Is it time for more training?

According to the statistics for this blog, one of the top five all time posts is this one dealing with training new hires.

Funnel effect

One of the reasons this post is in the top five may be people typing “funnel effect” into a search engine and finding this image. A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and this one definitely is!

I believe it is important for new hires to get off to a great start. Getting good training is a key to insuring that good start. Who better to train your new hires in the use of your billing software than your vendor’s trainers?

Not just new hires

In nearly 35 years of working in this field, I’ve found that software users generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Those who venture only where they’ve been taught to go
  • Those who will try everything and go everywhere

Even as adventuresome users who fall into the second category, many of us are creatures of habit. We become comfortable with a certain way of doing things and fall into predictable patterns. Remember the TTWWADI syndrome post from six weeks ago?

I’m often surprised when I visit customers and realize some of the things they aren’t doing that they could be with our software. More surprising, are some of the things they do as workarounds that they could be doing with the software.

Is it time for a business review?

If you’re satisfied with your billing software and it’s been a couple years since you’ve received training or had someone from your software vendor review your operation, maybe it’s time for a business review.

If you’re not satisfied with your current software, then it’s definitely time for a business review. Taking the time to conduct a business review before starting the search for new software can help facilitate the replacement process.

Is your office operating as efficiently as it could be?

Are you taking advantage of all the features of your software? Could your business office operate more efficiently? If you’re not sure, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at to learn how a business review could benefit your utility.

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© 2014 Gary Sanders

Does your office suffer from TTWWADI syndrome?

If you’ve ever asked a question and gotten the dreaded answer of “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” then your organization could be suffering from what I call TTWWADI syndrome.

Thats The Way We've Always Done It

Is TTWWADI syndrome holding you back?

Back in the day, the 3 R’s referred to reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In an office afflicted with TTWWADI syndrome, the 3 R’s refer to resistance, reluctance, and refusal.

I’m surprised at how often I run into utilities that are resistant to change. Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

Is the same old way always the best way?

The TTWWADI syndrome isn’t found only in the failure to take advantage of new technologies. Often, antiquated ways of doing things become institutionalized in organizations to the point they are never questioned.

Sometimes, doing things the same way for years makes sense. But other times, when we stop to think about it, many practices – especially informal processes that have developed over time – no longer serve a useful purpose.

In forward thinking organizations, questioning why things are done a certain way isn’t chastised, it’s welcomed!                        

In forward thinking organizations, questioning why things are done a certain way isn’t chastised, it’s welcomed! If you do something a particular way with no real reason for continuing to do it that way, it behooves you to question why you’re still doing it.

Many times, those closest to a process are oblivious to how redundant or useless it has become. A knowledgeable, objective outsider observing and asking why things are done a particular way can lead to constructive discussions and improvements in how things are done.

Is it time to consider a business review?

Do you ever wonder if your office could be run more efficiently? Or would you just like confirmation that you’re doing things the right way?

In either case, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at to learn how a business review could benefit your organization.

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© 2014 Gary Sanders

Why is customer service important?

In the last issue, I wrote about a utility’s innovative customer service policy of extending $25 courtesy credits to customers who received poor service.

That issue closed with the question “we’re a monopoly – why does customer service matter?” So, let’s examine some of those reasons.

It’s the right thing to do

Even if they can’t take their business elsewhere, your customers deserve to be treated with respect and receive good customer service. Granted, some customers have attitudes that make it difficult to want to help them, but good customer service representatives find a way to remain poised and explain the situation calmly.

It reflects positively on your organization

Excellent customer service reflects positively on your entire organization, from front line employees all the way to upper management. Providing poor customer service is truly a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch.

It’s been my experience that employees who have a cavalier attitude about customer service generally approach the rest of their work in the same fashion. Do you really want a cashier who doesn’t care if they make change correctly or a billing clerk who isn’t concerned with a customer’s bill being correct?

You want your customers to speak well about your utility

Sooner or later, you will request an rate increase. For most utilities, this requires a public hearing, either before your board, or if you are a regulated utility, before your state’s utility commission.

