To the Collections Department of Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro.
Thank you for your letter dated June 4, 2010 notifying me that my pre-authorized payment for your services had been returned from the bank due to “account closed”. Thank you for succinctly telling me that I had until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 10 to pay the outstanding $132.31 on my account “to avoid further collection activity”. I must say that there is nothing quite like a specific and firm deadline — down to the minute, in fact — to make one understand and worry about the seriousness of the situation and act with alacrity.
I should tell you that the reason the pre-authorized payment was returned from my bank was because my old bank service — an all-in-one account offered by Canadian Tire Financial Services — was bought out by the National Bank of Canada. Unfortunately, despite a promise of a smooth transition between the two institutions, including an offer to transfer the pre-authorized credits and debits from the old account to the new, clearly the ball got dropped. I have had to run around restoring a number of pre-authorized payments that broke down thanks to the change over. Rest assured that the National Bank of Canada will be receiving an even more strongly worded letter of complaint once I finish writing this piece.
I appreciate the fact that, once I came to the Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro office, the matter was resolved quickly. I appreciated that the customer service representative who dealt with my issue was polite and capable. What I did not appreciate, however, was the need to come to the office in the first place, or the fact that the payment I had to make could only be made “by cash, certified cheque or money order.”
I have found that Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro’s payment methods have been far less convenient than those offered by private businesses, or by other departments and agencies operated by the City of Kitchener. I am particularly concerned by the fact that simply paying off my outstanding balance with a cheque from my new bank account wasn’t sufficient; that I’d have to get the cheque certified before you accepted it (this in spite of the fact that you were still willing to set up a new pre-authorized payment plan with my new bank account). While I understand the reasons behind such a policy, I can’t help but feel that the good-will of your customers would be increased if, instead of lumping people like me in with the serial cheque-bouncers that your customer service representative so politely and helpfully suggested might be the reason behind such a policy, you offered a grace period, or a warning system, and perhaps required certified cheques from individuals who had bounced payments at rates more frequent than, say, once in the last nine years.
Finally, I’d like to bring your attention to a new piece of technology that I think will improve the convenience of your customers seeking to pay for your services. Perhaps you have heard of it: it’s called a debit machine; locally, it’s marketed under the brand Interac. It’s an amazing piece of technology where customers swipe a piece of plastic called a “debit card” through a reader and key in a personal identification number, allowing the business in question to charge for their services directly from a customer’s bank account. Authorization and transfer of funds is pretty well immediate, and acceptance of the technology is widespread, so there’s little risk of a payment bouncing. I’d wager that most residents in your service area possess debit cards, and certainly most businesses and government service organizations in the service area accept them. This includes many departments and agencies run by the City of Kitchener. I cannot fathom why Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro hasn’t latched onto this amazing new technology that has been around since all of 1995.
While I appreciated dealing with your courteous and well-informed customer services representatives, and especially appreciated the fact that I did not have to wait in line, the fact that I could not resolve the matter of my outstanding balance without coming into your office, or leaving it to find an ATM to dispense cash (and I would like to thank the Sobeys cashier for not batting an eye when I bought toilet paper and asked for $132.31 in cash back), is an annoying oddity that puts Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro well behind the times in customer service. I would think that an agency charged with delivering power to a region as connected as Kitchener-Waterloo, offering the latest in power-saving and other green technology, would be more up-to-date in the tools that it uses to charge its customers money. Leaving aside some of the facetiousness of my comments, I hope you will take some of my suggestions to heart, and join the twenty-first century when it comes to accepting money from the customers you serve.