Maintaining trust in direct debits

A recent survey that’s been reported in a number of places indicates that there’s a growing lack of trust surrounding direct debits. There have also been plenty of negative press stories lately to fuel doubt about the security of direct debits. Of course, this also has a knock on impact on the businesses that are using direct debit, which no one wants. Direct debit shouldn’t be causing your business these sorts of problems. Ultimately, it represents many advantages for you and for your customers. The key is getting it right, so that your customers feel confident when they sign up to a direct debit, and maintain that confidence as your customer relationship grows.

The benefits of Direct Debit

Statistics released earlier in the year showed that 73% of UK household bills are now paid by direct debit, and 9 in 10 adults make at least one regular payment using this convenient method. Direct Debit offers advantages for customers and for the businesses that use it, as we highlighted in a previous article on our blog  . With so much to be gained by both suppliers and consumers, it’s vital that the direct debit system isn’t undermined.

Steps to build and maintain trust

Getting it right, creating and maintaining trust in direct debit is something that all of us in the direct debit industry – as businesses using direct debit, as agencies offering direct debit services, as trainers – can contribute to. Here’s our guide to help you avoid the negative publicity we’ve seen so much of, and to build trust in direct debits.

  1. Get your internal processes set up correctly
  • Make sure you and your staff are up to date with the BACS rules and the Direct Debit guarantee;
  • Ensure customer-facing staff understand direct debits, understand any incentives that are on offer to customers who take up direct debit, and are confident explaining this to customers.
  • Train staff to set up direct debits correctly.
  1. Commit to offering great customer service
  • Engaging with your customers is vital to ensure that trust in the direct debit system is maintained. Make sure communications are open and easy to understand. Make sure your ‘Advance Notice’ complies with the requirements of the direct debit scheme. Check you are delivering your Advance Notice according to customer preference. Flexibility where it’s appropriate – for example over the payment date – will go a long way to increasing customer trust. If a payment is going to be higher than expected, make sure the customer knows in advance, and knows why.
  • Don’t pressurise – there will always be some customers who simply don’t feel comfortable with direct debits, or would prefer to pay as they go. This may be because money is tight from month to month.
  • Deal with errors quickly and openly. Delay and a lack of transparency can only lead to your customers losing trust in your business and in the direct debit scheme as a whole.
  1. Play fair
  • Check incentivisation. Many businesses using direct debit will offer incentives to customers who sign up to pay this way. However, as we’ve explained, some customers will always prefer to pay as they go, and it’s worth reviewing your direct debit incentives to check you’re not overly penalising these customers After all they may have very good reasons not to use direct debit.
  • Take time to find the right tariff for the individual customer. One of the grievances of direct debit customers is that they are put on the most expensive tariff regardless of need. It may well be that this is still cheaper than paying bills manually, but if customers perceive others are receiving ‘a better deal’ – for example new customers – it can cause dissatisfaction.
  • Get your billing right – make sure your customers understand what they are paying for in terms of services and the period that is being billed. Using consistent logos and branding across your payment correspondence and any online help facilities will increase trust too.

Direct Debit is a great system for both business and customer – let’s all do our bit to build and maintain trust in the system!