Introduction

Stop “Bad Bills” at the Source to Improve Customer Experience

Stop “Bad Bills” at the Source to Improve Customer Experience

Does your utility want to boost customer satisfaction and reduce costly customer service calls? Then perhaps it’s time to take a deep dive into your billing exceptions – how often they happen, why they happen, and how to drive down billing error rates.

Billing Exceptions Matter More Now Than Ever

Customers today are accustomed to the superior, personalized service and on-demand availability provided by leading tech firms like Amazon, Apple and Uber. They have always expected accuracy from your utility, but today they are less tolerant of any idiosyncrasies than ever. Add to this the fact that most customers use at least one form of social media and aren’t shy about sharing their opinions, and you have the perfect recipe for reputational damage if your billing exceptions aren’t minimized.

The Solution – Bill Verification Automation

Sending bad bills causes problems for customers and utilities alike, but getting to the bottom of billing exceptions is an exercise in skilled data analysis, and not every utility has the expertise, tools, and time necessary to really minimize errors. That’s where working with an experienced vendor to automate your bill verification process can really pay off. 

Most utilities have auditing processes in place to catch common exceptions. But extending these capabilities with a web-based management tool can help you catch an increased proportion of bad bills, while reducing hours spent on billing verification. 

Some common flags that accounts should be held for verification include:

  • Current Charges – Bills that are greater than or less than a standard amount for all rate classes.
  • Credits –  Bills that have a credit amount greater than a standard amount for all rate classes.
  • Meter Reading Check to Usage – Bills wherein the current reading minus the previous reading with the multiplier do not equal the usage being billed.
  • Usage Thresholds – Bills that have usage greater than or less than a standard amount per rate class.
  • Individual Customers Usage Threshold – Bills that have current month usage more than double or less than half the usage from the same month last year.
  • Unbalanced Bill Details – Bills that do not add up to the total amount due.
  • Sensitive Statements – Bills that need a final look before mailing.  i.e. corrected bills, city accounts, budget plan settlement month, and final bills.

Of course, the more fine-tuned your criteria are, the fewer potentially incorrect bills your staff have to review, so digging into your bill exception criteria with an expert partner can really pay off.  And once you have a queue of bills for review created, your bill auditing tool can also help your staff view, deliver, or reject the bill with a single click, reducing operational load for your utility.

Here’s a real-world example of how one of our partner utilities implemented Utilitec’s UReview tool to reduce bad bills by 10%.

SMECO Reduces Billing Exceptions, Increasing Operational Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction

When the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) began working with Utilitec, they had a comprehensive wishlist focused on customer experience (CX), which included everything from website copy to billing redesign. But another aspect of CX optimization that paid big dividends for SMECO was the reduction of bad bills.

Prior to working with Utilitec, SMECO had “odd” bills sent back to them through Special Handling. Using Utilitec’s UReview product, we implemented an extensive list of rules to catch bad bills. Those rules included three different types of unbalanced account summaries, logic to review odd billing scenarios, and bill print intercept codes. In parallel testing alone, we uncovered many bad bills that we either created logic for or SMECO took action to correct on their end.

As a result, the number of approved bills increased from 68% to 81%, and the number of rejected bills decreased from 29% to 19%. On average, we caught 13 bad bills per day. That’s 13 opportunities for reputational damage stopped at the source!

The Simplest Way to Boost your CSAT Scores

Billing errors are a leading driver of calls to your customer service representatives, and a source of considerable customer frustration. Catching erroneous bills before they go out the door is the simplest way to boost NPS scores and call center efficiency, and maintain your reputation as a customer-centric and trustworthy utility. Add the fact that the process can be simplified and automated, reducing operational load at your busy utility, and the question becomes, why tolerate a partial solution to bad bills? Are you ready to augment and automate your billing verification process? Start by booking an expert consultation to discuss your bill verification process.