Last editedApr 20234 min read
From electricity to the internet, utility companies need billing solutions capable of handling recurring payments from a vast range of customers. Today’s utility billing solutions tick all the boxes with automated tools. Here’s a closer look at the features to look for as you streamline your billing process using software.
What is a utility billing solution?
There are many ways to improve your billing process using today’s software. Utility bill solutions are designed to record usage data and automatically calculate what’s owed using billing rates. They can then issue invoices to customers, collecting and processing payment for each billing period. You can expect this type of software to include standard invoicing and billing features as well as add-on integrations for reading smart meters.
How to compare utility billing solutions
As you start to compare the software on the market, consider the following factors.
Features – what features does it have, and do they apply to your business?
User-friendliness – how easy is the program to use, both for you and your customers?
Onboarding – how long will it take to implement within your organization?
Support – does the software offer 24/7 support on multiple platforms?
Cost – what are the fees, both for set-up and maintenance?
What are the most important features of utility billing software?
Along with using the factors above as a jumping-off point for comparison, here are some additional features to look for.
Meter management and billing: The software takes data from meters, automatically importing this information and pairing it with relevant customer accounts for billing. The system should track historical usage and send alerts if usage deviates from the usual standard.
Customer account management: The solution includes a central database for customers with all contact details and service information stored for easy retrieval and editing.
Rate management: Does the system assign the correct rate to each customer? Rates might vary by contract and service type.
Invoicing: Using imported data from meters and other sources, the system can create an accurate invoice for each billing period and issue it to the customer. Learn about the difference between an invoice and a bill here.
Payment processing: Customers should be able to log in and make easy payments using a variety of preferred methods. This should include online card and ACH payments as well as manual methods including paper checks received through the mail.
Accounting and financial reporting: With billing in accounting features, the system will automatically generate financial reports based on real-time billing figures and payments.
What are the advantages of utility billing software?
You can see many of the clear advantages of software solutions for utility billing in its features listed above. Here are three additional benefits to consider.
Identification of customer usage patterns
While some utilities charge flat rates, most base their rates on customer usage. In either case, you’ll get a better sense of how much your customers are using by collecting the appropriate data via meters and other smart monitors. Automatic meter reading systems help eliminate the need to collect this information manually, saving time and money.
Managing multiple client locations
A good system will be able to pull data from multiple client locations. Scalable solutions can even compartmentalize different departments and companies under a single umbrella, so you can track, monitor, and charge for energy use across multiple regions.
The best utility billing solutions offer built-in fraud protection and are equipped to handle online payments with full compliance. It’s essential to keep your customer details safe, extending both to personal identifiers and sensitive financial data.
The best utility billing solutions
There’s no shortage of software solutions in utility billing. Here are several of the top choices to consider.
This integrated platform marries customer management and billing. Using integrated third-party meter reading systems, utilities can collect payment from customers either online or through the mail. One benefit is its historical tracking features to identify use over time and chase down past due payments. Starting costs are a one-time fee of $495 per user.
Visual Utility Billing
Visual Utility Billing is an all-in-one payment processor, customer service portal, and billing software. It’s used by municipal tax offices, public utilities, and private companies to handle anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 customers at once. Features include bill generation, online payment processing, and a meter reading interface to track use. You’ll be charged anywhere from $0.15 to $0.89 per month, per customer, depending on the level of service chosen.
GoCardless offers a user-friendly payment experience for utility customers, well suited to collecting recurring payments. It’s free and easy to set up, with customers only needing to enter payment details a single time using a secure online form. GoCardless allows your company to create a customized payment page or integrate with existing checkout using its intuitive API.
Designed for larger organizations, universities, or government bodies, EnergyCAP can handle thousands of utility bills per month with fast processing, meter tracking and web reporting tools. It’s designed to automatically look for ways to save energy in the name of sustainability. Pricing starts at $24 per meter per year at the most basic package.
This cloud-based software is well suited for homeowner associations and property management organizations. It’s easy to adjust rates and fees to bill for any number of utility services. Features include a central dashboard to track metered and non-metered billable hours, as well as online payment processing, penalty processing and move in/move out fees. Pricing is available by quote from the vendor.
How can GoCardless help?
GoCardless makes it easy for your utility company to start billing customers. Take payments directly from customer bank accounts on the day they’re due to significantly reduce late charges. It’s already used by utility companies like oxio, a start-up providing domestic internet, TV and phone services. Oxio was able to fully integrate GoCardless into its existing system within two weeks. It then took advantage of automated features, diversified payment options, and reduced payment failure rates. With the Success+ tool, payments are automatically retried when they fail the first time around, and it all costs less than processing card payments.
We can help
GoCardless is a global payments solution that helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with. Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments.