Revisiting days of exposure

I’ve written previously about minimizing days of exposure, and it’s a topic that deserves revisiting.

Components of days of exposure

If you remember, the total days of exposure is comprised of six different components:

  • Days between meter readings
  • Days until bills are mailed
  • Days until due date
  • Days until bills are delinquent
  • Days until final notice is mailed
  • Days until cut-off

One of the areas you have the most control over is how many days elapse between reading meters and mailing bills.

An actual scenario

Recently, while visiting with a customer, I asked the manager how long it takes them after reading meters to review the meter readings, calculate bills and send the bill file to the outsource printer.

The answer, which took me totally by surprise, was three weeks. When I questioned this, the response was the billing staff says that’s how long it takes. I didn’t press the issue, although I strongly suspected this may be a case of the TTWWADI syndrome.

The conversation continued on to how a particular customer’s misread meter was handled. The manager went to get the paperwork for the specific case in question and it turns out two full weeks had passed between the date the meter reading edit list was printed and when the field technician reread the meter.

How long does it take you?

I can think of no good reason why it should take two full weeks to get a reread returned to the office.

How long does it take your office between reading meters and mailing bills? Please take a moment to take this quick poll and I’ll publish the results in the next issue.

Is your office guilty of this?

The billing clerks for this customer are new hires since the system was installed and could probably benefit from followup training. I wasn’t even conducting a business review and this customer benefited from free consulting. Just imagine what a complete business review might discover!

If you think the way you process rereads (or do anything else in your office, for that matter) takes longer than it should, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to learn how a business review could help your utility.

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© 2015 Gary Sanders

Do you honor postmarks for late payments…?

Quite the surprise to me, two different utilities I visited in the past month both honor payments postmarked by the due date as on-time payments, even if the payment isn’t received in the utility office until days after the due date.

Lots of additional work

In a time when most utility offices are trying to find ways to be more efficient (think automated meter reading , outsource bill printing, and online bill pay), honoring postmarks increases your workload twofold:

  • The person opening the mail must examine the postmark of every mail payment received after the penalty is applied.
  • For any payments that were postmarked before the due date, an adjustment must be entered to remove the penalty from the affected account.

In what for many utilities may simply be a case of the TTWWADI syndrome, honoring postmarks continues because no one has questioned the practice.

Are you legally required to do it?

From my research, the best I can tell, this is modeled after the way taxes are collected. Statutorily, some taxing entities (does April 15 come to mind?) are required to honor payments postmarked by the due date as being paid on time.

Do you think your customer’s credit card or mortgage companies check the postmarks of every payment they receive?

If you still aren’t convinced, please take a minute to Google “utility bill payments postmark” and see how many utilities do and do not honor postmarks.

If you aren’t legally required to honor postmarks and you still do, I encourage you to stop. If this is part of an ordinance or a rate tariff, take it up with the governing body or utility commission and revise your ordinance or tariff. If it is simply a policy, alert your customers and change your policy.

Do you have antiquated processes?

If you think the way you process payments (or do anything else in your office, for that matter) is outdated, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com to learn how a business review could help your utility.

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© 2015 Gary Sanders