Over the last year, we’ve made changes to certain operations and policies around energy enrollments. We wanted to highlight those today in case you weren’t aware of them, and also provide some updates on other matters that are important to your business. It’s a lot of information, but we encourage you to read over everything carefully!
Why Were There Changes?
First, we want to stress that the updates we’re about to cover were made by Stream as it is today to address bad debt concerns. Not NRG. As we shared at the Leader Huddle in January, Stream’s bad debt has doubled over the last two years, largely due to customers leaving Stream with outstanding balances.
It’s unfortunate, but customers who leave behind unpaid bills are all too common. This issue isn’t unique to Stream; it’s a Texas-wide problem, and many other energy retailers have already been working to address it using processes similar to the ones we’re about to explain.
Obviously, customers who stay and pay their bills are good for Stream and your business. So the most important steps we could take were around trying to improve the quality of energy customers being enrolled.
What’s the Impact of These Changes?
It’s possible these measures have resulted in an additional step for online or telephonic enrollments, or a deposit requirement. That’s by design to ensure quality customers enroll—not a result of a broken process.
Now, let’s look at a few of the changes that were introduced.
Last year, we addressed the issue of customer recycling in Texas and Georgia. Today, if a customer leaves Stream with a past-due balance and then tries to enroll again, they’ll need to pay their outstanding balance before they can sign up and receive service.
Credit Standards & Deposit Requirements
In Texas and Georgia, we introduced stricter credit standards for deposits. Customers with credit scores that fall below our threshold are required to pay a deposit. Importantly, we only offer deposit alternatives for customers with valid credit scores, meaning within a range of 0-850.
In Texas specifically, EZ Pay prices increased and the program is no longer available for customers enrolling on the Flex Choice intro plan. And in Georgia, the deposit for the new Premium 12 plan increased.
All enrolling customers in Texas and Georgia have to pass the identity verification process, and it’s strictly enforced for deposit alternative programs.
Here’s how it works: The system pulls four questions for an enrolling customer to answer. Of those four, at least one has to be true for that customer, and they must answer it correctly to qualify for a deposit alternative.
Some customers get no questions at all—that’s not a mistake. This happens when there’s not enough data to report on a customer. The result is that we are not able to verify their identity and they can’t qualify for a deposit alternative. If possible, it’s best to ensure the enrolling customer’s name matches a name with a long credit history so there’s plenty of data to pull from.
Previously in Georgia, if a customer left with a balance and tried to come back later, the enrollment went through and their balance didn’t transfer. Today, unpaid balances do transfer without notification to the customer, even if their service address is different. The outstanding balance appears on their new bill.
Since 2008, we had never sent a Georgia customer to a collection agency for unpaid balances. However, we have begun reporting those instances to collection agencies as a result of mounting bad debt.
Dual billing isn’t offered in the Northeast; rather, it’s utility consolidated billing. This is because we don’t do credit checks in the Northeast.
Automated Phone System
We also wanted to give you an update on the status of the automated phone system. We’ve been listening carefully to your feedback, with our intent always being to provide you and your customers with an outstanding experience. We take anything less than that very seriously.
Using your input, we’ve taken measures to improve the system and will continue to do so as you provide your feedback.
We’re constantly measuring our metrics, especially around hold times. We’ve heard your concerns regarding lengthy waits and taken action. After some staffing and technology changes, we’re happy to report hold times have dramatically improved.
Based on your feedback, we’ve made prompt and routing changes to route calls more efficiently and effectively. With that in mind, it’s very important you listen carefully to prompts when you call in.
The experience you had a month ago won’t be the same one you have today. We’re continually making improvements, so prompts may be different than the last time you called.
Some of you have reported issues with being transferred from agent to agent without your issue being resolved. Daily checks are now in place to ensure each agent knows how to address the types of calls they’re assigned to receive.
You can make the process is even smoother by following the automated system, listening carefully to the prompts, and responding properly. By doing that, you’ll get connected to an agent who’s been trained to handle your specific question. If you bypass the system, you may get a different experience.
For example, we know how crucial customer gathering is to your business. The enrollment process has to be great. If you’re initiating a telephonic enrollment with your customer, be sure to select “new” on the menu. If you select “new” for any other reason, you may not get the right resource and be transferred.
Call Back Option
When the automated system launched, we included a call-back feature that would let you opt to have us call you back after being on hold for two minutes. We turned it off temporarily as we implemented technology and training improvements that helped us address a high call volume.
However, we’re gradually reintroducing the feature. As you’ve probably noticed, it’s been turned back on for Texas and Georgia.
Security is always going to be one of our top priorities. Authentication protocols are in place to protect your privacy and security. Just one extra step helps make sure you’re the only one who can access your account details.
In that same vein, we also want to protect your customers’ information and privacy. For the best possible experience and to protect customer data, make sure your customers include their own contact information on their account during enrollment, especially phone numbers and email addresses. That helps ensure their contact details are in our system, so when they call in we can quickly identify them and get them taken care of.
As a reminder, only customers can get information or take an action on their account. As their Associate, you aren’t permitted to request information or take an action on their account, even with their permission. This helps us keep everyone’s account and sensitive data secure.
When we transition to Kynect, the automated phone system experience is only going to get easier. Stream’s phone system will be separated from Kynect, meaning you’ll only need to call Stream for energy customer support. For everything else (Associate Support, Wireless, other services), call Kynect.
Now’s a great time to get used to using the two company’s numbers. For now, old phone numbers will continue to redirect to our office, but that won’t continue forever!