Efficient customer service is critical as rising household bills cause anxiety for customers

One in three (31%) people have experienced anxiety over their inability to pay household bills, according to new research.

The affordability of water bills was explored in a new report from Aptumo, the next-generation water billing and CRM software powered by Echo Managed Services. It found that more than half of people (56%) say their mental health has been affected by day-to-day decisions resulting from the spiraling cost of living.

Alongside anxiety, one in four people had experienced sleepless nights as a result of rising bills, and almost one in five (19%) said that these money worries had caused an increase in arguments at home.

While it would be unfair to suggest that only younger people struggle with the affordability of their bills, age and inexperience could be a factor as bills continue to rise. The research showed that 22–25-year-olds are a massive 720% more likely to argue over money issues than those aged 65 and over.

Rachael Merrell, customer service director at Echo Managed Services, commented:

We are facing a crisis in the UK, bill payers across generations are struggling to keep up with the unprecedented rise in household costs. In turn this is putting pressure on people’s mental health, and in some cases spilling over to impact the wellbeing of customer-facing staff. Water providers, like all other companies, can take steps to alleviate the pressures on customers, by ensuring they feel adequately supported through the billing process.

“Making it as easy as possible for customers to find the information they need or to contact the right person to help them is essential. It’s worth remembering that while self-serve channels offer convenience, some customers still prefer to speak to someone when they have a complex or financial enquiry. Well-trained teams who can engage with customers and guide them to a satisfactory outcome can help to alleviate some of the stress they may be feeling.

“To avoid any further anxiety, all customer communications should use clear, simple, non-technical language. Additionally working with third parties like community groups, agencies, and specialist debt charities can help to spread valuable messages. A customer who is struggling with affordability issues and their mental health may be more likely to turn to one of these organisations so a joined-up approach could have a positive impact.

“It’s worth remembering that contact centre teams could also be experiencing the same financial concerns as the customers they’re working with. This could heighten their own feelings of anxiety so sharing information about both financial initiatives and emotional support can have a positive effect on wellbeing and morale. Signposting financial help - from government programs to charity run schemes – can provide the practical help some people will need, while simply reminding colleagues about the benefits an employer offers and how to access them and make full use of them day-to-day can make a big difference. Making the workplace an environment where teams feel valued and that their voice is heard can also offer a sense of stability and reassurance during difficult times.”