JAN LARSAN MACLAGLIN
BG Independent News
Every autumn, when BSDU students move to the city, the city’s utilities are flooded with phone calls.
“Phones usually don’t ring by hearsay,” said Brian O’Connell, director of municipal utilities.
Among the main requests of students – how they can receive paperless bills and how they can make paperless payments from their phones.
Until now, public utilities have not offered such options. But that is about to change.
On Monday, the Bowling Green Utilities Board approved efforts to expand electronic bills and payment options for customers. Printed utility bills will continue to be sent to customers who wish to receive paper bills, O’Connell said.
“The younger generation doesn’t want paper. They just want it on their phones, ”O’Connell said.
Currently, all invoices are made using paper invoices and sent to customers by mail.
Payment options include:
• Customer service desk (cash, check or money order)
• Box in the city building (check or money order)
• US Post (verification)
• Automatic payment for utilities (direct withdrawal of funds from the current account within a specified period)
• Payment of the Internet bank (initiated by the client, the bank sends a check to the city)
• Credit card (by phone or online)
According to O’Connell, the city’s utilities department has received the following complaints from customers about the city’s billing and payment options:
• Lack of electronic (paperless) invoices.
• Customers who use automatic utility bills still receive a return envelope with their paper bill.
• Automatic payment of utilities does not have the ability to pay by credit card.
• The customer service desk in the city building does not have the ability to accept credit card payments.
• The fees paid to customers associated with current credit card payment options are high, and the city is unable to assist the customer if they have problems with the payment process.
The two providers currently used to accept credit card payments charge customers a fee of $ 5.95 and $ 4 per transaction, respectively. In 2021, there were 32,553 transactions that employees must manually enter into office software.
Initially, employees were looking for a better credit card payment option that would allow the city to also accept credit card payments at a customer service office. However, it has become clear that this will solve only one issue, and a more complete option of invoicing and payment is possible.
In 2021, employees screened potential vendors for electronic invoices and credit card payment options. The provider that offers the best services in this market along with a reasonable payment structure is Invoice Cloud Inc. Here are some of the features that Invoice Cloud offers to customers and employees:
• Electronic or paperless option of invoicing through the payer portal.
• Pay by credit and debit cards over the phone and online using VISA, Mastercard, American Express or Discover. Customers can schedule one-time or recurring payments.
• ACH and eCheck bank payments.
• Auto-payment option for recurring credit card payments on the utility payment date.
• Compatible with mobile devices.
• Customers can pay with digital mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo and PayPal.
• Pay by text allows customers to receive text messages on their mobile phone and pay by phone.
• CheckFreePay allows customers to make cash payments at participating retail, grocery and stores.
• Credit card payments can be accepted in person at the customer service desk.
• Direct Internet banking service converts online banking payment into electronic ACH payment to the customer’s account.
• Clients can donate to the Salvation Army for the Muni-Pal program by rounding up or adding the amount of the donation.
• City customer service representatives have access to an invoicing portal to assist customers when needed.
• Cloud stores may accept utility bills, income taxes, invoices, and items without invoices such as permits and licenses.
“It pretty much reached all the highlights we were looking for,” O’Connell said.
Employees turned to two other communities of similar size that use the Invoice Cloud system. Both had positive comments about the system, O’Connell said.
“Invoice Cloud offers all the services our customers request, and more,” he said. “We would like to begin implementation as soon as possible so that we can promote new services before moving to college in August 2022.”