Enhancing the Customer Experience
We want to make it easier for our customers to do business with us. That means focusing on new technologies and upgrades to our systems to meet the needs of a modern energy consumer. We’re introducing new payment methods, automated equipment and easier access through mobile phones.
More Accurate Meter Reading, Increased Customer Satisfaction
Automated Meter Reading, or AMR, devices enable us to obtain accurate meter readings remotely from indoor and hard-to-access outdoor gas meters. Through a wireless transmission, we are able to read the meters and transmit the data to our billing system, where it is matched to the customer account.
One of the chief benefits of AMR is that we are able to perform actual meter readings on a monthly basis, reducing customer concerns about estimated readings. AMR also eliminates the need for customers with indoor meters to make access arrangements for meter reading.
By the end of 2011, more than 68 percent of NiSource’s Gas Distribution customers had an AMR device installed, including more than one million in Ohio and more than 320,000 in Pennsylvania. By the end of 2012, AMR will be fully deployed in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts.
Saving Time, Supporting the Environment
Since 2010, we have been encouraging customers to sign up for our e-Bill electronic online billing program. For every customer who converts from paper to electronic billing, we reduce our landfill waste, curb greenhouse gases and save water in the production and distribution processes. It reduces our operating expenses, as we reduce printing and processing costs related to paper billing. And, it saves our customers time and money on postage costs.
For the second year, we partnered with The Nature Conservancy on a campaign to encourage e-Bill enrollment. For each customer who signed up for e-Bill in the first quarter of 2011, we made a $10 donation to The Nature Conservancy’s freshwater conservation projects. During the campaign, nearly 19,000 customers signed up for e-Bill. In addition to the customer-driven campaign, the NiSource Charitable Foundation contributed $100,000 to The Nature Conservancy to support its ongoing freshwater conservation efforts for a total contribution of $220,000.
On-the-Move Technology Improvements
In 2011, to meet the needs of our growing number of customers who use phones or other mobile devices to conduct business, we introduced mobile websites at all of our local utilities. Customers who have registered their account online can log in to view their bill and payment date, as well as make a payment. And where it is an option, the sites also can locate the nearest walk-in payment location.
Safety information also is a key feature of the mobile sites. Customers can learn the warning signs they might smell, see or hear that could indicate a gas leak. Phone links make it easy to call to report a gas emergency or to “call before you dig” quickly with just one touch.
Expanding on NIPSCO’s Storm Center information website, customers can now report an electric outage in real time, view an outage map, track the restoration progress, and learn what crews do to get power safely back on – all through their mobile devices. The site also features a streetlight outage reporting tool, which allows users to notify us of broken or burned out streetlights in their neighborhoods.
We launched the mobile sites in December 2011, and in the first two weeks, more than 2,500 customers made payments through the sites. We are expanding the sites in 2012 to include more account options for customers and will continue to report on our advancements on this front.