New billing system alleviates bottlenecks for a South Carolina utility

Aug. 28, 2023
Mount Pleasant Waterworks customer services manager Nicole Bates explains how to leverage the customer payment journey to increase self-service and reallocate resources.

People are at the center of every utility organization. Our mission and purpose revolve around the customers that rely on our essential services, and the staff that keeps utilities running is undoubtedly any organization's most valuable asset. That's why it is in any utility’s best interest to identify aspects of their business that are hindering its people from performing at their highest capacity – including how employees serve their customers.

In my 20 years of experience at Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW), a water and wastewater utility serving a community of 95,000, manual billing and payments has presented the greatest risk to our productivity. Historically, our Customer Services team was burdened with an antiquated online bill presentment and payment system that caused extensive issues: resulting in labor-intensive backend processes that drained resources; complicated collections processes that increased our volume of past-due bills; and customer frustration with a difficult payment experience.

Ultimately, the outdated system only increased internal workloads and distracted MPW team members from supporting customers who truly needed assistance.

A modern utility billing system

After identifying billing and payments as the major inefficiencies in our daily processes, Customer Services got to work searching for a more modern solution that could both provide a better payment experience for our customers and the staff’s ability to process and manage those payments. The goal was to find a technological solution that would eliminate friction in the payment process and actively engage our customers to enroll in self-service options, thereby, conserving the organizational budget and re-directing labor hours to work on more impactful projects.

Once MPW implemented a solution that addressed the needs of our customers and was designed to meet our goals, the results were immediately noticeable. Our optimization of the billing and payment touchpoints immediately began reducing time-consuming tasks, such as account reconciliation and return notifications. Fast forward to today – our team saved 15 hours a week in payment-related workloads alone.

Self-service billing for water and sewer customers

Driving self-service throughout the billing and payment journey is where MPW yielded its most significant dividends. Increased enrollment in cost-saving behaviors, like paperless billing, which MPW increased by 46% since optimizing these touchpoints – has decreased the tedious bill printing and mailing process, saving our organization thousands on paper products and postal expenses.

Electronic payment and monitoring for water and wastewater bills

A 72% increase in electronic payment adoption, as well as a 44% increase in AutoPay enrollment has also freed staff time to focus on higher-priority projects, most notably our Customer Care program and advanced metering infrastructure implementation with usage notifications.  Customer Care is designed to provide temporary financial relief for income-qualified residential customers struggling to pay their monthly bills.  While our AMI implementation and customer portal now notify customers of usage issues detected by our system, saving our customers money and protecting our resources.

Utility billing software that can scale with community growth

Looking to the future, our Customer Services team is confident in our ability to keep pace with Mount Pleasant’s growing population, without increasing overhead costs. Since our optimization of the billing and payment process involved implementing a true-SaaS software as a solution, our organization can now easily scale to meet future changes in both the community and customer preferences.

Today’s utility landscape is a challenging one. With fewer resources and higher-than-ever customer expectations, it can seem impossible to streamline processes in a realistic yet impactful way. My experience throughout MPW’s optimization journey has only affirmed, in my mind, that the key to conserving time and strategically reallocating resources comes down to improvements within the utility billing and payment experience.

Since barriers to self-service were eliminated, our Customer Services team has been empowered to serve our customers to the best of its ability, improving everyone’s relationship with the essential services we provide to the Mount Pleasant community.

About the Author

Nicole Bates | Mount Pleasant Waterworks Customer Services Manager

Nicole bates is Mount Pleasant Waterworks customer services manager.

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