How much damage is done when customers pay to pay their gas bill?

Many utilities are faced with the problem of handling credit card payments.  Customers want to use their credit cards, and complain bitterly when the option is not available.   But most customers don’t realize that the utility has to then pay the credit card company.  For many utilities, especially regulated utilities,  the challenge is deciding who pays these fees. 

Should the fees be waived and included as part of the cost of doing business in the rate base – if the regulator allows it - or should the cost be borne by the customers wanting to use their credit cards?  To complicate matters further there are strict credit card rules that prohibit companies charging more when customers use a credit card!  One solution is to work with an external payment vendor that then charges for the payment service.  Many utilities accepting credit cards have choosen this option.  It works – but what is the impact on customer satisfaction?  The 2011 gas utility residential study asked customers if they are charged a fee.  Here’s what we found when we compared the levels of customer satisfaction for the customers charged a fee with the satisfaction from customers when there was no charge.

 

It’s certainly no surprise that the impact is bad – however the customers charged payment fees are clearly very dissatisfied.

[Source: 2011 J. D. Power and Associates Gas Residential Customer Satisfaction Study]

 

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