Leading by example by correctly billing customers and doing the right thing – how data analytics, tracing and remediation can assist and build strong brand reputation.

As declining household incomes hit consumers’ budgets and we see utility bills (mobile phone, broadband, TV packages) targeted as areas to cut discretionary spend,  telecoms and media service providers have an ever-increasing challenge to protect their brand and demonstrate that they’re protecting their customers’ data. And of course, they need to retain their current customers and attract more.

The power of strong data analytics

Aligned to the collections process is the need to identify people who might have passed away, are too unwell to use their services, have moved house, or who are now categorised as under vulnerable circumstances due to cost of living constraints. Each group needs to be treated in an empathetic manner when it comes to managing, or closing their accounts.

As in most industries, we’ve seen an increase in both illness and customer mortality rates in the aging population due to the pandemic and, while this is happening, the quality of customer data can cause difficulties when it comes to managing customers’ bills. This is more so with the accounts of the deceased, ensuring their accounts are closed down or transferred correctly, and that relatives are informed and refunded for incorrect payments.

Service providers and their security teams are responsible for making accurate decisions when it comes to the protection, hygiene and compliance of their company’s data — which is no easy feat, especially with the volume of unstructured data that exists. Unstructured data is information that is not easily searchable and accounts for most of the data organisations create on a daily basis. The high volume of unstructured data that an organisation collects can end up creating functional, financial and regulatory issues, and therefore it’s important that data records are complete, accurate and up to date.

Many service providers are struggling to keep up with the regulations being given by OFCOM, and the government is consulting on stronger legal duties for providers of public telecoms services. Subsequently, the lack of data rectification initiatives are impacting their billing processes, putting themselves at risk of failing to meet their obligations.

An overload of data can be overwhelming for any organisation’s security team. For one, it’s difficult for internal teams to work efficiently if they don’t know where the data they need to work with is, and if they are unsure that the data at hand is accurate and clean. From a cost-efficiency perspective, organisations are likely to overspend on their data storage by hanging on to unnecessary data or by storing all types of data in one place regardless of its sensitivity level. And finally, without a complete view of your organisation’s data or determined action steps for ‘dirty’ or sensitive data, an organisation could be at legal compliance risk.

This is where data remediation plays a central role in ensuring that a company’s data network is secure, and that they are operating at peak standards. Banks and insurance companies also face the same challenge, with multi-million pound fines being handed out for failing to comply with data requirements.

And as fraudulent activity in telecoms continues to plague the industry with no signs of slowing down, it’s no surprise that fraudsters are becoming increasingly skilled in exploiting network operators and customers. Though not a new phenomenon, the rate at which scammers were able to successfully target providers and consumers was unprecedented during the pandemic. Indeed, a poll taken in 2021 by Total Telecoms reported that 75% of operators were experiencing new or emerging incidences of fraud, and 61% said network security threats have increased or significantly increased since it began. It’s not only providers that are suffering.

Protecting the deceased from identity theft

To further compound this issue, the impact of the pandemic and additional pressures on household finances have led service providers across multiple sectors, including telco, to experience increased levels of fraud. Telecoms fraud is a costly issue for mobile operators, partly because they are usually forced to bear the cost themselves. Europol estimates that this amounts to €10.6 billion (£9 billion) a year. Service providers are also facing tighter OFCOM regulations relating to fraud and identity theft.

Identity theft happens when someone's personal information is used without their permission. One of the ways in which such information can be obtained is where mail addressed to a deceased person is intercepted. The deceased details are then used to obtain loans, credit cards, goods or services, the impact of which can be devastating to family members and friends left behind.

Stealing the identity of someone who is deceased – sometimes called ghostingcan go on for months before the crime is detected. This may be because identity thieves know how to take advantage of the time between when a person dies and when government agencies or financial institutions are notified of the death.

Data remediation services: accuracy, speed, and confidence

So how can companies better protect their customers’ loved ones from identity theft even after they pass away?

Firms must keep an accurate record of their customers as per regulatory requirements, but over the years this has been harder to do as people move address more frequently and lose touch of their records. It is a multi-sector problem that has been building up for over 30 years.

At Capita, we have access to over 1 billion records provided by UK and international financial institutions, enabling us to successfully trace 2 million individuals each year. We mortality-screened over 24 million records in 2021/22. Our expert analysis helps to grade your data and understand the quality of the data and use the data with confidence.

Our customer Scottish Widows recently won an accolade at The Cover Customer Service Awards, where they were nominated in the ‘Above and Beyond’ category for the collaboration and success achieved with us for forensic tracing which has helped them to locate and pay to customers, often years after they had first received a life insurance claim.

Online electronic mortality screening

One of the simplest and quickest way to ensure data is maintained accurately is to mortality-screen and residency-check customers. This provides a snapshot of the data, confirming whether customers are still living at the address on record for them and if they are alive or not. The results are provided with a simple grading system which is easy to understand and apply to your business.

eMSON™ (electronic mortality screening online) is our own proprietary system, based on 15 years’ experience of mortality screening and tracing members. eMSON™ uses the disclosure of death registration information (DDRI) data, of which we are a licensed holder. We’re in complete control of the data and matching algorithms, allowing us to maintain or make enhancements without interrupting service.

We have also developed the eVON™ Banking App. It’s a secure portal for collecting customers’ options for payment and validating customer bank details, allowing clients to make Bacs payments and removing the need for cheque production. Helping clients manage the channel shift to digital and paperless operation ultimate reducing costs and their carbon footprint.

Get in touch with us to talk to an expert about how to help your business progress:

Written by

Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham

MD for Telco, Media and Technology, Capita

Mark was previously Group Customer Care and Experience Director & COO of Financial Services at The Very Group, the UK’s largest integrated online retailer and financial services business. He’s had a varied career spanning 15+ years across operational and outsource management, transformation and customer experience, including at Vodafone and British Gas. Under Mark’s leadership the Very Group was recognised at the European Call Centre awards for their customer transformation programme which in 2 years improved brand NPS by 30 points, tnps by 90 points, first contact resolution by 30 points and reduced overall customer contact and cost by over 70%.

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