One Small Change, Several Big Benefits

Customers: 27,000
Location: Cedartown, Georgia
Tyler Solutions: Incode® Utility Billing, Incode UB Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Accounts Payable, Human Resources, and Payroll

Utility service providers around the country strive to offer efficient resources so customers can easily keep up with their bills and staff members have time to focus on more than just customer service. Polk County Water Authority in Cedartown, Georgia, is no different.

The water authority knows that life happens. Customers will always need help and staff will always be available to them, but automating processes wherever possible will save time and headaches across the board. That’s why they turned to Tyler. While Polk County Water Authority already used several Tyler products, they decided to reach out and see what automation tools were available to increase their efficiency.

One Small Change, Several Big Benefits

One process becoming increasingly automated is bill payment. Polk County Water Authority has only 14 full-time staff members to handle its approximately 27,000 customers. Only five of those 14 are customer service representatives (CSRs) who take calls. In the past, those CSRs took anywhere from 35-70 phone payments per day, each lasting 5-10 minutes. Office Manager Jill Price said the steady flow of phone payments often interrupted other tasks the staff was working on, causing them to lose focus and momentum. So, the water authority started looking for ways to automate their payment processes to decrease the number of interruptions.

Anybody that’s looking at this will see more efficiency.

Jill Price

Office Manager, Polk County Water Authority, Cedartown, Georgia

Simpler Process

The solution they decided on was Incode® Utility Billing Interactive Voice Response (IVR), which they went live with earlier this year. Their payment processes now take up less of the staff’s time and leave less room for error:

  • The customer calls in.
  • The customer listens to prompts and presses a button to go directly to IVR.
  • The customer enters their account number and house number.
  • IVR tells the customer their balance and prompts for credit card payment.
  • The payment goes to a cash collections packet.
  • Based on their configuration, the water authority closes the packet and the payment reflects on the customer’s utility account.

Price said she and her staff close the packets regularly throughout the day.

“That’s for the benefit of the customer and for us,” Price said. “That way…if there’s a water disconnection list that may have that customer on it, we can go ahead and get that payment posted and take them off of that list.”

Fewer Cutoffs

The utility cutoff list is where Price said they’ve seen the impact of IVR the most.

“The list used to include up to 30 customers, but it is now down to maybe 10-15, and that’s a high number,” Price said. “Sometimes we’re coming in as low as three or four.”

The shortened cutoff list is a relief to customers whose utilities are staying connected, office staff who have more time for the work in front of them, and field operators who have fewer meters to disconnect. Everybody wins.

I think they will see that when phone traffic cuts down...your job seems to go smoother because you can actually focus on what you’re doing.

Jill Price

Office Manager, Polk County Water Authority, Cedartown, Georgia

Less Foot Traffic

In addition to fewer phone calls, Price said foot traffic is also down because fewer people feel they need to come in to the office to make payments.

“If I were to put a percentage on [the decrease in foot traffic] without doing any type of study…I would say probably 15 percent,” she said.

Again, this frees the staff up to work on other tasks without distractions.

How to Make the Transition Successful

Although the transition to IVR has proven positive for everyone, changing the way citizens pay their bills shakes things up for both customers and staff. Keeping everyone in the loop about the change is key. Price said they advertised their move to IVR on Facebook and Twitter, customers’ bills, and an electronic sign in the office. They also mentioned it to any customers they spoke to and included it on the information sheets they give to new customers.

Despite the advertising, change is hard and does not come without hiccups. However, Price knows the hiccups are only temporary.

“By the end of the year, I think it’s going to be second nature,” she said.

Price believes most of the pain points that accompanied the transition had to do with outdated data in their system (since customers enter address information in IVR) and user error. But as far as Price is concerned, the trouble was minor and to be expected.

“I’ve never made any changes as far as any technology that ran smooth as silk,” Price said. “But [the issues] were small and they were containable and they were corrected quickly.”

Take the Leap

Price encourages anyone looking to implement IVR to understand the first couple months will be an adjustment, but the benefits are obvious in the long run.

“I think they will see that when phone traffic cuts down…your job seems to go smoother because you can actually focus on what you’re doing,” she said.

All in all, Price is happy with Polk County Water Authority’s decision to implement IVR.

“Anything that can help streamline the work here and make work simpler, that’s what we’re about.”

Case Study Highlights

  • Automated processes saved time and headaches across the board
  • Utility cutoff list reduced by half
  • Foot traffic into the office decreased by 15 percent

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