Columbus Light and Water utility board members are pictured during their monthly meeting Thursday. They voted in favor of a proposal from comptroller Mike Bernsen for a lockbox service agreement for bills that are mailed and dropped off at the office’s night deposit box. The change, which will cost about $1,400 a month for the utility provider, will eliminate some manual work for employees and improve customer service, Bernsen said. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
February 21, 2014 11:25:31 AM
Columbus Light and Water board members approved a lockbox service agreement with Trustmark Bank to process mailed and night deposit electric bill payments.
CL&W Comptroller Mike Bernsen asked the board to approve the move in an effort to improve efficiency within the local office and provide employees with more time to provide better customer service. The agreement will cost the local utility provider about $1,400 a month. Bernsen said payments would no longer be mailed to CL&W but to a Trustmark location in Jackson.
Bernsen estimated that payments mailed to the office and left in the local utility's night deposit box accounted for 34 percent of bills processed each month. Currently, CL&W employees are responsible for manually opening all the envelopes and processing the checks.
"The issue is not that we're losing money and can't count the money. The issue is the time involved to process it," Bernsen said. "On days when we know the payments are going to be heavy ... they're having to split that (work) between four and five people that are handling that one process. That's not efficient. That's old school stuff that we need to get away from."
Other area municipalities and utility providers, including Starkville Electric Department, use a similar service to free more time for employees to tend to customer concerns, Bernsen said.
"What's suffering right now is our customer service. Right now we can't answer all the calls. We're getting complaints every day that we're not answering the phone. It's because our ... operator is having to deal with other issues," he said. "If we can get that lockbox working, that's going to save quite a bit of time here in this office. The more you can get the hands off this kind of flow and process, the more efficient you're going to be and the more accurate you're going to be. We'd be coming up to speed with what a lot of utilities are already doing."
The board also approved an $85,697 bid contract with Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Service Electric for renovation of a trip switch at CL&W's East Columbus primary substation.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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