BelcoÂ’s new system gives insight into billing

BERMUDA - Householders will have the burden taken out of paying their electricity bills thanks to a new customer information system launched by Belco.

The Cayenta Utilities Customer Information System, which was implemented by the energy provider in January, allows consumers to view and pay their bills and check out their electricity consumption on the company's website.

In the future, the new system will enable customers to receive e-bills, change to paperless billing and pay by Direct Debit.

Damon Wade, vice-president of customer service and solutions at Belco, said the project to replace the previous system with a more efficient one started three years ago.

"There were some issues with the old system, in that its vendor was no longer going to support the product," he said.

"It had been in for approximately 10 years and the bones of the system were really putting our billing at risk because the equipment was outdated."

Belco brought in a consultant to help the company find a new system and match the one which would meet its Request For Proposal and contacted eight vendors, six of whom replied, before shortlisting three of them and then deciding on Cayenta Utilities, based on demonstrations given by the vendors, suitability and cost considerations.

The energy provider made a site visit to Cayenta's offices in Vancouver, Canada, as well as utility facilities in Toronto and Portland to see the system working first hand, according to Mr. Wade. "It was probably the most comprehensive process that Belco has seen for the selection available for a software product," he said.

"I think it was the fact that we had such a comprehensive selection process that we are reaping the success of it as relates to the implementation today.

"I think at the end of the day the key with Cayenta was the cultural fit in terms of their personnel and organization with our organization and also costs are always a driver in the decision-making process."

The new features which the system brings to Belco's users and staff alike include a website which provides bill statements and 13-month electricity consumption history, as well as their personal information and the ability to sign up for services and pay their bills online.

Customers were also issued with a new account number, which even by Belco's admission caused a bit of confusion when it was first introduced, but now users are getting to grips with it. They are enjoying the benefits, according to Mr. Wade. Belco advertised its new system with public notices, in addition to on customers' bills and in The Royal Gazette and the response has been good so far, with 9,570 bills sent out in the first week of its operation, all of which were accurate and on time, he said.

The second phase of the project will see the use of e-bills, paperless billing and Direct Debit rolled out in mid-April, putting customers' minds at ease about payment and discount dates, with budgeted (or “levelized”) billing planned for later in the year. Consolidated billing and landlord revert, which switches the bill back to the landlord when a tenant leaves a property, are further developments in the pipeline.

"One of the drivers for a new system that came out of our customer survey that we do every quarter was to improve the payment options for our customers," said Mr. Wade.

Another useful feature which could be seen soon, according to Stephen Burrowes, from the information technology department at Belco, was a 24/7 automated phone version of the website or Integrated Voice Response system for customers to manage their account and details.

The last word went to Mr. Wade, who explained the one main advantage the new system would bring.

"The biggest bang for the buck is really in the efficiency of the system and the group as it relates to the employees using the system," he said.

"In addition to those benefits that the customers are going to receive, there were a lot of efficiencies that we are going to realize versus the old system."


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