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Northbrook, Illinois

Keywords: Meter Reading, Failed Contract

Water Meter Reading

About six years ago, the Northern Illinois Gas Company approached the Village of Northbrook, Illinois, with a proposal to take over the villages water meter reading service. Attracted by the companys promise of significant cost savings, the village accepted the gas companys offer.

The village quickly discovered that any cost savings from the program were offset by poor quality service. Problems with the service centered on the transfer of billing information between the two organizations. While the gas company was responsible for reading the meters, it was the village that sent out bills and collected fees from its customers. However, the billing information supplied by the gas company on magnetic tape had high error rates, which meant that the village often had to double-check the information sent by the company. This situation was further complicated by the fact that the two organizations used different billing software programs. Contrary to the agreement, information sent by the gas company could not be easily transferred to the villages computer system, which resulted in significant delays in billing customers and valuable time wasted by village employees.

About a year into the contract the village informed Northern Illinois Gas that it would cancel its contract if the billing problems were not corrected within 90 days. The company failed to improve its quality of service during this time, resulting in the service being brought back in-house. Four new part-time positions with the village were restored as a result of the transition.

Case based on interview with John Novinson, Village Manager, July 8, 1999.