.”
Miss Belgium gets more work
In the future, EDF Luminus wants to roll out the system more extensively, for instance, to collect missing data from customers, arrange changes of address and answer customers’ questions. But where did the name Laura come from? “Well, the system needed a name and during one of the brainstorming sessions, I suddenly thought about the former Miss Belgium – Laura Beyne,” says Kusters, laughing. “Since then it’s been called Laura. Laura Beyne probably doesn’t know it, but she already called more than 100.000 of our customers.”
EDF Luminus is the main challenger on the energy market in Belgium, with approximately 20% market share. The company serves private individuals and SMEs as well as industrial customers, with great attention to customer satisfaction, rewarded by the VREG with the maximum of 5 stars.
Tim Kusters has been working at EDF Luminus for 12 years, initially in the Legal Recovery department and for the last 2.5 years as Debt Collection Manager, for both the B2C and B2B markets.
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