How to Communicate a New Multifamily Utility Billing System to Residents

Implementing a new multifamily utility billing system isn’t complete until you’ve communicated the change to your residents. In this blog, we cover four best practices of an informative, effective communication plan.

Whether you’re implementing a new submetering system or ratio utility billing system (RUBS) in your multifamily property, it’s important that your residents know well in advance how this change will impact them.

The reality is nobody likes to pay a bill – especially if it’s unexpected or thought to be inaccurate. When you change your utility system, residents might be receiving a bill back for utilities for the very first time. Or it will be for a different amount than normal. Either way, this change could be disruptive to your residents, leading to:

  • Late or even unpaid bills
  • More work for you and your team to answer questions
  • Negative reviews for your multifamily property
  • Increased tenant turnover
  • A damaged reputation with potential new residents

A positive resident experience is the most important part of any multifamily business, and a proper communication plan can help you preserve it – even as you change the billing routine for your tenants.

Here are four best practices to ensure your residents are completely prepared and more amenable to receiving utility bills.

Resident Utility Billing Communications: 4 Best Practices

#1: Give Advanced Notice

First, it’s critical that you give residents enough notice before the change takes effect. In many cases, a 30-day notice is sufficient. However, the earlier, the better. If you have never billed your residents before, you don’t want this change to feel like a surprise. That will only create negative sentiment in your residents.

Sending out advanced notice lets residents know when to expect the change. It also gives them plenty of time to budget for the bill. Finally, it allows them time to ask questions and for you to answer those questions. Answering those questions as they arise will prepare them for that first bill, and it will ensure they are more likely to pay it on time.

Make sure to send out follow-up communications leading up to the day you plan to switch over to the new utility billing system. These communications are a great way to send out helpful information to residents like how to pay their bills.

#2: Keep the Messaging Focused on Resident Benefits

At the end of the day, a new utility billing system helps to lower the operating costs of your multifamily property. However, that doesn’t mean utility billing doesn’t also have benefits for your residents – especially if you are implementing a submetering system that bills residents for their exact usage.

Billing residents for their utility usage gives them control over how much they spend. If they want to lower their bills, they can lower their usage. In a RUBS setup, billing is more equitable. A two-bedroom unit will be charged less than a three-bedroom unit.

When you inform residents about the new utility billing system, make sure your messaging is focused on informing them of those benefits.

#3: Be Transparent

It’s important to be as transparent as possible throughout the communications with your residents about the upcoming utility billing change. Make sure they know information like key dates and how to pay their bills.

Also, make sure the bills you send have complete information on them. Nobody wants to pay a bill that is confusing or could be incorrect. You can avoid this perception in your residents by making sure your bills are itemized and upfront with rates and usage numbers. Itemization is especially key for convergent billing if you plan on adding other bills on top of utilities.

#4: Create Lines of Communication After Implementation

Communication shouldn’t stop once the new utility billing system goes live. When residents receive their first bills, there will still be questions. Make sure you have customer service lines set up as well as other lines of communication like email and text options. This will allow residents to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, so you can continue to reliably recover utility costs.

Conclusion: Communication is Key to the Success of Your Utility Billing System

The goal of a multifamily utility billing system is to recover as much utility cost as possible each month so utilities are no longer a variable cost eating into profitability. That goal can’t be achieved without buy-in and compliance from the residents. It’s important to do everything you can to ensure the experience for your residents during this change is as painless as possible.

Of course, this type of communication can be a lot of work for your team. That’s why many multifamily properties partner with utility billing firms. The catch is not all utility billing companies go beyond generating and sending out utility bills. It’s critical to find a full-service provider that can advise your team through utility billing system design, installation and implementation.

Want a utility billing partner that helps you through the entire utility billing system implementation process? Talk to Synergy. We go the extra mile to ensure your utility billing system recovers as much utility cost as possible.