No one was fully prepared a global pandemic.
Even in our wildest imaginations, it was difficult to picture an event so all-consuming that every aspect of our lives would be altered. The full extent of how recent months have changed the way we live, work, learn, and play will not be understood for perhaps a generation or more.
However, though still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are already beginning to reflect back. What worked. What didn’t. How we can prepare ourselves better for the future.
The utility billing industry is no different.
When the country shut down, we got to work. Once we created safe work environments for our teams, we quickly pivoted to the important work of business continuity. Our customers depended on us to provide stability in a rapidly destabilizing world. We stayed nimble, listened carefully, acted boldly, and united business, industry and community in unprecedented ways.
But despite those successes, there are still valuable lessons to be learned.
Perhaps above all, we saw that the most responsive and resilient providers were the ones best prepared to go digital. The conditions of this crisis – physical distancing, remote work, etc. - rewarded those who had already gone all-in on next-gen.
As Canada attempts to establish a new normal, utility billing providers who hope to be prepared for the next challenge need to consider these must-have digital solutions that proved so effective during the crisis, including:
Digital billing solutions. When manual processes were shut down, when paper was no longer an option, these options became key. If you didn’t have e-billing solutions firmly in place, it was a disadvantage to residential customers.
Flexible payment options. Contactless was key. Offering a number of payment options, from pre-authorized payments to credit card to online banking, gave residents the maximum flexibility to stay on top of bills while following all distancing measures.
Electronic Data Exchange (EDE). Resident moving continued throughout, and nothing let owners/managers keep processes flowing and staff members and residents safe better than automating this process via EDE. This system integration imports resident data from property management software into the utility billing platform daily. It results in accurate and timely enrolment and billing of residents and ensures utility consumption is correctly assessed. As always, any integration with your property management software should adhere to the Multi-Family Information Transaction Standard (MITS), which is the industry standard for sharing resident information.
Increased communication. In good times, residents need responsive customer service in languages they can understand, at convenient times. In trying times, however, they need proactive communications that offer clear information and assurance. From dedicated landing pages and e-blasts, to blog and social media posts, successful providers offered a constant flow of information through ever-evolving events.
Digital information. Online portals might have once seemed like an add-on, but the pandemic showed the importance of these all-utilities monitoring platforms as a key to tracking usage closely while increasing usage at home.
For some, the pandemic will serve as a wakeup call to modernize operations and consider many – if not all – of these solutions. For others, the last few months will be a confirmation that innovations previously set in motion are heading in the right direction.
For all, however, this time will be a reminder that you can never go wrong implementing processes and investing in technologies that make the lives of your partners and residents easier in both good times and challenging ones.