How utilities companies can benefit from address verification software
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Palm Beach County Water Utilities and Palm Beach County Property Appraiser were experiencing high volumes of returned mail due to inaccurate contact information. This resulted in undelivered and unpaid bills for PBC Utilities and collection issues for PBC Property Appraiser.
For both agencies, address data is now verified before it enters the database, ensuring that only accurate and complete contact information is captured.
PBC Water Utilities was able to increase the speed of address entry by call center reps, improving customer service. PBC Property Appraiser saw a 27 percent reduction in returned mail rates, which significantly improved delivery and collection time of property tax bills.
About Palm Beach County Water Utilities
Palm Beach County Water Utilities provides drinking water to approximately 500,000 residents in central and south-central Florida. The utility mails about 11,000 bills through the USPS® in addition to thousands of e-bills. If bills go undelivered, they often go unpaid.
Issues with Data Collection
Eva Koblenc, system administrator of customer service systems for PBC Water Utilities, was experiencing issues with erroneous data entry and began the search for a resolution. Koblenc explained that, anytime a customer needs to provide the agency with contact information, they have to call and speak to a company representative. That rep then enters that information into the PBC Water Utilities customer service system. This was problematic, as "We were seeing a lot of errors with information given over the phone."
According to Koblenc, the inaccurate information had various root causes. "We serve a large elderly population, and also have many residents who don’t speak English as their first language. Sometimes people mistakenly give inaccurate or incomplete information, and other times, a customer service rep just mishears what the customer is saying. "As PBC Water Utilities learned, fat fingering and misspellings are common errors in data entry.
Data Quality Solution: Experian QAS
Experian QAS reached out to PBC Water Utilities and provided a demonstration of QAS Pro, a point-of-entry address validation software tool. Koblenc said, "The interactive tools we saw, and ultimately purchased, eliminate the room for error while also dramatically reducing key stroke time. The combination is really important to us."
For PBC Water Utilities, training on the Experian QAS tools was easy and required minimal effort. "Staff was up and running in no time," per Koblenc. Today, all new hires are trained on the tools, quickly grasp the software, and very rarely need further instruction.
About Palm Beach County Property Appraiser
Palm Beach County Property Appraiser reviews and determines the taxable value of each property in order to determine rates and to obtain residents' property tax amounts. Without accurate addresses, residents do not receive necessary tax information, resulting in collection issues.
In addition to the Appraiser's challenges arising from failed communication attempts, bad address information in this database negatively impacts various other PBC agencies.
Issues with Data Entry
Pat Poston, director of exemption services for Palm Beach County Property Appraiser, much like Eva Koblenc at PBC Water Utilities, wanted to fix the data quality problem.
At PBC Property Appraiser, contact information is entered whenever a property is sold or a deed or transfer of ownership is completed. The physical address is taken from these documents and manually typed into the system.
Poston's department changes about 10,000-15,000 addresses a year. When a change of address occurs, a new deed needs to be created. Poston finds many errors on the deeds themselves, mostly missing unit numbers, Zip Code errors and misspellings of city and street names, since everything is hand written.
Data Quality Solution: Experian QAS
Experian QAS reached out to PBC Property Appraiser and provided Poston with a free evaluation of the software. "Upon testing the tools, my staff and I immediately realized how useful it was and how easily our data quality problem could be fixed," explained Poston. "With Experian QAS, instead of analyzing mail once it's been sent back, we're now able to make sure that it's delivered in the first place."
Results Across Both Agencies
Experian QAS "drastically" reduced the amount of inaccurate and/or incomplete contact information entering the PBC Water Utilities database, according to Koblenc. "The interactive tools eliminate the room for error while also increasing the speed in which addresses are entered, increasing our operational efficiency and customer service."
Poston has also seen significant positive results from using Experian QAS tools. PBC Property Appraiser recently completed a review of their last mailing, containing notices of proposed taxes, and experienced a 27% decrease in returned mail over the previous year.
Like many other utility, state and local government agencies, Palm Beach County understands the importance of verifying contact data across all channels. With the help of Experian QAS address verification tools, Palm Beach County can capture and maintain clean and accurate contact information, ensure timely delivery of important billing and property tax information, and confidently supply resident information to all other PBC county agencies.