Technology: The importance of account number on your utility bill

Shem Otieno, ICT Manager at Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company Limited
KISUMU, KENYA: Long before the introduction of E-bill payment system by various operators in Kenya, I vividly remember the traditional way of sending money home or making a transfer of the same was only left to Postal Corporation through money order and some few banks.

Another alternative means was the then popular road transport Akamba Bus Services, which was functional but full of risks, key of which one would lose their money along the way.

Today customers are enjoying very many options of conveniently sending, receiving money and settling of their bills at any given time. This then positions the players to a great possible future in tandem with the advancement in technology.  I can predict with certainty that the use of receipt books will be a thing of the past judging by the current trends of transactions, most of which are done via the internet; also referred to as network of networks.

In terms of application, many organizations and institutions in Kenya have adopted various e-payment systems for their customers to pay their utility bills, send and receive money, pay school fees and pay for government services.

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This brings a competitive advantage in revenue collection, improving customer satisfaction, eliminating cash handling and associated cash office operational costs.

Some of the organisations and companies have since closed their cash offices and moved to cashless environment.  This trend is more common in the service industry and is likely to continue as we approach the year 2030 where internet of things (IOT) will be the order of the day. IOT is the ability of various devices communicating over the internet.

The most crucial part of integration is the account number. Integration in this scenario means linking of various channels of payment to a consumer account number. For the transaction to be completed or for the transactions to be successful, one needs to have an updated account number.

The consumer therefore must remember their account number. Various organisations use different patterns in referring to account number. For instance, some will give four digits say, 4321 while others give sixteen digits as the account number, say 1615141312111009.

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Other organisations continued to add prefixes like -01 after the account number, since this is bound to bring a lot of misinterpretation by customers; and some would write that as .01, #01, /01 and _01.

To resolve this problem, there are e-payment service providers with a concept called “My wallet”, have come up with a unique way of bill presentation before payment of bills that reduces the typing errors in the account number.

The system allows you to link the account number before you can make any payment. Going forward no customer will be involved in typing in the account number hence making a smooth integration of bill payments.

Which way forward for Customers?

Customers are encouraged to explore the use of “My wallet” concept that links account number before making payment and make use of various online portals that would provide a way to view statement reports for themselves. Secondly, the customer should be very careful and keen on the account number as they type in, they can either save the account number as a contact on the address book and reuse the contact to avoid typing errors by all means or use the copy paste command.

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Lastly for the mobile phones which have challenges with the keyboard, one can easily go for online option using laptops or desktops. As we make gallant steps into the Internet of Things (IOT), then the future consumers are already empowered with the constant improvement in technology.

The writer is the ICT Manager at Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company Limited (KIWASCO)

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