2024 Utility Staffing Survey Results

Every other year, in even-numbered years, I conduct the Utility Staffing Survey. This survey examines staffing levels and how utilities handles labor-intensive practices such as meter reading, bill printing, payment processing, and service orders. It also looks for trends as to how more efficiently staffed offices operate. Here are links to previous Utility Staffing Surveys:

2022 Utility Staffing Survey Results

2020 Utility Staffing Survey Results

2018 Utility Staffing Survey Results

2016 Utility Staffing Survey Results

The Utility Staffing Survey alternates years with the Utility Fee Survey, which is conducted in odd-numbered years. Below are the results of the 2024 Utility Staffing Survey.

Demographics of survey respondents

122 utilities representing 21 states, ranging in size from 20 to 137,661 active accounts participated in the survey. Click on any of the links below to see charts of the various demographic data for the survey respondents:

Responses by State

Size of Participating Utilities

Size of Participating Utilities Under 20,000 Accounts

Types of Utilities Responding

Services Provided by Responding Utilities

Positions of Individuals Completing Survey

Annual accounts billed per office employee

To arrive at an accurate index to compare utilities of differing sizes and billing frequencies, I derived a value for the number of accounts billed annually per office employee. This formula multiplies the number of active accounts by the number of times each account is billed per year (12 for monthly billing, 6 for bi-monthly billing, 4 for quarterly billing) then divides that product by the total number of office employees. The higher the result, the more efficient the office is considered to be.

The results ranged from 84 to 86,944 as represented by the graph below: (clicking on any of the graphs will open a larger image in a new window).

Annual Accounts Billed per Office Employee 2024

If you would like to calculate your utility’s Annual Accounts Billed per Office Employee value to see how you compare, I’ve created an online calculator to determine this value. Please click here to calculate your utility’s value.

Annual customer turnover

As with past surveys, I wondered if the turnover in customers would be a factor in how efficiently offices are staffed, so the survey asked how many applications for service (including routine move in/move outs and new construction) each utility processes per year.

Some utilities bill only property owners, and those will have a much lower turnover rate than utilities that bill tenants.

Not surprisingly, as in previous Utility Staffing Surveys, the annual turnover rates ranged widely, from .01% to 100.00%, and appear to have no correlation to staffing levels.

Annual Accounts Billed per Office Employee with Account Turnover Rate 2024

Major services billed

The final variable I examined for this issue was major services billed (water, sewer, electric, and natural gas) looking for a correlation between the number of services billed and office staffing. I only considered the major services, because other services, such as garbage, stormwater, or area lights, generally are billed as flat-rate services and are not nearly as labor-intensive to bill.

As was the case in prior surveys, utilities billing multiple metered services require more staff than those billing for only a single metered service. This is confirmed in this year’s Utility Staffing Survey with 20 of the 21 most efficient offices, including the top three, billing for only one metered service (one only bills for sewer), as shown below:

Annual Accounts Billed per Office Employee by Major Services Billed 2024

Meter reading processing

In terms of office staffing, the actual time savings with meter readings is only between manually entering readings or importing them from some sort of automated reading process.

As anticipated, most utilities responding to the survey have automated their meter reading process. This year’s survey included 10 utilities that still enter meter readings (representing 8.26% of responding utilities), down from 15 two years ago (17.05%) and 13 four years ago (11.2%). All 10 of these utilities were all within the bottom half of most efficiently staffed offices, as represented by the graph below (clicking on any of the graphs will open a larger image in a new window).

Phone Credit Card Payments 2024

Bill printing

Bill printing and the related tasks required for preparing bills for mailing – separating postcards or folding and inserting full page bills, sorting, and traying the mail – are labor-intensive tasks.

Not surprisingly, the top 22 and 38 of the top 44 most efficiently staffed offices use an outsource printer to print their bills. On the other hand, only three of the 27 least efficiently staffed offices outsource the printing of their bills.

Bill Printing 2024

Mail payment processing

Mail payment processing is quite possibly the most laborious process in most utility offices. For that reason, many utilities have sought to automate the processing of mail payments, either by scanning barcodes on the bill, using a remittance processing system, or a bank lockbox.

Surprisingly, a considerable number of utilities still enter payments by keying them. This year’s survey found 76 of the 121 utilities (62.81%) manually entering payments. This was slightly higher than two years ago (62.50%), which was the highest of all four previous surveys.

10 of the 13 most efficiently staffed utilities automate the mail payment process in some way, while 24 of the 28 least efficiently staffed utilities manually enter mail payments.

Meter Reading Processing 2024

Phone credit card payments

The next area the survey asked about is phone credit card payments. This can be an extremely laborious process considering the customer service representative must look up the account, tell the customer how much is owed, take the credit card number, process the payment authorization and, finally, enter the payment in the system.

Four of the responding utilities don’t accept credit cards and 31 more don’t accept phone credit card payments. Of the rest, a live person takes the payment for 39 utilities (representing 32.23%) and 47 use an IVR system (38.84%).

Once again, use of an IVR system continues to show a consistent, year-over-year increase since the inception of the Utility Staffing Survey. Use of IVR systems has increased each year from 24.66% in 2016 to 38.84% this year.

If your office is still taking credit card payments in person, here’s a blog post that explains why this is not a good business practice.

Mail Payment Processing 2024

Service order processing

The final area of the survey is service order processing. The survey queried whether utilities used paper or electronic service orders and if they were integrated with the billing software or not.

Four utilities chose the “Other” response and here are their responses:

  • Text or phone call to the Water Operator
  • Text from office with paper copy next day
  • Electronic with meter reading software
  • Phone/Email
Service Order Processing 2024

Is your office adequately staffed?

If you think your utility is understaffed or could operate more efficiently, please give me a call at 919-673-4050 or email me at gary@utilityinformationpipeline.com to learn how a business review could help you determine this.