The last Utility Information Pipeline included a poll asking how utilities handle allowing customers to apply for service online. Here are the results of that poll (clicking on the chart will open a larger image in a new window):
Completing the process in the office
Based on the poll results, most utilities still require the application process to be completed in their office. This is in spite of the fact that a majority of those utilities have an application form which can be downloaded or completed online.
The only poll choice with no votes was “Applicants can complete the application process online, but must come to our office to show ID.”
Three of the responding utilities allow the entire application process to be completed online without requiring the customer to show ID.
Red Flags Rule policy compliance
As we explored in a previous Utility Information Pipeline, guarding against fraud in the application process is one of the key components of a Red Flags Rule policy. In order to verify the customer’s identity, most utilities require applicants to show photo ID and proof of residency (lease agreement or closing documents) for the address at which they are applying for service.
Which leads to the question – if the applicant isn’t required to show photo ID, how do these utilities confirm their identity?
If your utility is one of the three who responded, or if you allow online applications without requiring ID, I would be interested in learning how you comply with your Red Flags Rule policy. Feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail.
Could your office operate more efficiently?
Is your application for service process cumbersome and outdated? Are there other ways your office could become more efficient? If the answer to either question is “yes”, 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 you learn how your office could operate more efficiently.
Verifying that your customer really is who he or she claims to be is the best way to prevent fraudulent applications. Most utilities do this by requiring the applicant to show photo ID and proof of residency (lease agreement or closing documents) for the address at which they are applying for service.
Why is this important?
If you base the amount of a security deposit on the applicant’s credit score, using a stolen ID could allow a potential bad debt customer to establish service with no deposit.
Additionally, if the applicant is a previous bad debt customer, using a stolen identity allows them to avoid detection of the bad debt when you perform a bad debt search.
Many businesses allow a utility bill in the customer’s name as proof of ID. If someone is able to fraudulently establish an account, they could easily use their bill from your utility to defraud other businesses.
How does applying online change this?
If you allow customers to apply online (as opposed to merely downloading an application form), how do you confirm they are who they claim to be? Sure, they can take a picture of their driver’s license with their smartphone and upload it to your website. But without visually verifying their identity against the driver’s license, how do you know it’s not stolen?
Some utilities will allow customers to apply online, but require them to visit the office in person within the first week of establishing service. By doing so, the utility has the opportunity to scan the customer’s driver’s license and attach it to their customer record.
How do you handle online applications?
How does your utility deal with online applications? 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 results in the next issue.
Does your application process need reevaluating?
Does your application for service process still involve handing a new applicant a clipboard to complete a paper application? If so, or if there are other ways you need to become more efficient, 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 you evaluate how your office can be more efficient.
I am the Senior Consultant with Edmunds GovTech | Logics in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have over 35 years experience developing and implementing utility billing and financial software and consulting with utilities and municipalities. My bi-weekly email newsletter draws from my experience in working with over 200 utilities and local governments to offer insight into how utilities can improve operations and better serve their customers. If you have a comment or a suggestion for a future email, please contact me by calling 919-673-4050 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org