West Palm Beach chooses SPL customer management system to bill water and related services

The City of West Palm Beach in Florida chose SPL WorldGroup's PeopleSoft CIS customer management system to handle billing and customer services for its water, sewer, sanitation, and other accounts.

Morristown, NJ, May 16, 2003 -- After two years of planning and investigation, the City of West Palm Beach in Florida has chosen SPL WorldGroup's PeopleSoft CIS customer management system to handle billing and customer services for its 30,000 water, sewer, sanitation, and related services accounts.

"Once we make the transition, our customers will see major improvements in the detail and format of their bills," said Marsha Gates, Customer Service Supervisor and Project Manager for CIS at West Palm Beach's Department of Public Utilities.

"Our current system produces primarily summary information for customers," she explained. "There's little detail. When we give a customer a credit, for instance, the amount of the credit is subtracted from the next month's total, but there's no notation on the bill that the credit was included. That leads to a lot of calls to the call center."

Bills produced by the new system, in contrast, will contain separate line items for usage fees, consumption, rebates, credits, and other items. The new system will also handle payment plans automatically; currently, the accounts for customers in arrears require extensive manual processing.

Another change will be the number of line items included in bills. West Palm Beach currently bills for seven services: water, sewer, sanitation (refuse collection), recycling, storm water, irrigation, and a utility tax on water. "But with our current system," said Gates, "we can't list irrigation as separate service." The new system will fix that problem and also permit the addition onto the bill of a new service, industrial pre-treatment fees and fines.

West Palm Beach began its search for a new customer management system when it received notice that the maintenance company for its current, mainframe-based system did not intend to continue its contract. TMG Consulting helped the City develop an initial list of over 1700 items a new system should include and helped managers narrow an initial field of ten candidates.

"West Palm Beach was impressed with the SPL product's functional breadth," according to TMG consultant Steve Wenke, who advised the City during the selection process. "Very few modifications will be needed to the base system, reducing long-term costs. Users here have also been impressed with the product's ease of use. And the strong infrastructure in place for ongoing support is reassuring."

Also important, according to Wenke and Gates, were interfaces to existing City applications--including Oracle Financials, FormScape (for on-line bill printing and work orders), and Pitney Bowes (for batch bill processing).

"We will be doing some limited customization," said Gates, "but we will also be changing some of our processes because we want a system that is as close as possible to 'out of the box.'" While the SPL system automatically incorporates dozens of utility-specified options into future upgrades, highly customized parts of the system could have to be upgraded manually--something Gates aims to minimize.

SPL and BearingPoint will both work with the City during the implementation. The new system is scheduled to go on-line early in 2004. "Before that," said Gates, "we'll be doing an extensive communications campaign to alert our customers to the new bill format."

Gates says the City is also looking forward to having bill changes done in real time. "And once everyone is comfortable with the new system," she said, "we'll begin to think about additional services like web access to accounts and electronic billing."

About the City of West Palm Beach

Established in 1894 by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler, West Palm Beach today has a population of about 80,000 people. It occupies about 50 square miles along Lake Worth, a lagoon that is also a part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, at the northern end of Florida's "Gold Coast," which also includes Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach.

About SPL WorldGroup

Established in 1994, SPL WorldGroup is a provider of customer management solutions. The company employs more than 650 professionals in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

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