Water Online

MAR 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

Issue link: https://wateronline.epubxp.com/i/795216

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Page 17 of 34

was easy, they were happy," he said. "This particular utility was not the lowest-cost utility in the area. It was the most expensive, actually. We tend to think that it has to be low-cost — 'cheap' — and that's where the satisfaction with the customer comes. But that's not what the data showed us." 5. Leverage State Laws And Local Ordinances Perhaps the best way that utilities can empower themselves to collect payments is to become familiar with the local rules that are in place to help them. For instance, some municipalities prevent property owners from selling if their water bills aren't paid. "Taking a look and thinking about what the opportunities are within your municipal code that you can enforce makes it easier to do business," Hulsebosch said. "Being predictable and enforcing the boundaries that are in your existing ordinances actually makes it easy [for customers] to predict how they should do business with you." 6. Make Yourself Accessible Similar to his points about knowing customers and keeping them satisfied, Hulsebosch emphasized the efficacy of customer assistance programs that let ratepayers know that utilities want to make it easy for them to pay their bills on time. "Making it easy for your call center agents or your billing and collection folks to follow up with customers … is really helpful, because not everyone knows about [customer assistance programs]," he said. "Then, once you interface with the customer who has some payment challenges, make sure it's easy for that customer assistance program to pay on their behalf." Hulsebosch also emphasized the importance of reducing the number of delinquent customers. "This is one that can become a real challenge if you don't have a dashboard showing what percentage of your customers are late- paying," he said. "Keeping an eye on all of those [delinquent] customers and trying to use the appropriate mechanisms to move people off that late-pay list is really important." But Hulsebosch's parting advice to attendees was an amendment to his six-part list as a whole. "Don't fight everything off at once," he said. "This is a roadmap. This is a multiyear process, but hopefully this will help you think through some tactics and plans to improve your payment performance." n wateronline.com n Water Innovations 15 METERINGANDBILLING Peter Chawaga is the associate editor for Water Online. He creates and manages engaging and relevant content on a variety of water and wastewater industry topics. Chawaga has worked as a reporter and editor in newsrooms throughout the country and holds a Bachelor's degree in English and a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at pchawaga@wateronline.com. About The Author

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