LCEC: Lowering electric rates by driving bill pay efficiencies

The customers of today demand more from their utilities companies than ever before – competitive services and pricing, transparency, and the flexibility to make transactions through multiple channels. As companies aim to increase customer satisfaction, many are evaluating their billing processes for opportunities to engage customers through new platforms, while cutting costs and promoting efficiencies.

Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC), which serves customers in southwest Florida, is one such company. The cooperative has been operating since 1940, and until 2009, cash and check were the only means of utility bill pay.

In an effort to better cater to customers’ payment preferences and respond to increased demand for flexibility and convenience, LCEC engaged ACI Worldwide to add payment options such as web, mobile, interactive voice response (IVR) and authorized payment stations.

Now, LCEC customers have more than 20 different ways they can pay for services. And customers have certainly embraced these new options. In 2009, 60 percent of payments were paid via mailed check. Over the past five years, this number has dropped dramatically – to just 20 percent today.

After its implementation, electronic bill pay became increasingly popular with LCEC’s customer base, prompting the company to reevaluate and reallocate business needs and more effectively manage costs. This resulted in $3 million in annual cost savings, which LCEC has kicked back to customers through lower electric rates.

“We are taking the three million dollars in annual cost savings driven by electronic bill pay and putting it back into our business,” said Joe Padgett, Director of Customer Care Operations at LCEC. “We actually have been able to offer our customers an electric rate decrease this year, making us one of the few electric utilities able to do so.”

Currently, 66 percent of payments are processed electronically and this number continues its rapid ascent. Looking to the future, LCEC has begun offering mobile bill payments and recognizes that customers change their payment channels from month to month and expect to have their preferences remembered across channels.

LCEC’s foresight has not only led to a customer satisfaction increase of 10 percent, but their investment in payment technology has also streamlined operations in the customer care center and for payment reconciliation. Today, many payments are posted in real-time and LCEC is working diligently to increase this number.

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