Are you missing out on revenue from returned checks?

Does your utility charge the maximum fee allowed in your state for returned checks? If not, you are missing out on revenue you could (and should) be collecting.

Returned check fees by state

The maximum allowable returned check fee varies from state to state, ranging from $20 to $50. Here is a document outlining returned check fees by state, including references to the statute regulating the fee in each state.

Fee Survey results

Last year, I conducted a Utility Fee Survey that encompassed a number of different fees, including returned check fees. Here is a link to the results of the survey.

Eighty-eight utilities responded to the survey and, of those, eighty-six charged a returned check fee. In one of the more surprising results of the survey, of the 86 utilities that charged a returned check fee, 24 charged less than the maximum fee allowed in their state. That amounts to 28% of the responding utilities!

Why not charge the maximum allowed?

Why would your utility charge less than the maximum allowable returned check fee? It takes time and effort on the part of your staff to collect bad checks, so why not recover these costs from the customers who incur them?

If it costs more to collect returned checks than you charge in fees, the rest of your customer base ends up paying those additional costs through your rates.

Is your fee posted conspicuously?

Several states have requirements that a notice advising customers of your returned check fee be posted conspicuously at the point of sale. For walk-in customers, this means posting a sign in your lobby. I also recommend including a statement on your utility bill that defines your returned check fee.

How do your fees compare?

If you’ve ever wondered if you are charging appropriate fees, give me a call to find out how a personalized fee consultation would help you.

As part of the fee consultation, 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’re interested, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com.

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© 2013 Gary Sanders

How good is your mailing address quality?

One of the many things I do in my job is work with new customers in converting their data to Logics’ Utilities Management System.

In the process of doing this, I see a wide range in the quality of mailing addresses – from excellent to not so good. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to improve the quality of your mailing addresses.

Addressing basics

Postal addressing standards call for no periods or commas in the address line. For example, P.O. BOX 123 should be PO BOX 123 and RALEIGH, NC should be RALEIGH NC.

Street name suffixes should always use standardized abbreviations. For example, RD in place of ROAD and ST for STREET.

Apartments and suites should always be listed at the end of the address. For example, 101-B MAIN ST should be 101 MAIN ST APT B.

The primary delivery address should always be immediately above the city, state and ZIP code. This is not an issue for most addresses, but can be in the case of long street names with a suite or apartment that won’t all fit on a single address line. In this case, the mailpiece should be addressed like this:

ABC COMPANY
SUITE 100
1234 VERY LONG STREET NAME
RALEIGH NC 27609

Looking up a ZIP code

Every address should have a ZIP code, preferably including ZIP+4. The US Postal Service website, www.usps.com, makes it easy to find a zip code. In the Quick Tools section at the top left of the home page, click Find a ZIP Code:

Find a ZIP Code

Enter the street address, city and state of the address you want the zip code for and click the Find button. This will display the address (in standardized format) with the ZIP code and ZIP+4. If you want additional address information, such as Carrier Route or Delivery Point Code (which is required for Intelligent Mail barcodes), click the Show Mailing Industry Details link:

ZIP Code Results

The full mailing industry details screen is shown here:

ZIP Code Results with Details

Publication 28

Are you familiar with USPS Publication 28? If you’re not and you are in any way responsible for being sure your bills get delivered to your customers as efficiently as possible, I recommend reading it.

It’s available from the Postal Service website, either as a PDF document (be forewarned – it’s 210 pages) or as interactive web pages with an index.

One of the features of Publication 28 is Appendix C1 which lists the standard abbreviations for most street suffixes. This is helpful if you’re unsure how to properly abbreviate a street suffix. For example, I live on Scouting Trail and, for the first few years I lived here, I thought Trail was abbreviated TR, but it’s not. According to Appendix C1, it should be TRL.

CASS certification software

If you use CASS certification software or an outsource printer to print your bills, you probably don’t worry about the quality of how your addresses are entered because the CASS certification software will correct the addresses. However, I would caution against this because the better your addresses are going into the CASS certification process, the more accurate the output will be.

Questions about address quality?

If you have questions about address quality, or anything else related to printing utility bills, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com.

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© 2013 Gary Sanders