This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 10, 2008 2:12 PM. The previous post in this blog was Missing words. The next post in this blog is Tornado in the 'Couv!. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Revisiting a disaster area

You'll never guess what's back in play at Portland City Hall.

Comments (9)

Just nimbly responding to their customer's wishes. I'm sure there's much dissatisfaction with the current method of billing. No doubt there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of letters and emails demanding more "choice".

What better way to spend taxpayers dollars, huh?

They're just doing the jobs that private entities won't do.

Is that so bad?

Why is Monthly Billing winning so substantially? Who wants to pay ANOTHER bill every month, not to mention wasting the time writing a check, etc., . . .

Why is Monthly Billing winning so substantially?

May be easier for people living paycheck-to-paycheck to budget for it when it comes once per month rather than once every 3 months. I guess the logic (for those folks) would be it's better to pay 3 smaller bills than 1 larger one.

"substantially" is such an insubstantial word when used in the context of 12 respondents.

Come on guys, connect the dots.

New road tax gets tacked onto the water / sewer bills.

If the water sewer bills stay as quarterly bills, the tax increase looks like almost $ 14.09.

Switch to monthly billing and the tax looks like $4.53 month.

Which number do you think will generate more opposition and possible referral for a city wide vote?

Which method do you think will allow the city the opportunity to assess more late charges, increasing city revenues?

Very good pilgrim, you aswered those questions correctly.

My advice to them.

Posted by: Steve - January 10, 2008 06:32 PM

Why don't you just have PGE or NW Natural take over the billing and let the the water bureau billing staff retire?


I saw your post and thought you and your readers might be interested in what we have been hearing from our customers. I don't get all of the comments that come to us, but here are some that I have seen:

"I was wondering if you happen to have a paperless billing option. I couldn't find one on your website so thought I'd check.

"We recently returned early from a 2 week vacation on the coast to find a water shut off notice on our front door! If we had stayed away over the weekend as planned, we would have returned from to have no water at our home in SE Portland. This is an unacceptable situation.

Your staff were very helpful in noticing that we always pay on time, and gave us an extra week to mail a check in. This concern is not about them. However, a great deal of city staff time went in to bringing out a notice that no one was home to receive and handling our subsequent calls - time which could easily have been avoided. Suggestions:

1. Allow for automated payment. We use automated payment for all our other utilities. City of Portland Water Bureau seems to be the only utility that does not allow this. It is ideal for people who may be traveling when bills arrive. This would avoid inadvertent water shut off for most users.

2. Give longer turnaround times. We never saw a first billing (lost in the mail?). The reminder billing was printed before we left, but was not even postmarked until 5 days after the "print" date. The final notice, with just a week left to pay, was postmarked only 3 days before the water shut-off date. Your process needs to recongnize that bills are not received by customers for nearly a week after they are printed. The Water Bureau should therefore allow a 2 or 3 week response time from the customer.

3. Honor good payment histories. We have paid on time for 20 years or longer. Doesn't it seem more likely that we are away, or did not receive our bill, than that we are shirking our payment responsibility? Shutting off the water is a drastic action that should be taken only when it seems clear that there is no intent to pay.

Thanks for listening. I hope you will seriously consider some improvements in the Water Bureau billing system, especially allowing for automated payment."

"I was searching your web site to see if you have a Paperless billing set up. ( e-bills) I am trying to reduce my Paper bills that come in the mail. If you do, please send me link. If not, do you plan to set one up? Since I pay my bill via my on line banking site, I do not need a physical copy of the bill to send back with payment. You bill is one of the last bills that I get in the mail and I am trying to reduce Id theft and paper that I need to recycle. Thanks in advance for your reply."

"I gotta say, I am getting increasingly frustrated with your absolute unwillingness to bill residential accounts on a MONTHLY basis. It is very difficult to budget for a water bill that hits me hard every 3 months. You billing fiascal with commissioner Stern, and the apparent stubborn refusal to assist residential customers by offering to bill monthly just boggles the mind. You have one very angry customer here."

Our new billing system has been online and working since April of 2006. During the first year of operation, our main priority was to make sure that everything worked. Last year we implemented changes that allow our customers to pay their bills online with credit or debit card payments or make one time ACH (taken out of your checking account) payments over the web. After that we implemented changes that allowed customers to pay with credit/debit cards over the phone and in the Service Center and then through our automated phone system. We have taken baby steps to make sure that when we implement improvements they work as advertised and fill our customer's needs. Monthly billing has been a Council priority since before Randy became Commissioner-in-Charge and appointed me as the director. As our customers become more comfortable with e-commerce, they have begun asking for the four services outlined in our non-scientific poll. We are just experimenting with the polling feature of our website to see if we can get a sense of what they would be most interested in. Plus, like you, we haven’t really used the polling feature much and thought it would be kind of fun to try it out on this.

David Shaff, Director
Portland Water Bureau

And the problem with the Water Bureau doing this is what exactly? And what would be your comment if the Water Bureau refused to give people options?

I don't get it.

BTW Sten is retiring, you'll need a new target. Not that I expect this will be a problem.

The online payment option was the most difficult online enrollment I have ever used. Whoever designed the customer interface should be fired.

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