2012 Utility Fee Survey Results – Part I

Editor’s Note: The 2015 Utility Fee Survey is now complete and you can see the results of that survey here:

2015 Utility Fee Survey Results – Part I

2015 Utility Fee Survey Results – Part II

2015 Utility Fee Survey Results – Part III

For the past few months, I’ve been conducting a Utility Fee Survey to research what fees utilities charge and how much they charge for each fee.

The results include too much information for a single issue. This is the first of three consecutive Utility Information Pipelines publishing the results of the Utility Fee Survey. Since it will take three issues to publish the results, the next two issues will be published weekly instead of bi-weekly.

Demographics of survey respondents

88 utilities, from 15 states, ranging in size from 200 to 168,500 active accounts participated in the survey. Click on the links below to see charts of the various demographic data:

Number of responses by state

Size of utilities responding

Size of utilities up to 25,000 accounts responding

Positions of individuals completing survey

Services provided by responding utilities

Water and sewer tap and impact fees

The first fees the survey asked about were water and sewer tap and impact fees. There are a couple key distinctions to keep in mind when comparing tap and impact fees.

Tap fees should recover the cost of making the actual water or sewer tap. This includes direct costs such as labor, materials and vehicle use as well as any indirect costs associated with completing the tap. Tap fees are classified as operating revenues.

Impact fees, sometimes called availability fees or system development charges, are designed to cover the incremental capital cost of adding an additional user to the water or sewer system. Impact fees are classified as non-operating revenues.

Clicking on any of the graphs will open a larger image in a new window.

Residential water tap fees charged by utilities responding to the survey range from $75.00 to $3,500.00 as shown below:

Utilities responding to the survey charge residential sewer tap fees ranging from $50.00 to $5,250.00 as depicted by this graph:

Residential water impact fees charged by utilities responding to the survey range from $200.00 to $25,754.00 as shown in this graph:

Utilities responding to the survey charge residential sewer impact fees ranging from $53.75 to $22,750.00 as shown here:

Upcoming issues

Part II – June 5, 2012

Next week’s issue deals with delinquent account fees and policies, including late fees, cut-off fees and after hours reconnect fees.

Part III – June 12, 2012

The final survey results issue showcases any remaining fees, including application, returned check, meter reread, meter tampering and convenience fees.

A special offer

I’m offering a special offer to readers of my blog. If you let me know that you read this here, I will conduct a personalized fee consultation for a 20% discount. That’s $800 rather than the usual $1,000 price for this service.

I will review your utility’s current fee schedule and conduct an in-depth phone assessment to learn more about your fees. You will receive a presentation quality document illustrating how your fees compare with other utilities. Also included will be my recommendations for revising any existing fees and suggestions of new fees you should consider charging.

If you are interested in this special offer, please contact me by calling 919-232-2320 or e-mailing me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com. Remember to let me know that you read this on my blog when you contact me.

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© 2012 Gary Sanders

Is this a metric you should be tracking…?

If you’ve been reading the Utility Information Pipeline for any length of time, you’re probably aware that I’m an outspoken proponent of utilities accepting credit cards. In fact, I wrote about this all the way back in Utility Information Pipeline #4 (you can read it here if you missed it).

During a presentation of our software to a progressive utility recently, we had a discussion about payment methods. In the course of conversation, they mentioned they do not charge a convenience fee for credit card payments.

Reducing in-office payments

By implementing IVR and online bill pay, this utility reduced the number of in-office payments handled by their staff from 40% of all payments to 22%. Remember, I said this was a progressive utility, so they were already offering bank drafts, using a lockbox for mail payments and receiving online banking checks electronically.

Their rationale for not charging a convenience fee and absorbing the cost of processing credit card payments is they are not creating a deterrent to their customers paying by credit card. This, in turn, has reduced the number of payments processed in the office due to:

  • fewer walk-in payments
  • phone credit card payments are no longer handled by a customer service representative
  • more ways for customers to pay

What office wouldn’t want to reduce the number of payments processed by their staff?

Growth without adding staff

This reduction in the number of in-office payments has allowed this utility to continue to grow while moving from bi-monthly to monthly billing without adding any additional staff. Now, that’s impressive!

Even if you don’t have plans to bill twice as often, as this utility did, wouldn’t allowing your staff to spend less time processing payments be a good thing?

Do you know how well your office is doing?

Do you have a feel for what percentage of payments are processed in your office? If not, is this a metric you should start tracking…?

If you have taken steps to reduce the number of payments processed in your office, I would love to hear what you’ve done and you can click here to post your comments.

If you are interested in reducing the number of payments processed in your office or becoming more efficient in other ways, please contact me by calling 919-232-2320 or e-mailing me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to see how a business review could help your utility.

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© 2012 Gary Sanders

Is your office listed in Google Places…?

Do you have a listing in Google Places? If you don’t or if you don’t know what Google Places is, keep reading…

Customers look for you online

I haven’t opened a phone book in years and, apparently, I’m not alone! According to Google, “97% of consumers search for local businesses online.”

When your customers Google your utility, can they find you? If you have an up-to-date listing in Google Places, they can. Even if you don’t have a website!

An example of one utility’s Google Places listing

Mallory Valley Utility District (MVUD) in Franklin, Tennessee has a listing in Google Places. If you search for “Mallory Valley Utility District”, Google returns the following screen:

Google Search Screen

The first entry in the left column is MVUD’s website. Underneath, is their Facebook page. You did read Utility Information Pipeline #35 and now have a Facebook page, don’t you…?

To the right of the website links is a map with a push pin locating the MVUD office with their hours below the map. Clicking on the push pin opens a larger map in Google Maps and clicking on that push pin opens Mallory Valley Utility District’s Google Place listing as shown in this screen:

Mallory Valley Utility District Google Places Listing

As you can see, the Google Place listing shows the office address, phone number and logo and provides a link for driving directions to the office.

Why create a Google Places listing?

Jenny Clarke, Office Manager at Mallory Valley Utility District says, “I created the Google Places listing because more and more people use Google to find telephone numbers and addresses these days than they use the phone book, so it made sense to us to create a Google Places account. Customers can easily view our location now through Google.”

Jenny goes on to say, “Plus, we had a problem… Google was listing our address and phone number incorrectly. It was pulling a phone number and address to one of our pumping stations. With the Google Places account, I was able to correct the error and that has been very helpful.”

It’s easy to create your Google Places listing

To create your listing, go to www.google.com/places and click the “Get started” button. You will be prompted to enter your office phone number. If Google already recognizes your phone number, it will offer you the opportunity to edit the existing information and add additional details.

If your phone number isn’t recognized, you will be prompted to enter your organization’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address and website. You may also enter a description and a category for your listing, your office hours, methods of payment you accept and up to 10 images. These images can include your logo, as MVUD’s listing does, or photos of your office.

Finally, Google will mail you a PIN within two weeks to verify your listing. Once you enter this PIN in Google Places, your listing will be active.

Even if you don’t have a website, Google Places can provide a web presence for your utility. Without your own website, your Google Places listing solves three of the eight common website mistakes to avoid that I wrote about in Utility Information Pipeline #34.

What has been your experience?

Do you already have a Google Places listing? If you do, how has it benefitted you?

Better yet, if reading this has inspired you to create one, I would love to hear about that, too. In either case, please click here to post your comments.

If you have questions about Google Places or creating your listing, please contact me by calling 919-232-2320 or e-mailing me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com.

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© 2012 Gary Sanders