Looking back at 2012

Believe it or not, this issue marks the second anniversary of the Utility Information Pipeline! As 2012 draws to a close, it seems appropriate to take a look back at the year…

Newsletter subscribers

Over the course of 2012, subscribers to the Utility Information Pipeline increased by 25%. I’ve received several e-mails and phone calls from subscribers complimenting me on the content of various articles. It’s always good to know that people read (and appreciate) what I write!

With that in mind, if you have co-workers or colleagues who you feel would benefit from subscribing to my newsletter, please take a minute and forward this to them.

Most popular blog posts

If you aren’t aware, I post each Utility Information Pipeline issue to my blog as an archive of past issues. Instead of searching through old e-mails to look for previous issues, my blog is a great resource to find them.

Search engines also send traffic to my blog. Based on web searches, the three most popular blog posts this year have been those dealing with convenience fees, Intelligent Mail barcodes and meter reading best practices.

Speaking of Intelligent Mail barcodes, the deadline for implementing IMb is January 28, 2013. If you are currently receiving automation discounts from the Postal Service, and are still printing POSTNET bar codes, those discounts will expire on January 28.

New, mobile device friendly e-mail format

MailChimp, the e-mail service I use to send these e-mails, recently updated their e-mail templates to include more mobile device-friendly options. This e-mail is the first I’ve sent using the new template, so if you read the Utility Information Pipeline on your phone or tablet, please let me know if this issue looks different (aka better) than previous issues.

I’m always looking for ideas for articles

After two years, I’m not completely out of ideas for articles, but I don’t have a huge backlog of topics like I did when I started! If you have an idea or suggestion of a topic that you would like to learn more about, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com.

Happy New Year!

I wish you and yours all the best for a healthy, prosperous 2013!

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© 2012 Gary Sanders

Are you creating extra work for yourself?

It is standard practice for many utilities to keep security deposits in a separate bank account from the operating cash account. This makes tracking and reconciling security deposits easier, but causes unnecessary work for some utilities when applying deposits.

Does your utility write two checks when applying deposits?

When an account is closed and the customer’s deposit is more than their final bill, some utilities end up writing two checks to clear the deposit. These utilities write one check to themselves to cover the final bill and another to the customer to refund the balance of the deposit.

Is there a better way?

Of course there is! A better process is to transfer the full amount of the customer’s deposit from the deposit cash account to the operating cash account when the account is closed. In a practical application, this would happen for several deposits at one time – for example, once per final billing cycle or once a month, for utilities that only send final bills once a month.

This process of applying the deposit creates a credit on the customer’s account and liquidates the security deposit. The credit resulting from applying the deposit will be offset by the customer’s final bill.

If the customer’s final bill is more than the deposit, the net account balance will reflect the balance owed after the deposit is applied.

On the other hand, if the customer’s final bill is less than the deposit, the resulting credit balance is the refund due to the customer.

T-Account illustration

On more than a few occasions in the past, I have resorted to drawing T-accounts to illustrate how this process works for doubting finance directors. So many times, in fact, that a few years ago I took the time to create a document that outlines each step in the process using T-accounts.

If you would like to view this document, please click here.

With any good billing system, each of the steps in this process should be automated. If you are manually applying deposits or writing refund checks, or otherwise find yourself working around your billing software in some way, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how a business review could benefit your utility.

© 2012 Gary Sanders