What can you do when rates are affordable, but some customers still aren’t paying their bills? It can be difficult to identify exactly why individual customers are not paying their utility bills. Perhaps they are frustrated with the service, find the bill paying process inconvenient, or have learned that their neighbors aren’t paying but still receive service. Perhaps they do not value the treated water service or simply choose not to take responsibility to pay their bill. If there are customers in your community who can afford their bill but still aren’t paying, take the time to investigate the cause, either through general conversations or a more comprehensive and structured community assessment.
Encouraging more customers to pay bills on time often requires a combination of tactics such as:
- Making the bills as affordable as possible by:
- Setting an optimal utility rate.
- Reducing operation and maintenance costs so that rates may be lowered.
- Connecting more customers so that cost may be spread among a larger base.
- Offering affordability or assistance programs for low-income, elderly and/or disabled customers.
- Making bill pay as convenient as possible by:
- Ensuring that billing is accurate and consistent.
- Offering different payment options such as by mail, phone, online or through an app.
- Allowing bills to be paid at convenient places that customers frequent, such as local grocery stores.
- Send out reminders via text or radio when bills are due.
- Celebrate the advantages of paying bills by:
- Offering a discount to those who pay bills ahead of time.
- Promoting the community’s connection to water.
- Celebrating cultural ties to water and gratitude for access to clean water.
- Informing customers of the penalty costs they avoid by failing to pay the bill.
- Making sure that the quality of service justifies the bill by:
- Soliciting customer feedback.
- Giving careful consideration to customer complaints and keeping customers informed on how you are responding to their feedback.
- Practicing transparency through informing customers on exactly what their bill pays for within the utility.
- Making a failure to pay the bill as inconvenient as possible by:
- Putting in place clear consequences, such as shut-offs, for not paying the bills and enforcing those consequences fairly and consistently.
- Shutting off service can be an effective motivator in communities where customers are able to afford their monthly bill, but choose not to pay or believe there are no consequences for not paying.
Make sure that your community has in place a customer assistance program or support system of some sort for those who simply don’t have enough money to pay.
Here are some examples of how other Tribes have given their customers a little motivation to pay their utility bills:
- Many communities enforce shut-offs of water service for customers who repeatedly fail to pay bills. Shutting off service can be an effective motivator in communities where customers are able to afford their monthly bill, but choose not to pay or believe there are no consequences for not paying. Make sure that your community has in place a customer assistance program or support system of some sort for those who simply don’t have enough money to pay.