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Vitens makes important customer information resurface with Autotrace

Drinking water is our first necessity in life. And it's not expensive: 1.20 euro per thousand liters. One person consumes an average of 50,000 liters per year . That adds up to approximately 60 euro per year. This is not so expensive. Yet there are people who fail to pay their bills for drinking water. To trace these customers and thereby prevent that the collection costs get too high, the Dutch water supply company Vitens is using Autotrace of Experian.

Through various mergers Vitens has become one of the largest water supply companies in the Netherlands. The company provides drinking water to as many as 5.4 million people and businesses. Vitens is present in the provinces of Friesland, Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland and Utrecht and a number of municipalities in Noord Holland and Drenthe. Furthermore, Vitens is administratively active for Evides, which has its presence in Rotterdam and Westland. In total, Vitens serves to more than 3.1 million households. Vitens ensures that its customers get fresh water from the tap, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The primary processes for Vitens are: production of groundwater to drinking water, water distribution and technical services to consumers and businesses. And of course the billing and collection. A large company like Vitens is continuously working on expanding their knowledge and wants to position itself at the forefront of research and progress. Also when managing collections.

Collections process

Collection is sometimes necessary. Although it remains strange that it is necessary for water bills", says Bas Koster, Client Manager Backoffice at Vitens. “Water is absolutely not expensive. But when customers let it get out of hand, we have to collect. An invoice from the water company, increased with collection costs can become an invoice with a large amount. “

Koster clarifies: "When you do not pay your bill, you get a reminder and a warning. That letter costs 17.50 euro. If you then do not pay up, you will receive a visit from our own debt collector. This means further costs of 51.50 euro. So we are already at 69 euro extra. If you still do not pay your bill, we can close you down, but then a further sum of 210 euro will be added. Then you have a considerable amount and collection is worthwhile”.

Enhanced customer information

And when that happens, Vitens primarily uses information from its own database. “Because we correspond with our customers to measure water consumption, for invoices, payments, direct debit, etc. - we get the necessary data. We certainly use this information if people do not pay. It gets difficult if people vanish and do not want to be found. In those cases we appeal to Autotrace, a perfect tool to obtain more customer information, but also to get our customer data as complete as possible for ourselves and to provide the collection agencies with as much customer information as possible”.

Autotrace helps Vitens find vital information about the customer. "And with the right dates of birth and the right initials from Experian, we get a lot further. Vitens uses Autotrace quite frequently, but only per incident, per individual case. Mostly for returned mail and vanished customers. We verify and supplement our customer information with information from Autotrace. If we try to check a client who has left already a long time ago in our own database, we often receive no information. We do have a good database of our customers, but sometimes information is not complete. Hence the sometimes much-needed help from Autotrace”.

“When putting in a customer's name, for example J. Jones, postal code and house number, we will soon find out via Autotrace that the customer is called J.G.M. Jones, he is male and his date of birth is 04/06/1973. In addition, the data from Experian gives us other leads on how to track that customer. For example that he or she owns a house or business. And with that information we can always put a finger on it.”

Autotrace goes directly into detail

"The beauty of Autotrace is that the system links a number of database files, providing the user with a more complete picture of the person they want to check with a touch of one button . Instead of consulting five separate databases, there is already a sort of summary of that person in Autotrace. This is what makes it unique. You cannot get this information from corresponding with that person, but Autotrace goes directly into detail and gets the right information. All in all, a system that delivers value for money. And that we dare to say out loud at Vitens now”.

Koster was already convinced when he started using the system, but he still needed to convince his colleagues too. "From the beginning I saw the potential and benefits of Autotrace. Other users in our organization showed some resistance. I told them: put Autotrace next to your current information and tools, and see what it brings you. The nice thing is that Autotrace users receive a new password quarterly. Accidentally, I once held back this password and within two days my colleagues already came knocking on my door: I cannot use the system and I really need it".

"This was a good way to check to see that the system became a very useful tool for them. Scepticism about the benefits of using it, did not match what happened in practice. This was in the trial period. In the meantime we have been working with Autotrace for two years now and we make good use of it. And with the desired results."

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