October 1, 2018 will be an exciting day in the history of Owatonna Public Utilities. It is the day we will begin using a new customer information system for billing, customer records, payments, and an online customer portal. National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) is our new software vendor and their product, iVUE, will bring many benefits to customers and the utility.
Your monthly bills will look very similar to what you now receive, but we will have the ability to include many types of informative messages on the face of the bills. With iVUE, we can alert you when your credit card for recurring payments is going to expire and provide you with information on what your new budget payment will be when it is scheduled to recalculate for the following month’s bill. You will receive an insert with your October statement explaining how to read your new bill, as some information (such as your customer number) will change with iVUE.
A significant item to note involves credit cards. Customers calling to make a credit card payment over the phone will be directed to a third-party automated service. This is an important change in process because it will allow us to better protect customers’ credit card information and become compliant with credit card data security standards. Without these protections in place, there is a risk that customer credit card information could be compromised in the event of a cyber-security or other data breach. A data breach could be as simple as someone overhearing a spoken credit card number. Customers will still be able to pay by credit card in person and online as they do now.
Speaking of online, the new customer portal will be new and improved! Customers currently using our CustomerWeb site will need to re-register for the new customer portal site. It will be worth your time to do so, as you will have access to more robust consumption and billing history information as well as the ability to sign up for e-billing, automatic recurring payments, and various notifications via email and text message.
Customers will also be able to use “Pay Now” functionality to pay your bill online on a one-time basis, without setting up a user name and password. You will just need some account information from your monthly bill to utilize this feature.
Besides benefits to customers, iVUE will allow Owatonna Public Utilities to become more efficient in how we do work. Field crews will have iPads so work completed can be documented at the job site, eliminating paperwork and allowing for follow-up tasks to be noted and immediately scheduled by our dispatchers. More transactions will flow through various systems automatically, eliminating manual work that takes more time and can result in errors.
Future phases of the new system implementation include the financial package rollout in February 2019 and an Outage Management System in June 2019. These additional products will be fully integrated with the customer information system to allow for seamless flow of information.
Stay tuned as we provide more information on features available with the new system over the next several months.