In response to a rise in the use of self-service options and a dramatic decrease in the use of walk-in business centers, Kentucky’s largest utilities, Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company, are significantly expanding the number of retailers accepting in-person bill payment.
The utilities have been offering a variety of self-service customer options for years, including an automated phone system, an online “My Account” portal via their website and a mobile app. Customers were also able to make cash payments at Kroger and Walmart stores.
In September, the utilities added a barcode to the backs of bills and expanded the number of retail stores where customers can pay their bills in cash to include CVS, Walgreens, Family Dollar and Dollar General.
“In expanding the retailers we work with, our goal was accessibility and making sure that they are convenient for our customers to get to, whether they’re in one of our metropolitan areas or a more rural one across our service territories,” Eileen Saunders, LG&E and KU vice president of customer services, told American Gas. “We also want to make sure that their transactions are as easy as possible.”
The effort was on a parallel path with the planned closure of their 26 business office walk-in centers by the end of 2024.
According to Saunders, a variety of factors influenced the decision to close the business offices, including a 42% decline in customer traffic at the walk-in centers since 2014 and the increased use of self-service options, including a 28% increase in online “My Account” transactions and an 18% increase in automated phone transactions.
The company’s mobile app was launched in 2021 and has been downloaded more than half a million times.
The expansion in the number of retailers taking payments took four months to implement and relied heavily on the relationship the utilities’ vendor has with the different retailers.
“We want doing business with us to be easy for customers, which is what drives our development of creative solutions and a variety of options and offerings to assist them,” Saunders said. “As their habits evolve, we’re always evolving with them, and we’d suggest that for any utility or business that services customers.”