Elk River Public Utility District, a natural gas company that serves 16,000 customers in two Tennessee counties, discovered that shifting from a postcard to a new bill format that’s letter-size is like moving from a tiny 100-square-foot house into a 5,000-square-foot mansion.
“We went from a 3.5-by-5-inch postcard to an 8.5-by-11-inch page–and we could use both sides,” said controller Rachel McKelvey. ”Our biggest challenge was how to best utilize all the additional space of our new bill format.”
It didn’t take the utility company long to find effective uses for that roomy piece of real estate on its new full-size bills, which are delivered in a standard business-size envelope. The utility looked at types of information other utilities include on their bills as well as at the many samples our staff shared. Our transactional division has helped a lot of companies like Elk River transition from postcards to traditional bills.
Here are a few of the ways Elk River has filled the vacant space on its bills with valuable information aimed at its customers.
- Each month, it reminds customers to “call before you dig.” Its message explains that natural gas service lines run through customers’ property and that a utility company representative will come out and mark where the lines are, so the homeowner can safely plant that tree or plow a space for a garden, for example. The utility has used its bills to share other safety tips.
- Elk River used the space to notify customers of a new office it recently opened in Winchester, Tenn.
- A monthly message reminds customers that they can sign up to pay their bills by bankdraft. Since that information and a simple sign-up form have been added to bills “we’ve had a significant increase in customers who opt for bank draft payment,” McKelvey said.
- Each month, a chart printed on each bill shows the previous year’s gas use. Customers used to call a lot when their bills jumped up in the winter, as cold sets in and gas use increases. “I feel like this has made people more aware of their gas usage and how it fluctuates,” said McKelvey.
There were a number of reasons to move from postcards to larger bills, but one of the primary drivers, in terms of customers, was to “communicate and provide more educational information for our customers.”
With the help of our staff, McKelvey and her team have accomplished just that.
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