TEAM’s Managing Director Paul Martin explains why electronic utility billing or EDI can be a major customer retention tool.
“The ability of a supplier to provide electronic utility billing or EDI is often the second biggest factor (after price) when multi-site organisations select an electricity, gas or water supplier. Although the industry standard has been around for years, and indeed is used by many utilities, it’s somewhat surprising that some large utilities still do not use it.”
The UK are amongst the leaders in the world for mature EDI utility billing practices and the standard is called TRADACOMS 26 version 3, which is the only UK Utility Billing Standard.
EDI is the structured electronic exchange of billing information using common, open standards. The process is approved by Revenue and Customs and can be truly paperless. For the process to work effectively the supplier and customer need to agree both a standard electronic format in which invoices are despatched and received and also a “code of practice” which deals with matters such as change control.
What EDI isn’t, is the despatch of non-standard ASCII files or spreadsheets containing electronic utility billing information.
What normally happens is the utility will collate multi-site customer bills into a batch or ‘bulk bill’, rather than send the bills to a printer hall for processing and mailing the electronic ‘bulk bill’ is sent on a different journey.
The electronic file is mapped into the TRADACOMS standard, encrypted and dispatched by email to the customer. To achieve this the utilities mainframe billing software simply diverts the file to a personal computer where proprietary EDI software can map, process, encrypt and despatch the ‘bulk bill’. Many utilities use the latter process, as it can be much quicker, cheaper to set up and easy to use.
The customer receives the ‘bulk bill’ where it is unencrypted, authenticated, automatically checked and populates the organisation’s energy Monitoring and Targeting system. Correct bills are automatically sent to the company’s accounts payable system where payment is made by BACS. The whole process can take only minutes.