Technology advances are changing the way consumers conduct business on a daily basis, and in many cases they are becoming common place among industries that impact the daily lives of Detroit consumers. In the race to provide innovative solutions to assist consumers with more efficient and more convenient methods to make the mundane exciting, DTE Energy is rolling out a series of technical advances to put bill paying and account management at the customers’ finger tips.
“Technology is moving so fast and it’s so advanced now, that we recognize many of our customers are saying to us ‘hey as a utility we’re expecting you to keep up with other service providers that we do Business with,” says DTE Energy, vice president of service and marketing David Johnson. “I get really excited about our new bill pay initiatives because I think they are huge not only for DTE Energy, but more importantly for the customers that we serve.”
Johnson, who returned to Detroit, his hometown after a three-year stint as vice president of customer service for the San Antonio Water Systems has been lauded as utility guru who is changing the face of the utility company’s customer service operations by introducing state-of-the-art bill payment options at 22 highly accessible locations in Detroit.
“We have several new initiatives that we are launching to help customers pay their bills, says Johnson. “One of the initiatives that we launched about a year and a half ago was instituting customer bill pay kiosks throughout the community. Right now we have 22 kiosks that are deployed throughout our service territory. And these kiosks are more than just the old fashioned lock boxes,” Johnson explains. “These kiosks allow customers to access their account information, know exactly what their bill amount due is in real time and it gives the customer the flexibility to make payments against their bills using a variety of payment methods.” Customers can insert cash, and use debit and credit cards. In addition, the kiosks’ smart technology accepts personal checks from DTE Energy customers.
The new payment methods of the future are located in five DTE business offices throughout Detroit which include Southwest Detroit, Eastern Market, Focus: HOPE, the Northwest Activity Center and the Eight Mile and Gratiot DTE business office. Rite Aid, a partner in engaging customer use of the kiosks has located kiosks in 17 of its stores.
The decision to move to the kiosk technology for customer bill payment and account management is paying off for the energy giant, with an unprecedented 97 percent of kiosk users reporting extreme satisfaction with the service improvement.
Smart phone users can also take advantage of DTE Energy customer service advances.
“The kiosk is just one cog in the wheel that we implemented in our entire technology solution that we’re going to be pushing out to our customers,” explains Johnson. “Our mobile app when we rolled it out two years ago was just an app that allowed our customers to see how much they owed and pay the bill. But over the last [several months] we’ve added functionality to the mobile app can use the camera on their telephone to snap a picture of their debit or credit card which will upload automatically into the system to make it easy for them to make a payment in real time,” Johnson adds enthusiastically.
DTE Energy mobile app also gives customers the ability to track power outages in the metropolitan Detroit region. The Outage Map or Storm Map allows users to enter an address to identify where power outages have occurred, the cause of the outage along with updates on the repair process.
For seniors and the technologically challenged, Johnson says the utility company has demonstrated extreme sensitivity to their needs for payment assistance and tackling the challenges of mastering new technologies. “If companies spend enough time up front testing their tools and their technologies with the populations that they serve, it is very possible to make accommodations for everybody,” says Johnson adding the DTE employees are available to assist consumers.
But Detroiters who are apprehensive about the new technologies have not need to worry as the utility company remains heavily invested in ensuring that customers continue to have access ot bricks and mortar locations.
“We want to make sure we are physically here for our customers … we want to support the people in our community who are having financial challenges and so we are pretty committed to being around for some period of time,” concludes Johnson, adding, “DTE Energy is currently in the midst of [establishing] a new billing system conversion which is going to be transformational. We have been using the existing billing system for the past 40 years. … We want to be a part of the resurgence of Detroit and I am thrilled to do my part.”