Over the last eighteen months, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department has worked to implement a new corporate culture that includes proactively examining processes, systems and procedures in an effort to continuously improve overall customer service performance at the utility.
This shift includes ongoing meter equipment audits coupled with new pre-billing procedures put in place to verify and confirm billing accuracy. Due to these internal quality assurance process changes, CMUD identified the potential for a certain model of
electronic meter transmitters to fail in the field.
The potential malfunctions are related to a particular batch of electronic components used by the manufacturer during a certain time period. We are able to identify the locations where this equipment is installed through the serial numbers of the equipment.
The electronic meter transmitter sends the customer’s water usage information to the meter reading truck when it makes its rounds each month. They translate the mechanical information tracked by the brass meter and register and put it in a format that works for the billing system.
Internal analysis shows that when the transmitters fail, they can read the water usage information from the meter register as either too low or too high. Not every transmitter will fail, but due to the potential for malfunction, CMUD has worked out an agreement with the manufacturer to replace approximately 68,000 of the transmitters at no cost to the utility or rate payers.
Customers that have one of these transmitters as a part of their overall water meter equipment box will have it replaced over the next few months and will be notified via a letter about the replacement. During this change out procedure, steps will be taken to confirm that the water usage sent by the transmitter to the billing system matches what is on the mechanical register at the meter. If there is a discrepancy that favors the customer, then a billing adjustment will be made.
Accurate billing is of the utmost importance to CMUD. There is a multi-step process in place that includes checking water usage for anything that is exceptional when compared to the historical usage. Also, new quality assurance measures include checking random equipment in the field as an ongoing audit program, conducting pre-bill checks of high exceptions before issuing bills and, finally, if there is a post-billing issue, a high bill inspection is conducted. If a discrepancy is discovered in the customer’s favor, an account credit is applied.
For the replacement project, these additional checks will be made:
* Field-to-Billing Quality Assurance
The manufacturer will perform random field audits on 5 percent of all work and report weekly. Audits will check for accurate data collection and proper installation of all new equipment by each technician. External water faucets will be used to increment the new equipment slightly to ensure that everything is working properly at the time of install. CMUD will also perform ongoing random quality field audits of work as it is completed.
* Periodic and Final Validation
CMUD will perform a field validation when the manufacturer has completed approximately 50 percent of the replacements. A second validation will be conducted when the replacements are 90 percent complete.
* Billing Staff will audit data as it is reported prior to billing
CMUD staff will compare the data to prior historical billing information and if exceptional water usage is noted, another field check read will be performed prior to billing