Piggott MLWS Rolls Out New Bill Format
Customers of the City of Piggott utility department saw a change in their monthly bill recently, as a new format was pressed into service. Beginning with the December, 2017, billing cycle the new MLWS bills were sent out. According to city officials, the change was primarily brought about out of concerns for personel privacy.
Prior to the change, the old bill consisted of a small and simple card with writing and information on both sides. This type of format allowed anyone to easily flip the bill over and see the amount billed for the month, if payments were behind or late—and essentially a great deal of other private information only the bill receiver should have access to.
“There were a few factors in making the decision to change,” noted Utilities Director Brian Haley. “But, it was mainly about customer confidentiality.”
The new bills are printed on a full sheet of paper, and enclosed. This did away with the opportunity for someone to easily access another person's personal information concerning his or her bill.
Additionally, it was easier for the previous bill to get lost.
“The old bill was thinner than the new style of bill, and so it could easily slip by unnoticed,” finance officer Sandy Low added. “With this change, every bill that leaves the post office can be tracked, which will cut down on the amount of bills that get lost.”
In addition to better privacy, the bill will now provide its receiver with more information than the previous style did. Included on the bill is a list of codes which serves to break down the costs for residential, small power, large power, security light, inside city water, outside city water, sewer and trash. Breaking down the bill in this manner will allow the customer to see how each service was used the past month as well as the individual cost of each service.
In addition to this, the bill will progressively show the usage of water and the usage of electric for the past year by way of a bar graph. This will allow customers of the utility department to examine what months they have used the most electric and water and, as a result, will help them to manage their usage accordingly.
Another feature of the new style is that budget (level billing) customers will now be able to see their budget status on their monthly bill. The new format also allows the city to include a marketing message that will show up at the bottom of the bill. The letter-style bill also provides a return envelope, providing utility customers a process in which they can easily pay the bill and send it back.
Under the previous system, the bills would be printed on postcard stock three-wide, and then seperated by billing clerk Lisa Howell for mailing. This would result in countless stacks of paper, and was very inefficient.
The new style of billing system has proved to be much more efficient, and since the process is outsourced the bills are mailed out about twice as fast as the previous ones.
Staff members also noted the change has been a smooth one, so far, “once we came to the decision to do it the three of us agreed,” Haley added. “To insure a smooth change all of us worked together, and the process flowed really well.”
All three of the MLWS staff members agreed it was a team effort, with each person playing a distinct role. Haley noted Low designed the logo, and took care of many of the particulars with input from other team members.
“We'd also like to encourage all of the MLWS customers to use the bank draft option,” Low added. “This option is free and the payment is automatically withdrawn from a checking account on the 10th of the month. So far, we have over 500 customers using the bank draft option.”
Low also noted the bank draft option allows easy payment for bills for those on vacation, or otherwise out of town, and during such times as bad weather.
“It's an easy way to pay without having to come into the office,” Low concluded.
In keeping with changes in the technology of the industry, paperless billing is another option for those who would like their bills emailed to them. Under this system, customers receive their bill much faster than those using the paper billing system—and can pay their bill sooner if they wish to do so.
The Piggott MLWS is also working toward online hosting. Once it is put in place, this program will allow customers to see and pay their bill online. It will also feature debit and credit card payment options for those who chose to use that form of payment. These services are expected to be in place by mid-2018. Along with this service, the department is also continuining to work toward setting up debit and credit card payment options for those visiting the office, allowing customers another way to pay their bill.
The MLWS office is open daily in city hall, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for those wanting additional information or wanting to report a problem—such as a burned out street light.
Those wanting additional information on the department, the billing program or wanting to reach a specific employee may visit them online at www.cityofpiggott.org and click on the “Municipal” tab in the middle of the page. They may also email the address above.