The last thing you want is to have is your customers showing up to protest a rate increase by complaining about how they were treated by your staff.

How good is your customer service?

If you are interested in an objective, unbiased look at your utility’s customer service, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at to learn how a business review could assist you with the process.

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© 2013 Gary Sanders

Is it time you took a closer look…?

In previous issues of the Utility Information Pipeline, I’ve made mention of conducting a business review. Let’s take a look at what an outside business review entails and some reasons why you might consider conducting one.

Why should you consider an outside business review?

Does conducting an outside business review mean that your business office isn’t well run? Not at all!

A business review is not unlike a financial audit – just because you conduct an annual audit doesn’t mean there’s any monkey business going on with your books, it just insures that things are being done right.  In the same manner, conducting a business review is a way for management and your board to insure that your business office is functioning efficiently.

In general, utilities fall into one of two categories – those that are satisfied with their billing software and those that aren’t (or aren’t sure if they should be).

If you are satisfied with your billing software

If you are satisfied with your billing software, contact your software vendor to see if they have a consultant who is qualified to conduct a business review. Are there benefits if person conducting the review is affiliated with your software provider? I would argue “yes” – there are many things about your software that an outside consultant wouldn’t have intimate knowledge of. Some items to consider are:

  • Are you running the latest version of your software?
  • Are you taking advantage of all the features the software offers?
  • How long has it been since your staff has been trained by your vendor?

Software vendors publish updates and fix bugs in their software periodically, but not all businesses (not just utilities!) choose to install the latest update. Is it possible that something you have devised as a manual workaround to solve a problem has been fixed in a newer release of your billing software?

New software releases are often accompanied by release notes describing the bugs that were fixed and the new features were added in that release. Even if you have installed all the new updates as they became available, it’s very possible you overlooked a new feature described in the release notes that could save your office staff time and effort.

How long has it been since your staff has received training from your vendor? Utility Information Pipeline #14 addressed training new hires (you can read it here if you missed it) and what I call the “funnel effect”. If you have hired new staff since you installed your system, investing in some training is well worth it. Even if your current staff was all trained by your software vendor when the system was installed, refresher training is always helpful. Initial training tends to be focused on day-in, day-out processes and doesn’t always address other, more advanced features of the software.

If you’re unsure or not satisfied with your billing software

If you’re unsure if your billing software is doing all that it should for you, an outside business review provides an opportunity to learn how well it is meeting your needs.

If you aren’t satisfied that your current billing software can accomplish all that you want to do or that it doesn’t provide some of the latest features, conducting a business review can help make the business case to replace your software.

As a manager or office manager that has to convince a reluctant board that spending the money for new software is really worth the investment, an independent business review can be a great tool in helping make your case.

If you are a board member and you want to insure that your office is being run as efficiently as possible, what better way than to commission an independent, outside business review?

What should an outside business review include?

A quality business review should be performed by a qualified consultant with knowledge of utility billing best practices and current trends in the industry. The consultant should thoroughly review the utility’s current business processes, office practices and utility policies and procedures. The outcome of the business review should include recommendations as to how the utility can improve customer service and achieve better efficiencies.

Why not conduct a business review internally?

Human beings, by our very nature, are creatures of habit. When we become accustomed to doing things a certain way, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that other options exist. Conducting a review internally is often done from the perspective of how things have always been done, without benefit of seeing the bigger picture or realizing that other options exist. An outside consultant has experience with many other utilities and brings that perspective and knowledge to the table when conducting a business review.

Conducting an outside business review provides the utility with an unbiased, objective opinion from an independent source. Conducting an internal review is often done, unfortunately, from the perspective of preserving the status quo rather than recommending changes when change is merited.

There are no political implications of unpopular recommendations from an outside consultant. Perhaps, as a manager, you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get your board to change a policy or fee you know needs to be changed. Bringing the issue up again could land you in political hot water, but having an outside consultant make the same recommendation won’t get you fired. It may, however, get the consultant fired, but that’s the nature of what we do!

If you have any questions about conducting a business review or would like to learn more about what a business review entails, please give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at

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© 2012 Gary Sanders