Staffing Survey Trends

This year’s Utility Staffing Survey represents the fifth Utility Staffing Survey, so I thought I would try to examine some trends. You can review the results of all five previous surveys here.

Meter reading processing

The 2016 Utility Staffing Survey only asked if meter readings were manually entered or imported, without a way for respondents to indicate how they were imported, so 2016 isn’t represented on the graph below. Similarly, only the past two surveys have asked if utilities bill flat rates only, with no meter readings.

As one would expect, the survey has shown a steady increase in the number of utilities transitioning to AMI systems. AMR, which was slowing decreasing in the three prior surveys, saw an increase in 2024.

Conversely, the number of utilities using handhelds or manually entering readings this year (15% and 8%, respectively) is less than half of what it was in 2018 (31% and 20%).

Taken together, these are both signs that utilities are steadily moving toward more efficient ways of reading meters. Shown below are the meter reading results for the past four surveys (clicking on any of the graphs will open a larger image in a new window):

Bill printing

Rather surprisingly, the trend for utilities printing their bills in-house increased over the course of the five years of survey data. Outsource printing increased from 2016 to 2018, but has decreased each year since:

Mail payment processing

In another surprise, the number of utilities manually keying mail payments has increased over the course of the five surveys. The number of utilities using a remittance processing system or a bank lockbox is down from a combined 23% in 2016 to 16% this year.

Phone credit card payments

Phone credit card payments highlight two trends I did expect. The first is a significant decrease in the number of utilities that don’t accept credit cards, from 18% in 2016 to only 3% this year. The second is an increase in the number of utilities using an IVR system, up from 25% in 2016 to 39% this year.

I’m still surprised at the number of utilities that either don’t take phone credit card payments at all (26%, up from 15% in 2016) or have a live person take them (32%, down from 42% in 2016). Here’s a blog post about why I don’t advocate for taking phone credit card payments in the office.

Service order processing

The Utility Staffing Survey has only asked about service orders since 2020, so there is less data to analyze. One trend appears to show utilities moving from integrated paper service orders to integrated electronic service orders. Paper decreased by the same 12% as electronic service orders increased. Surprisingly, there was no movement away from non-integrated to integrated service orders.

Size of responding utilities

Finally, I analyzed the number and size of responding utilities. The survey has seen an increase in participation from 73 utilities in 2016 to 122 this year. Interestingly, this year saw the number of utilities in the smallest tier decrease after successive increases.

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.

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© 2024 Gary Sanders

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