View this Topic Paper as a PDF: Out-of-State-Vendors
Why does TMWA use Out-of-State Vendors?
Using out-of-state vendors for call center services and bill payment processing saves Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) more than half a million dollars every year and provides better customer service.
TMWA consistently strives to provide the best possible service to our customers at the lowest reasonable cost. Outsourcing our call center and billing functions saves our customers more than $500,000 annually while providing quality customer service. However, the decision to outsource wasn’t just about saving money.
Call Center Outsourcing Provides Three Specific Benefits:
The contract with our call center partner in Nebraska has continually allowed TMWA to:
- Minimize costs to customers
- Maximize all aspects of customer service
- Concentrate on consistently improving water service operational efficiencies.
When TMWA was formed in 2001, our staff compared the benefits of establishing call-center services within TMWA vs. using an outside vendor. We wanted to ensure the lowest cost consistent with our high-quality customer service standards.
Key Factors Included:
- TMWA’s core competence is operating water treatment and distribution systems delivering clean, pure water.
- The total cost of hiring staff, establishing an office and providing equipment was neither economically nor operationally justified in comparison to using an outside vendor.
TMWA selected a company with a proven track record of working with more than 175 utility companies; one that offers the full spectrum of customer service operations. Operational costs are significantly lower than if we provided the services in-house.
Bill Payment Outsourcing Also Saves Money and Provides Quality Service:
These same factors directed the decision to consolidate all TMWA’s remittance processing in San Antonio, Texas in 2005 and then Prescott, Arizona in 2013 (with the same vendor). This is the most cost-effective solution and allows TMWA to provide a greater level of customer service through the following:
- Reduced mailing time - This centralized mailing location allows for faster delivery with no change in the number of days customers are allowed to mail in their payments. That means customers get speedier credit to their accounts with the same mailing time - a double benefit for customers who use our mail-in payment option.
- Accuracy - Our customers also benefit from a new state-of-the-art processing center that already handles more than 6.5 million utility payments per month with a very high accuracy rate. Technology like this would be cost prohibitive to bring in-house. Additionally, TMWA’s customer service representatives are able to view copies of customer checks or money order payments online. This gives TMWA instant access to resolve any payment questions - all with no additional cost to TMWA or our customers.
What Other Ways Do TMWA Customers Benefit From Vendors:
- Flexible staffing - Our vendors have much bigger staffs than TMWA could afford. For example, the call center has floating staff for particularly high-volume call days. This cost is shared with multiple utilities rather than carried by TMWA as it would be with an in-house operation.
- Off-site staff in the event of an emergency - In the event of a community-wide emergency in which TMWA is involved, the off-site staff can be dedicated to assisting our customers. That means TMWA’s on-site staff can concentrate on restoring water service back to our customers. Regularly and updated based on the most recent facility plan, construction and other cost information.
How Did TMWA Select the Out-Of-State Vendors?
TMWA strictly adhered to the public process, which demands creating a Request for Qualifications, soliciting respondents in appropriate newspapers and journals, and contacting recognized corporations specializing in utility customer service and billing operations.
- There were no local or Nevada companies that had the background or experience to comply with stringent billing and customer service requirements.
- After in-depth research and investigations, TMWA selected companies that had proven track records of processing high volumes cost effectively, while adhering to high-quality customer service standards.
- The current contract with the outsourced provider will expire in 2019, at which time TMWA will again go through a public process, before signing a new contract. This process will include review by TMWA’s Board and opportunities for the public to provide input.
Focusing On Providing Exceptional Water Service:
We’ve contracted with outsourcing partners who are specialists in providing these call center and bill processing services. They are among the best in those customer service specialty areas. So, our customers get top-quality service for much less than the cost of doing this work within TMWA. At the same time, we at TMWA are able to focus our attention on doing what we do best, delivering high-quality water reliably and cost effectively to all our customers