Did you catch this in the news?

If you’re not from North Carolina, chances are you may have missed this story in the news last week…

TV investigative report

A recent news segment by a Raleigh television station’s investigative reporter cast a negative light on our local investor owned electric utility.

It seems the electric utility surprised some of their customers with additional security deposits on their monthly bill. Enough customers complained to the TV station to prompt an investigative report on their practices.

Early editions of the story claimed the electric utility periodically reviewed all customer deposits. This was later revised to say the utility only reviews deposits when one of three triggers takes place:

  • Two or more late payments
  • Cut-off notice for non-payment
  • Having a payment returned

However, the customer quoted in the story claims this was not the case.

Protect yourself

If you’ve been a reader of the Utility Information Pipeline for any length of time, you know I believe in maintaining adequate security deposits.

I’ve written in the past about requiring accounts on the cut-off list to pay an additional deposit if their deposit is less than your customer service policy would require of a new account.

What this electric utility requires goes even farther by including multiple late payments and returned payments.

Don’t go overboard

In spite of my strong opinions about maintaining sufficient security deposits, I do think routinely running credit checks for current customers without a triggering event is extreme.

The best indicator of how a customer is going to pay in the future is how they have paid in the past. If you have a good paying existing customer, just because their credit report indicates they missed a few payments to other creditors, this doesn’t mean they should be penalized by your utility.

Do you need to review your deposit policies?

Do you need to take a look at your security deposit policies? Please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to learn more about how a business review could assist with reviewing your deposit policies and procedures.

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© 2014 Gary Sanders

Do you reconnect after hours?

For customers who are cut off for non-payment, will you reconnect them after your office is closed?

Fee survey results

In a utility fee survey I conducted in 2012, only 41.7% of the responding utilities reconnect after hours.

If your utility is in the majority and doesn’t reconnect after hours, why should you consider doing so? Let’s look at a couple of good reasons…

It’s good customer service

Many of your customers are at work while your office is open and may come home to find their service disconnected. Sure, they didn’t pay their bill on time and now they have to pay a reconnect fee to be turned back on. But why not provide good customer service and avail them of the opportunity to have their service restored that evening?

There’s revenue to be made

The utilities I referenced above charge an after hours reconnect fee (over and above the normal reconnect fee) ranging from $20.00 to $185.00! In keeping with the concept of assessing fees to customers who use the service, why not charge enough to cover your costs?

Many utilities pay a minimum of two hours call-in pay for employees who are called back to work. If you set your after-hours reconnect fee high enough to cover two hours of overtime pay (plus benefits) and the fuel cost for the vehicle, you’ve covered your costs.

Automate the process

Imagine this scenario…

Your customer comes home to find their service disconnected and a door hangar informing them of why they were cut off. Printed on the door hangar is your office website. They log into your fully integrated online bill pay system, pay their bill and the system determines if they are paying within your after hours time frame. If they are, it offers them the opportunity to pay the additional fee and be reconnected that evening. Once they finalize the payment, an e-mail is sent to the on-call service technician’s cell phone.

How simple is that?

Do you need to review other policies?

Do you have other policies that need to be reviewed? Please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to learn more about how a business review could assist with reviewing your policies and procedures.

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© 2014 Gary Sanders