I’ve begun reviewing the responses to the Utility Staffing Survey. If you haven’t completed the survey yet, there’s still time to do so by clicking here.
In addition to asking how many staff in various capacities are employed by each office, the survey asked questions about labor intensive practices such as payment processing and bill printing.
One of the those questions asked what percentage of payments were received by each of the following methods:
- Bank drafts
One of the most interesting observations from the survey was the wide range of responses in the number of walk-in payments received. On the low end, several utilities reported receiving less than 5% of payments from walk-in customers while on the opposite end of the spectrum one utility reported receiving 90% of their payments as walk-in payments!
The graph below illustrates the responses of the percentage of walk-in payments for those utilities who track this (clicking on the graph will open a larger image in a new window).
Other than the wide range in the number of walk-in payments, one of the big surprises of the survey was that a few utilities don’t track payments by source. They track how many payments are made in cash, by check and credit cards, etc., but they don’t know how many checks were received in the office compared to in the mail.
Tracking payments by source
If your goal is to reduce the amount of walk-in traffic (in 35 years in this business, I’ve never heard a utility wish more customers would pay in the office!), doesn’t it make sense to measure this statistic in order to track trends?
If your software is configurable to allow tracking payments in more detail than just cash, checks and credit cards, I encourage you to make use of this feature. If you’ve started initiatives such as online bill pay or IVR phone payments in an attempt to reduce in-office payments, the only way to know if these initiatives are working is to track the volume of walk-in payments.
Do you need help reducing the number of walk-in customers?
If your utility needs assistance evaluating ways of reducing walk-in traffic, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how a business review could help your utility.
© 2016 Gary Sanders
Do you think your office is understaffed?
Have you had to justify the number of positions in your office to upper management?
Or maybe you’ve wondered how your office staffing compares to similar sized utilities?
Here’s your chance to find out…
I’ve developed a Utility Staffing Survey. In addition to asking how many positions your office has, the survey includes questions about labor intensive practices such as payment processing and bill printing.
Complete the Utility Staffing Survey
Please click here to complete the Utility Staffing Survey. This should take less than five minutes to complete. I will publish the results in a future Utility Information Pipeline.
Please feel free to share this survey with your peers at other utilities.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete the survey and sending it to other utilities.
© 2016 Gary Sanders
Just yesterday, another post surfaced on one of the listservs I subscribe to about charging a convenience fee for credit card use.
There are two prevailing schools of thought on credit card use and the resulting fees:
- The cost of accepting credit cards is a cost of doing business and the utility absorbs the fees
- The cost of accepting credit cards is a burden that should be borne only by customers who choose to pay by credit card and those customers should pay the fees
Before making a determination if your utility should charge a convenience fee, you must first evaluate why you accept credit cards.
Cost to be absorbed by the customer
Utilities that charge a convenience fee view the fee as a way of recouping the cost of the credit card transaction without spreading this cost across the entire customer base. A common refrain from utilities like this is “it’s not fair for all customers to pay for those customers who want to pay by credit card”.
If your utility chooses to accept credit cards only because a few, vocal customers have requested it and not because you see the value to your organization in doing so, then charging a convenience fee makes sense.
However, this logic fails to take into account the costs associated with other payment methods. Accepting a payment by cash in the office costs considerably more (wages for the clerk to taking the payment and making change, balancing the cash drawer, preparing a daily deposit and taking the deposit to the bank) than processing a bank draft. Would it be fair to charge customers paying in cash extra? I think not.
Cost of doing business
Utilities choosing to accept credit cards and absorb the fee generally feel they are providing a service for the customer and reducing their own workload at the same time.
One response to the listserv post I mentioned above noted a decrease in the number of customers on the cut-off list as a result of accepting credit cards.
Many utilities view accepting credit cards as a way to grow without adding staff and reducing walk-in traffic (especially if they offer online bill pay or IVR phone payments).
What other utilities do
If you’re interested in seeing how other utilities handle credit cards and convenience fees, the 2015 Utility Fee Survey results recaps how many utilities accept credit cards and how many of those charge a convenience fee.
Free rates dashboard webinar today
I’ve previously written about the Utility Rates Dashboards from the Environmental Finance Center at UNC. The EFC has just released the 2016 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard and will be sponsoring a free webinar today at 3:00 pm EDT introducing the dashboard. If you’re interested, click here to register for the webinar.
Do you need help evaluating credit cards and convenience fees?
If your utility needs assistance evaluating credit cards and convenience fees, or any other way of reducing walk-in traffic, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at email@example.com to learn how a business review could help your utility.
Staffing survey deadline
The deadline for the Utility Staffing Survey is Friday, April 15. This survey is designed to determine what is adequate staffing for a utility office. If you haven’t already participated in the survey, please click here to complete the Utility Staffing Survey. This should take less than five minutes to complete. I will publish the results in a future Utility Information Pipeline.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete the survey. Please feel free to share the survey with your peers at other utilities.
© 2016 Gary Sanders