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City poised to expand payment options

Actions taken by the city of Ceres will be allowing tech-savvy customers an easier time to pay their city utility bills.

The city has agreed to team up with Intuit Mint Bills so that customers can pay their bills with the Mint Bills mobile application. At least 36 customers living in Ceres tried to pay their bills on the app but were unable to do so because the city did not have agreement with Intuit.
The cities of Modesto and Stockton have used the service for several months and report its success.

According to new Finance Director Suzanne Dean, the city is trying to "increase customer service without additional costs to the city."

Also on Jan. 26, the Ceres City Council approved a set up with Paymentus Corporation that will allow Ceres residents to pay their utility bills over the phone using their credit or debit card.

The city has been offering an online payment service through EPX or Electronic Payment Exchange. Dean said the city was impressed with a demonstration made by Paymentus that includes customers being able to make payments over the phone at the same fee being charged the city by EPX. Paymentus offers payment and balance options in either English or Spanish using an Interactive Voice Response. Paymentus also offers real-time updates for city staff to see "which can be vital to verifying payments during crucial times of the billing cycle," said Dean.

For an additional fee per use, the city can use the IVR system to send targeted phone messages to residents for such purposes as informing areas of the city that water service will be interrupted for repairs.

"The Finance staff receives numerous requests daily to pay with credit card over the phone or to simply ask what the balance due on an account is," said Dean. "Incorporating technology based payment options not only frees staff to help the customers at the counter, it gives our customers the information and ability to pay without being forced to leave a message."