A number of changes have been made in recent months to improve customer service and operations within the City of Ardmore Utility Billing Department. And more are on the way.
Sissy Burge, department supervisor, said plans are underway to offer online utility payments. The enhancement will not be available until July 1 at the earliest.
"What is holding us up is the city bids out its banking services every three years and it is about to be bid out," Burge said. "Our goal is to have it July 1.
"It is a convenience issue and it will reduce call in payments."
In a change that has taken place, the city has begun saving money in postage. Burge said the department has begun using a barcode for postage, which has dropped costs from $.42 to $.35 per bill mailed out. Savings have been in the amount of $2,500 in
a two-month period. Helping in savings has been a switch in software that allows the city to send one bill out for accounts. Prior, if a person had three accounts, they would receive three bills.
Customer service in the six-person department has also increased through usage of a printer with a continuous feed. While it may seem like a minimal item at first appearance, it has proven to be of immense value.
The addition feeds bills, which are perforated saving man-hours. It previously took all six employees five hours to prepare the bills and now it takes one person four hours. Considering the billing department receives between 300 to 500 calls a day, upgraded efficiencies plays a tremendous role in allowing the city to place its citizens first.
"All the money for utility bills comes through that office," J.D. Spohn, City Manager, said. "And most of the income for the city comes through the office."
Improvements have also been made in maintaining a consistent approach to cut-offs. Burge said the number of utility cut-offs is down as guidelines are being followed across the board.
"We have done a better job of informing the public of rules and the procedures of the city," Spohn said. "It has been more consistent."
Cross training is also playing a critical role in making the department more efficient. Burge said a switch in software being used is allowing office personnel to learn other jobs within the department.
"It's not a matter of this being her job or her job, it is our job and that is what I am striving to do," she said. "Accountability is also being stressed every day. The drawers are checked and I sign off on them. If I am not here, someone else signs off on them. And the field techs report in so everybody is clear on what has been done or needs to be done. There is a checks and balances for everyone."
One of the biggest benefits for Burge is her experience as the executive director of C-Sara prior to joining the city.
"Coming from a non-profit where you pinch pennies, you see a lot of things you can do," she said.
Michael Pineda