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Utility Saves Time with Automated Remittance Processing

Challenge:

When James Smith joined Hallsdale-Powell Utility District as its chief financial officer, he was struck by how much time employees spent processing payments instead of interacting with customers.

“All of the customer service representatives were involved,” Smith said. “We had to get payments posted to people’s accounts, and that was limiting our ability to concentrate on customer service.”

The employees would receive payment coupons and checks, manually enter them into the Knoxville-area water utility’s accounting system, post them to customers’ accounts and take checks to the bank. Smith wanted to streamline the process so employees could devote more time to customer service, a top priority.

After researching different solutions, Smith decided to work with AQ2 Technologies, a remittance software company. Smith then needed to find a financial services firm that would work with AQ2 to create an integrated remote deposit system.

Solution:

Smith requested proposals from numerous banks, but he said none offered the same level of service as Pinnacle Financial Partners.

“Pinnacle took the business model and showed me how much the savings would be and how quickly I’d pay it off,” he said. “They were the only ones who ever did that.”

A Pinnacle financial advisor spent two days at Hallsdale-Powell while AQ2 installed the software to address any questions related to how the remittance processing would work with remote deposit.

With the new system, one customer service representative can process payments in half a day. The employee gets the mail every morning and runs the remittance document and check through a scanner. The information along the bottom of the remittance is read by the scanner. Both the remittance and check are imaged and validated to make sure they match.

The information automatically shows up in Hallsdale-Powell’s accounting system, and Pinnacle receives the payment information electronically. The deposit appears on the bank statement that day

Result:

Smith said customer service has improved now that the other employees who used to process payments are available to answer calls and assist walk-ins.

The technology also helped employees resolve discrepancies quickly. Instead of digging through mounds of paperwork to answer a customer’s question about a payment, the representatives can log into the system to see the imaged remittances and checks.

“It empowers our customer service people to offer even better service in troubleshooting situations,” Smith said. “They can do a quick search and see who it got posted to and can correct their account. It’s about 99.8 percent foolproof.”

The system has virtually paid for itself. Smith expects his costs to be recouped eight months after implementation.

“When you’re a $20 million revenue business with 27,000 customers, a day’s interest on hundreds of thousands of dollars makes a difference,” he said.

Because Hallsdale-Powell has until 8 p.m. ET to deposit a day’s payments, the utility is exploring the possibility of staying open later.

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