Poll results and formal policies

The last Utility Information Pipeline addressed deceased customers and included a poll asking if reader’s utilities have a policy regarding deceased customers. Here are the results of that poll (clicking on the chart will open a larger graphic in a new window):

deceased-customers-poll-results

Poll results

I’m surprised to see only one utility has a formal policy regarding deceased customers.

This is the second informal poll I’ve conducted recently with the response of a formal policy being a distinct minority. The other was a poll regarding a policy for accepting loose coins.

Limited sample size

The deceased customers poll had 16 responses and the loose coins poll had 22. Statistically speaking, neither of these are very large samples, but, across my readership, I would like to think they are a representative sample of small and mid-sized utilities.

The current subscriber count for the Utility Information Pipeline stands at 322 and, in a good week, about 40% percent of subscribers open any particular issue. So that means, for any given issue, I can expect my newsletter to reach about 125 subscribers. Add to that a few views of my blog from followers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and the number of readers responding to either poll is still significantly below 20% of those it reaches.

Importance of a formal policy

I’ve written previously about the importance of having a formal customer service policy. With so few responses to the two polls indicating these topics are addressed in a formal policy, this leads to one of two conclusions: (a) these utilities don’t have formal policies or (b) these topics aren’t covered in their existing formal policies.

If your utility has never been confronted with a customer dumping a huge pile of change on the counter to pay a bill, I can understand if accepting loose coins isn’t dealt with in your policy. However, with the requirement for each utility to have a Red Flags Rule policy, not having a policy regarding deceased customers is more surprising.

Do you have a formal customer service policy?

Does your office have a formal customer service policy? Please take this quick poll.

Once you’ve taken the poll, you can see the results to see how other utilities responded. I’ll publish the final results in the next issue.

Do you need assistance developing or updating your policy?

If your office needs assistance developing or updating your customer service policy, please give me a call at 919-232-2320, or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com for more information about how a business review could help.

Click here to subscribe to my free, bi-weekly email newsletter...

© 2016 Gary Sanders

How do you handle deceased customers?

One of the listservs I subscribe to has had several questions posted regarding deceased customers and how other utilities handle the account of a person who has died.

Grave

Some utilities (generally smaller ones served by a single local newspaper) monitor the obituaries to see if any local deaths are utility customers. Why would that matter, you might ask?

Prevent identity theft

If you remember, one of the reasons for a Red Flags Rule policy is to prevent and mitigate identity theft.

In some cases, a utility bill in the customer’s name can be used as proof of ID. If a family member of a deceased customer were to move into the home and continue the service uninterrupted, that could be the first step in assuming a false identity. Insuring the account is transferred into the name of the executor or other living family member prevents any chance of that happening.

Protect against bad debt

Depending on the laws in your state, continuing to send a bill to a deceased person may prove to be difficult to collect if it goes unpaid. Therefore, transferring the account into the name of another living person is important.

Adequate security deposit

Additionally, if the deceased person was a longtime customer, they might have had a much smaller deposit (or even no deposit) than a customer applying for service today. Without an adequate security deposit, if the family member taking over the account proves to be habitually late paying, you could end up stuck with bad debt when they leave or sell the property.

Therefore, requiring the person who inherits or otherwise assumes responsibility for the property to apply for a new account is the safest policy.

Do you have a policy regarding deceased customers?

Does your office have a policy regarding deceased customers? Please take this quick poll.


 

Once you’ve taken the poll, you can see the results to see how other utilities responded. I’ll publish the final results in the next issue.

Upcoming aging workforce seminar

Don’t forget the Aging Workforce Issues – Best Practices Panel & Luncheon seminar on Wednesday, November 30 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, sponsored by the Utility Management Committee of the NC AWWA-WEA.

If you are located within driving distance of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I encourage you to consider attending in person. If not, you can still participate in a live webcast of the seminar.

The seminar moderator is J.D. Solomon, PE, CRE, CMRP; Vice President of CH2M. The panelists are:

  • Rod Dones, Organizational Development & Learning Specialist, Charlotte Water
  • Tamara Byers, Human Resources Manager, Charlotte Water
  • Ed Kerwin, PE, Executive Director, Orange Water & Sewer Authority
  • Kenny Waldroup, PE, Assistant Public Utilities Director, City of Raleigh
  • Matt Bernhardt, Director of Public Works and Utilities, City of Gastonia

For more information, or to register for the seminar, please click here.

Do you need assistance developing a policy?

If your office needs assistance developing or updating a policy regarding deceased customers, or any of your other policies, please give me a call at 919-232-2320, or email me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com for more information about how a business review could help.

Click here to subscribe to my free, bi-weekly email newsletter...

© 2016 Gary Sanders