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When We Don’t Pay Our Bills, Then What?

Part I

When I ask this question as a municipal consumer, the answer seems simple. If I don’t pay my bill,

  1. They should send me a warning of pending bill payment.
  2. Message in the bill stating my previous bill is pending.
  3. Then initiation of service restriction. Ex: water/electricity service disconnection.
  4. If I still don’t pay maybe legal action.
  5. Immediate reconnection after payment.
  When we don’t pay our bills, then what?

But this is what I have experienced as a consumer:

  • No warnings.
  • Sudden disconnection of service.
  • Frustrating and slow procedure to reconnection.
  • 3 days for my connection to come back even after full payment.

Looking at my experience and after typically blaming the government bureaucracy, the question to ask was why their Debt management processes are so inconsistent. Typically the answer is not lack of policy but lack of proper internal control & monitoring systems. I can go one step further and say lack of implementation of proper current generation IT solutions to meet municipal policy requirements.

While I was still pondering on these questions I had an opportunity to work on the exact answer for these questions- the Debt management module of the Ramco’s e-governance solution. Based on the best practices followed by municipalities, Ramco has developed a smart solution to optimize and automate all Debt collection processes. Let’s start by answering some basic questions:

Q. They should send me a warning of pending bill payment.

A. A centralized courtesy call system which puts all pending-payment customers in the call list. Also, automatically generating warning letters and sending it to customers based on the outstanding bill amount.

Q. Message in the bill stating my previous bill is pending.

A. Tailored message display system where customized messages can be displayed on the bill depending on customer’s payment behavior.

Q. Then disconnection of my connection (water /electricity) and immediate reconnection after payment is made.

A. Process to automatically generate disconnection request and allocation of the work to concerned personnel to execute it. Automatic generation and allocation of reconnection request on the same day of payment receipt.

Q. If I still don’t pay maybe legal action.

A. Complete tracking of legal case against the customer as well as attorney tracking. Also, integration with external collection agencies is provided.

As a consumer I want a transparent and hassle free interaction with my municipality. I also want a consistent reply on my queries related to my bills and procedures related to non-payment. This is exactly what Ramco’s solution can provide. These are the reasons why I say so:

  • Single screen display of all the information related to a customer. In a single window, users will have access to all the information related to a customer. Information related to,

a) Number of connection held by the customer. Current or past services rendered.

b) Bill information. Past and present bills. Current balance. Balance breakup.

c) On-going non-payment actions or historic data on same.

d) Outgoing correspondence for the customer.

e) Profile of customer

f) Deposit details, etc`.

This will allow providing consistent replies for any query.

  • Automatic process to initiate non-payment related actions on a defaulting customer or to close every action in case full payment is received. This results into efficient disconnects within set time frames and immediate reconnection on payment identification.
  • A customer profiling system based on customers historic payment behavior. A grading system for customers to differentiate a good customer from bad. This leads to insightful and intelligent decisions.
  • One stop shop for customers. A customer doesn’t have to run to different departments to re- initiate their services.

Simple and thoughtful solutions like these should be part of every utility service provider’s agenda. Not just because it will increase customer satisfaction but also better revenue collection rate