The natural gas supplier, based in Tullahoma, Tenn., made the shift last fall. We’ve helped a number of clients move away from postcards to traditional bills, with great success. It usually takes six to eight weeks to make the change.
Rachel McKelvey, the company’s controller, told me about some of the benefits Elk River has already seen as a result of the new billing format. Here’s what she had to say.
Postcards, especially small ones like those Elk River Public Utility District was using, can accidentally slip inside other mail, especially between the pages of magazines, booklets and brochures. A lot of postcard bills get lost as a result. The number of calls the utility’s billing clerk gets about lost bills has gone down significantly after switching to traditional bills, says McKelvey. In addition to fewer calls, the utility also doesn’t’ have to spend time and money to resend bills.
McKelvey estimates that Elk River’s billing clerk spent a good part of her time preparing postcard bills in-house. “She probably spent five days a month on printing, sorting and mailing,” McKelvey estimates. Bills for the utility’s 16,000 customers were divided into seven groups and sent throughout the month. Now the billing clerk can spend more of her time on issues that matter.
“She can work on things that provide more value to the customer and to us as a business,” said McKelvey.
Because the postcards were done in-house, the billing clerk also had to make sure equipment was maintained and operating efficiently, which got more and more difficult as the machinery became older. The equipment was also noisy.
When it used postcards, Elk River could include very little additional information on its bills. “We had a space constraint,” McKelvey said. “You can’t put much information on a postcard bill.” Now, it can relay safety tips, news about new developments or services, each customer’s natural gas usage history and other valuable information.
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