By Cary M. Serif,
Oct. 13, 2003 — Companies must control costs in order to remain competitive. Both Alagasco, the largest natural gas utility in Alabama, and Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, seized the opportunity to reduce expenses and enhance customer service options by implementing an electronic presentment and payment (EPP) service.
In both cases, Metavante, a Milwaukee-based financial technology service provider, offered the security, technical expertise, and total cost of ownership advantages they were seeking from an e-billing application service provider (ASP).
Alagasco realized an electronic presentment and payment service could provide customer benefits and competitive advantages. Consequently, the utility decided to add an electronic billing solution to its Web site (www.alagasco.com).
An internally developed e-billing solution, estimated at $500,000 to $600,000, was cost prohibitive. The company began its three-month search for a financially stable, experienced EPP partner. Alagasco wanted to align itself with a long-term partner that provided a complete e-billing solution and quick implementation, while meeting the established business requirements in an outsourced environment.
Specific business requirements included:
Credit card payments;
Same-day payment settlement;
Same-day posting of bills;
Quality controls over posted information;
Simple enrollment process with built-in authentication controls to ensure security for end-users;
Instant presentment of bills, letting customers immediately see their e-bill once enrolled in the service.
“After looking at several e-billing providers, we narrowed the field to two,” said Joey Belue, Alagasco Director of Revenue Accounting. “We wanted an EPP partner that would meet our selection criteria and business requirements. We also wanted a company with strong emphasis on financial stability and e-billing experience. Metavante was the only vendor that could deliver on all our requirements.”
Alagasco tiered its e-billing service launch, introducing “Ebill” first to its residential customers in September 2000 and then to its commercial/industrial customers in February 2001.
By launching an e-billing service, Alagasco has realized a net savings of over $0.48 for every bill issued and paid online. The company reached its break-even point in less than one year.
In terms of adoption, Alagasco established a goal of 1 percent adoption by the close of the first year of service availability. It exceeded its target and achieved a 1.5 percent adoption rate.
Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, is dedicated to conducting business with customers in the manner they want, whether it’s in person, over the telephone or via e-mail and over the Web.
Accordingly, with the enhanced customer service options an electronic presentment and payment service would offer to its customers, Santee Cooper set the objective of implementing an electronic billing solution on its Web site (www.santeecooper.com).
In its search for an ASP e-billing partner, Santee Cooper wanted to align itself with an outsourcing provider that generated instant presentment of electronic bills, operated a state-of-the-art data center, and complemented the Santee Cooper corporate culture.
“After we received all responses to our request for proposal, we whittled the field down to three vendors,” explained Sabrina Seay, Santee Cooper ‘s Office Manager, Retail and Marketing. “Based upon our business needs for a highly secure outsourced application environment that was affordable, the choice was clear. We selected Metavante.”
Santee Cooper introduced e-billing to its customers in October 2001. The utility will realize a net savings of $0.25 for every bill issued and paid online, once it reaches its five-year goal.
In terms of adoption, Santee Cooper established and met its one percent adoption goal within its first year of service availability.
Benefits of EPP
For these two utilities, implementing an electronic presentment and payment solution, in partnership with Metavante, significantly reduced expenses and improved customer service. Both Santee Cooper and Alagasco expressed their commitment to continue enhancing online offerings as part of their strategy for future business growth.
Alagasco continues to see its adoption rates grow. The company was ranked number one by J.D. Powers & Associates 2002 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Survey. This ranking is evidence that customer satisfaction remains high. At the end of July 2003, Alagasco had a 4.1 percent adoption rate.
“Ebill has been available on our Web site for two years and the company and our customers continue to see the benefits,” Belue said. “We will continue to improve our online services and make it easy and convenient for our customers to do business with us.”
Adoption of Santee Cooper’s e-billing service has achieved a 1.6 percent adoption rate at the end of July 2003. The utility is tracking to meet its goal of doubling its e-billing adoption within its second year of service.
“Our goal is to improve and expand the services we offer online, delivering the utmost in convenience to our customers,” said Seay. “We’ll continue to give our customers options that let them do business with us the way they want to.”
About the Author:
Serif is an E-Finance Group executive with Metavante.
Serving over 3,000 clients, Metavante Electronic Presentment and Payment (EPP) offers a comprehensive, fully scalable, end-to-end solution that allows companies to electronically prepare bills and statements, and enables their customers to receive them and make payments on the Internet. For more information, visit www.metavante.com.