Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill utility customers will have online option

Utility customers in Fort Mill can walk their payments into Town Hall. They also can set up bank drafts, mail their payments or use their credit card to call in payments.

But soon they will be able to make online credit/debit card payments, Town Manager David Hudspeth said.

"It's what customers have come to expect," Hudspeth said. "Years ago, you'd never see somebody paying for groceries with a credit card. Now, you see people paying with credit cards for everything. We want to be able to accommodate them."

To help with the transition, town officials purchased an account and utility software program for about $60,000. The program, slated to be in place before the summer ends, focuses primarily on making payments more customer-friendly, said Chantay Bouler, Fort Mill's finance director.

"We are working out the kinks," Bouler said of the software transition. "I'm hoping that we can get it up and going over the next 60 days. We have to make sure that all the behind the scene elements are in place before we roll it out to our customers."

For now, customers will continue their traditional bill paying process that can include bank drafts, a method that sometimes can delay payment receipt.

"Customers have to do this through their banks," Bouler said of bank drafts.

"The banks print checks and send them to us, and then we post it."

Accounts are drafted monthly on the 15th, she said. The new online payment option will empower customers to pay whenever they choose, she said.

"A customer will be able to go online and view their account history as well as make payments," Bouler said. "The payments will post right away."

The soon-to-be payment evolution is due in part to the town's effort to exceed customer expectations.

"We heard and responded to comments coming from our customers," she said. "They wanted to be able to pay online. They wanted to be able to control when they paid their services, which they were not able to do with a bank draft. They wanted to be able to apply for services online, which currently we do not have an option to do."

Implementation also will make some town employees more efficient, she said.

"The staff spends a good part of the day working face to face or by the phone with our customers," Bouler said. "A big part of that is working with mailed payments and people who walk in to pay.

"It (online credit card payments) will reduce perhaps (some) phone inquiries regarding customer accounts, and it also will reduce some of the walk- in customer payments," Bouler added.

"That will give the staff more time. Right now, they're spending the majority of their time -- during peak time --processing payments and preparing deposits."

The online payment option will be available on the town's Web site at www.fortmillsc.org, Bouler said. Town officials plan to have the online payment option operational by mid-August, she said.

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