I was recently involved in a training session with a group of customers, and one person complained about the number of rereads requested by their customers. She asked if any of the others in attendance charge a reread fee. Not surprisingly, none of them do. I say not surprisingly because the results of the Utility Fee Survey indicated only 18% of utilities do charge a reread fee.

Why don’t more utilities charge a reread fee?

Every utility I’m aware of that charges a reread fee does so only if the reread determines the initial reading was correct. If the customer’s concern that the reading was wrong is confirmed, no fee is assessed.

Unless your meter readers are extremely careless, in most cases the reread will verify the accuracy of the original reading. Your customer probably knows this when requesting a reread, but is likely frustrated over a high bill and requesting a reread is a way to vent that frustration.

Utilities that do charge a fee for rereading a meter report that many customers drop the request when they learn it may cost them. Performing a reread takes time for your office staff to process the initial request and communicate the results to the customer and for your field personnel to drive to the customer’s premise and reread the meter.

Why waste the valuable time of your staff with such nuisance requests when most of them are only going to confirm the original reading?

Teach your customers to read their own meters

Better yet, why not teach your customers to read their own meters? A number of utilities have great tutorials on their websites with step-by-step instructions for how to read a meter.

Lancaster County Water and Sewer District’s website has a great example of how to read a water meter. It also goes on to explain how they read meters using their drive-by AMR system.

The Duke Power website has a excellent example of how to read an electric meter.

These are both good examples of how your website can help your utility be more customer friendly.

If your customers are able to read their own meters, they won’t needlessly call your office to complain about readings that are valid.

Is your fee schedule up-to-date?

As with all fees, I am a strong proponent of insuring the fee you assess adequately covers the cost of providing the service. Keep in mind that fees, unlike rates, are charged only to those customers using the service. The fee you charge for performing a service, such as rereading a meter or disconnecting a customer for non-payment, should fully recover the cost of providing that service. If it doesn’t, all of your ratepayers, including low income families and senior citizens on fixed incomes, end up subsidizing those customers requiring the service.

If you haven’t reviewed your fees recently to insure you are adequately recovering your costs, I encourage you to do so. If you would like my assistance conducting a fee study, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com.

© 2012 Gary Sanders