First implemented in February 2003, eCustomer gives 2.2 million of Ameren's Missouri and Illinois customers the ability to get billing and usage history information, make payments, establish payment options, turn service on or off, enroll in special programs and much more\-all with the click of a mouse. The secure Web site is accessible through Ameren's home page, www.ameren.com. AmerenIP's one million customers have access to a similar service, also accessible through Ameren's Web site. The two systems will be merged in fall 2005.
"The program has exceeded all of our expectations," says Ameren Services Senior Vice President-Administration Dan Cole. "Our customers' response to our online services shows that they are looking for easier ways to do business with us-- and eCustomer fills that need."
In its first two months, 10,000 customers signed up for eCustomer, the number originally projected for the first full year. By March 2004, about 50,000 customers had enrolled, five times the number expected.
One popular feature has been the ability to "turn on" and "turn off" service online. Since Ameren's online programs were consolidated and expanded with the eCustomer program, the number of online request to start or discontinue service have gone from under 100 in the year 2000, to more than 4,300 in 2003.
"That means that our customers are enjoying the greater convenience of turning service on or off without picking up a telephone," says Cole. "With more of these routine tasks being done online, our call center employees can now provide even better service for customers who have more complicated billing and service questions."
Ameren's eCustomer program has been improved and expanded since 2003 to meet changing customer needs. In 2003, the company put in place the Energy Savings Toolkit. Featured prominently in Chartwell's Best Practices for Utilities and Energy Companies, the toolkit allows AmerenUE's Missouri customers to conduct a full online energy audit, calculate the savings potential of energy efficient appliances analyze bill variances, and much more. Illinois customers currently access a different version of the toolkit that provides access to energy savings tips, in addition to the other features of the eCustomer site.
On the drawing board for future releases is electronic bill presentment and payment\-the ability to get and pay your bill over the Internet, instead of by mail.
"Clearly, a growing number of our customers are coming to expect the speed and convenience offered by the Internet from the companies they do business with. As a utility, we need to not just meet but exceed those expectations," says Cole. "Our eCustomer program is doing that."
The eCustomer options are free, but registration is required. To register, go to www.ameren.com and look for the "Customer Account Access" area on the home page. You will need an Ameren bill to provide your full name, exactly as it appears on the bill, and your account number. In the registration process, you will choose a User ID and Password to ensure that only you can access your account data. You will need this User ID and Password each time you log on to eCustomer.
Through its operating companies, St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation serves 2.3 million electric customers and 925,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000-square- mile area of Missouri and Illinois.
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