During a recent presentation of our software, I was extolling the benefits of our billing software being fully integrated with our online bill pay system and our finance system. The general manager of the utility we were presenting to curiously said “I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket”.

Multiple vendors

This particular utility uses different vendors for utility billing, finance, online bill pay, merchant processing, outsource printing, and ebill reminders. While it’s not uncommon to use a third-party outsource printer, finding a software vendor offering fully integrated utility billing and finance software, online bill pay, merchant processing and ebilling is the preferred route for most utilities.

Avoid the finger pointing

This manager’s comment caught me off guard because most customers and prospects much prefer a fully integrated system where only one phone call is required when something isn’t working.

In a disjointed situation with multiple vendors, utility staff are often forced to function as referees between multiple third-party vendors when things aren’t working. If emails aren’t being sent to alert your customers of new ebills being ready, is that the fault of the email service, the outsource printer, or the billing software vendor? A scenario like this could require multiple calls to track down the source of the problem.

On the other hand, with a fully integrated system (i.e. all your eggs in one basket), all it takes is one phone call to reach the responsible party and resolve the issue.

Advantages of integrated systems

I’ve written before about the advantages of a fully integrated solution over a third-party online bill pay vendor, but I’ve always focused on the functionality and value to your customers, never the underlying support aspect. This manager’s comment helped me to appreciate, and hopefully articulate, why putting all their eggs in one basket isn’t such a bad idea after all.