It helps to have a professional company that specializes in this area when a company is making such a transition. We worked with Elk River Public Utility District, a natural gas utility serving 16,000 customers in Tennessee, to help it shift from postcard bills to traditional letter-sized bills. Here are some of the advantages Elk River found in working with a transactional partner.
Like a lot of public entities, Elk River needed approval from its board to make such a big change in its billing and like all responsible boards of directors, Elk River’s had a lot of questions about making such a change–the advantages, the costs, the time involved to make the shift. A transactional partner should always be willing to meet with the board, make presentations and answer questions as clearly and thoroughly as possible.
One of the big decisions companies have to make when they make a shift as Elk River did is to decide how their new bills should look. As Elk River’s controller, Rachel McKelvey, points out, bills reflect your company’s personality and professionalism. “Your bill is often your only interaction with a customer. It is how they see you.” A good transactional partner will be happy to go back and forth with proposed layouts and designs. They’ll share what they have learned from working with similar clients and they’ll make a lot of suggestions. Said McKelvey, “John and his team were good about providing examples and they had many ideas about content, design and layout. Although they always did what we asked, a number of times we went with ideas that they offered.”
Shifting to a new billing format or system will often require your transactional partner to work with your other service providers. When Elk River decided to shift from postcards and have Bluegrass Integrated Communications handle the processing, printing and mailing of its bills, it required Bluegrass to work with Elk River’s billing software provider. “Bluegrass worked with our billing software provider to make sure our data file uploaded to their system, populated the fields and did the calculations correctly,” McKelvey said.
The best transactional companies are always exploring new ways to make billing a more efficient and effective process for their clients. Elk River has found that Bluegrass has more services that it will want to add for its customers. Among the first will be an online bill pay system that Elk River hopes to implement, through Bluegrass, this summer. “They will create a website where our customers can log in and see their account history and pay their bills,” said McKelvey.
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