Columnists Features

Why Lusaka Water is getting rid of paper bills


ZAMBIA is one country that has fast trotted out of the dark in terms of access to information communication technology (ICT), which is now a handy tool for efficient management and delivery of service to customers.

ICT is a pace-setter for evolution that no genuine corporate entity can ignore its mighty and candour in terms of reach.

It is because of this that Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company is driving ahead of schedule to rework modus operandi and dump folklore and tap into the chemistry of the fast-changing world to meet customer needs.
I am elucidating a recent decision made by LWSC to stop the old system of delivering water bills to its customers in an effort to lead the art of efficiency.
As such, starting December 10, 2017, the company has decided that customers will no longer receive paper hand-delivered bills owing to the presence of the array of ICT tools available and in timid on the Zambian plane.
Several bill access options have been put on the table that will be available.
This is premised on making it easy for customers to transact with LWSC instead of knocking on customers’ gates and doors to deliver pieces of papers.
Reports are abound that on so many instances, staff from LWSC have not performed well in customer service orientations by losing courtesy in the field. At times there have been instances when customers have been inconvenienced to the extent of disturbing private family meetings and functions to attend to LWSC members of staff.
So a plan has been designed that will enable customers receive bills via bulk text messaging systems (SMS), emails, and websites where bills can be uploaded.
The website has some functions where a customer can register their water account details and insert a password which they could use at the time of their choice to check for bills.
The customer can then optionally print the bill, but of cardinal importance is the need to immediately start the process of paying.
Even the payment system is such that a customer has an array of options such as Zanaco, using Xapit, Airtel Money, MTN Mobile Money, StanChart Mobile, DDACC, First National Bank (FNB) and VISA card.
LWSC has an obligation keep customers safe in their backyards instead of having to drive all the way to the branches just to pay for water.
It also makes the lives of customers cheaper considering the cost of driving to our various offices to pay bills.
It must be noted that investment in some of the bill access methods has been taken up by LWSC in order to relieve customers of the action of driving long distances.
All in all, the e-billing system will reduce physical contact with customers as this will only be done once in a month when it is time to get meter readings.
Even this method is under scrutiny. Our teams of experts are studying some new innovations existing in some jurisdictions where meter readings are taken using technology without necessarily knocking on the doors of customers.
The idea is to try as much as possible to avoid contact with customers mainly because it is costly on their part.
This initiative is coming at a time when the company is reworking its water transmission volumes by increasing its customer base in readiness for the Kafue Bulk project which will deliver 50 million litres per day to our customers.
Presently, new customers are being connected and this is envisaged to create a huge customer base and the company cannot afford to start dealing with hordes of customers lining up to pay bills.
There have also been numerous complaints on the reversal in investment in pre-paid meters which was the start of a process to pioneer technological systems in the company operations.
That was successfully done but along the way, meters underperformed to the extent that some customers complained that the taps failed to dispense water even when there were units in the meters.
I demand to counsel that the pre-paid meters have not been abandoned but they are under review to ensure that when they come back, they must not inconvenience customers.
The position is that LWSC is truly a company that is owned by the residents of Lusaka, so the company fills duty-bound to allow them to enjoy the services it offers instead of giving unnecessary costs that can be avoided.
Therefore, this is the right time to thank them for their patience having endured many years of struggling to pay for the service, low water pressure and unmeasurable rates of leakages of water.
The author is manager, marketing and public relations Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company


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