Kenya Power will from next July introduce a surcharge on bills settled at its offices in an effort to decongest the banking halls further in a plan that will also see the listed firm recruit more agents, starting with 200 in Nairobi.
The electricity distributor says the recruitment will cover the whole country but rolled out in phases as part of a strategy to drive its growing number of customers to alternative payment channels such as mobile money.
Managing director Ben Chumo said its customer base has more than doubled to 5.3 million in the last three years, straining the 825 employees who work at the firm’s 10 banking halls across the country.
About 630,000 Kenya Power customers paid their bills at the company’s offices as of June 2016, but Dr Chumo says these halls should be reserved for services such as enlisting new users and offering support.
“The idea is to reduce the people coming to our counters by introducing a fee for those customers who are simply making bill payments,” he told the Business Daily in a telephone interview last Friday.
“This is the approach commercial banks have taken to decongest their banking halls. We shall recruit agents to receive these payments and offer other services for a small commission. We shall start with 200 agents in Nairobi in July 2017.”
Six out of every 10 Kenya Power customers pay their bills via mobile cash platforms such as M-Pesa and Airtel Money, according to official data available for the year to June.
Supermarkets and retail token vendors are ranked second, taking up 20 per cent of the total payments.
About 13 per cent of Kenya Power’s customers pay their bills at its offices while seven per cent of them do so at commercial banks.
In Nairobi, Kenya Power’s main banking halls are Stima Plaza in Ngara and Electricity House on Harambee Avenue. The State-owned utility also has offices in Eldoret, Nakuru, Nyeri and Mombasa and other major towns.
Kenya Power, in its five-year strategic plan starting 2016, disclosed plans to set up self-service kiosks that would dispense electricity tokens to customers at malls and retail stores even as it steps up the installation of prepaid meters.
Of its 5.3 million customers, 3.1 million of them are prepaid customers while the rest still receive monthly bills.
The power distributor is also exploring other ways of selling pre-paid electricity besides using mobile money platforms, including using text messages “without cost”.
“We do not have [the] luxury of increasing tariffs in order to hire more personnel to serve our growing number of customers and build bigger banking halls to accommodate them,” said Dr Chumo.
“We therefore want to decentralise our services so that we have the least contact with customers. When you come to the banking hall, it should be for other key services and not simply paying bills.”