Estimated meter reading survey results

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If you remember, the last Utility Information Pipeline included a short survey asking how your utility handles estimated meter readings. Readers representing 15 utilities responded to the survey and this issue includes an analysis of their responses.

Primary method of reading meters

The first survey question asked what the utility’s primary method of reading meters is. The overwhelming response was drive-by AMR systems. Based on my experience, I don’t feel this is representative of all utilities, but this is what the survey is based on.

Reasons for estimating meter readings

The second question asked for what reasons do utilities estimate meter readings. I was pleased to see that none of the respondents estimate readings as a routine practice rather than reading each billing period.

Limiting consecutive estimates

The third question asked “If you estimate because of inaccessible meters, do you have a limit to the number of consecutive estimates before you require the occupant to provide access to the meter?” Of the five utilities that limit the number of estimates, none allow more than two consecutive estimates before requiring the customer provide access to the meter.

Monthly threshold for estimates

The next question asked if the utility has a monthly threshold for which they consider estimated readings to be excessive. If you read the last Utility Information Pipeline, you know this all started because a professional colleague contacted me inquiring if I knew of an industry standard for estimated meter readings.

Surprisingly, only two utilities have a monthly threshold. The good news is they both responded with a threshold of two percent, which is the number I had provided to my colleague.

Creative responses

The final question asked the respondents to describe any creative ways they deal with estimated meter readings.

Most of the responses to this question described the utilities’ policies for calculating estimates, but one response was my favorite…

“When customers refuse to provide access to meters after multiple notifications, we increase the estimated amount.”

What better way to get your customer to cooperate and provide access to their meter than to estimate their usage on the high side. We all know customers will respond to a higher than normal bill!

Do your meter reading practices need review?

If you want to reduce the number of estimates, or otherwise improve your meter reading process, give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@edmundsgovtech.com to learn how a business review can help.

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