Reading and billing submeters is a tedious and time-consuming task that often involves walking around to each submeter and writing down the values on a clipboard each month. For this reason, many property teams choose to outsource their submeter reading and tenant billback process to a third-party vendor. These vendors are usually responsible for sending someone out to the site each month to record submeter values and then calculate the tenant invoices.
The problem, however, is that many vendors prove to be unreliable. This puts property managers in an awkward and challenging situation, as the vendor’s poor service upsets not only the property team, but the tenants as well.
In addition, the property team often has very little visibility into how the vendor operates, which makes it difficult to confirm the accuracy of their work or keep tabs on their service. At best, this creates a situation where the property manager has their fingers crossed, hoping the vendor is reading and billing the submeters correctly. At worst, the property manager ends up on the hook for a major billing mistake (that could stretch back years).
After working with a wide variety of properties around the country who have been burned by sloppy submeter reading services, here are the five issues we hear about most often (and how we make sure our customers never experience them!)
1. Not Providing Transparency
Many vendors’ processes are a black box. You don’t know how they’re collecting the data or how they’re calculating your tenants’ bills. Sometimes you don’t even know if they’re coming on site to do readings at all – you just receive the invoices, pass them through to your tenants and hope they’re correct.
Our platform and easy-to-read billing statements provide an easy way to see when readings occur and how the rates are calculated. This includes transparency into things like demand charges, which tenants often question. We’ll provide the detail you need to handle tenant inquiries. In addition, our US-based support team mans our phone line 24/7, so there is always someone who can answer a question for you.
2. Missing Accounting Deadlines
Buildings are ruled by monthly deadlines. Tenant rent statements need to go out on an exact, consistent day each month. In order to meet that monthly deadline and reimburse the owner in a timely manner, it’s crucial that the accounting team has all tenant billing information by a certain date. When using a third-party service to read your submeters, you lose control of when that information is delivered to your accounting team.
If an accounting deadline is missed, it’s a problem for everyone. Without vendor transparency, you’re always in the dark about the status of their process, and have no idea if your deadline is going to be missed…until it happens.
To avoid this, our team lives and dies by the deadlines of our customers. We read thousands of meters each month and understand the importance of meeting accounting deadlines. In the rare scenario that a utility bill is late, our team communicates on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis leading up to a tight deadline, ensuring that everyone stays in the loop and everything gets done. We also grant our property teams 24/7 access to our platform, allowing them to view readings as they’re collected, and bills as they’re calculated.
3. Not Alerting You to Anomalies
A lot can go wrong with a submeter. They can be installed incorrectly, read incorrectly, or just stop reading at random. The billback process is equally sensitive — anomalies due to mistyped readings, wrong multipliers, incorrect conversions, or broken formulas are all common. Your vendor likely isn’t trained to spot those anomalies. Even if they are, they might not be notifying you when they’re occurring.
Our team reviews our submeter readings and calculations regularly to ensure that everything is billed correctly, and makes proactive efforts to verify the data. If we find something strange, the property team is always notified as soon as possible. Sometimes there is a reasonable explanation, like a tenant moving into an expanded space or adding new equipment to their suite. Sometimes, however, investigating an anomaly uncovers a larger issue that needs to be addressed. We function as a second set of eyes, ensuring that the building runs smoothly and tenants are billed correctly.
In addition, we run a full review of your system (at no cost) as part of the setup process. This allows us to find and remedy any historical issues that might exist — right off the bat — to give you confidence that with our service, your system is running properly from day one.
4. Not Providing an Audit Trail
If a tenant were to question a bill sent from your third-party vendor, how confident are you that you would be able to assure its accuracy? Many vendors don’t have an audit trail to validate their historical readings (beyond handwritten clipboards). Notes on a clipboard are unlikely to satisfy a tenant who feels they’re being overbilled.
Our software takes a timestamped photo of every manual meter reading we take, automatically generating an audit trail of all historical readings, satisfying your tenant and helping you sleep at night.
5. Not Being Responsive
The most egregious issue we hear about with other submeter vendors is how unresponsive they are. They don’t respond to questions or requests for clarification, much less proactively communicate with property teams. This does little to build your confidence in their ability to deliver on their promised service.
This is probably the area where our team shines the most. We’ve built our reputation on being a trusted partner for our customers, which is why we have a 98% customer retention rate for the buildings we service. We take delivering amazing and quick service seriously from day one. In one case, we were able to commission and read over 800 meters in less than 30 days, ensuring our new customer was up and running in time to hit their aggressive accounting deadline.
We also man our support line 24/7, meaning there will always be someone to help you, no matter when you need it.
If you’ve been using a third-party vendor to read your submeters, you’ve likely run into at least one of these issues. This puts you and your building at risk, while providing a poor experience for your tenants.
Request a demo to see how Genea can provide a better, more accurate, submeter billing experience for you and your tenants.