Three years ago, DTE Energy and DivDat, a Ferndale-based data processing and management company, set up 18 blue-and-
silver kiosks in select metro Detroit Rite Aid drug stores. Using the machines, customers can conveniently pay their electric bills while shopping for household items.
By touching a computer screen and following basic instructions, DTE customers who choose not to pay their bills at a billing center, online, or through the mail can go into a
Rite Aid and check the status of their bills, and deposit cash, checks, credit cards, or gift cards for instant payment on their account.
By the end of the second year of operation, the DivDat Kiosk Network recorded 50,031 transactions and took in $8 million for the
electric utility company.
Jason Bierkle, president of DivDat, now operates 38 kiosks and has added two clients — the Wayne County treasurer’s office signed on last August, and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department came on board earlier this year. Their customers can use the kiosks to pay their taxes or their water and sewerage bills.
The 38 machines are handling some 60,000 transactions monthly, while collecting more than $13 million in paid billings. The number of kiosk users has grown by 60 percent over last year.
Since the Wayne County treasurer signed on with DivDat, the kiosks have recorded 70,000 transactions. Of that number, 20,000 were taxpayers looking up their accounts, and the other 50,000 users paid more than $11 million in tax bills. “Those 20,000 look-ups saved the Wayne County treasurer’s office the expense of dealing with those phone calls, as taxpayers can do a self-query and see what they owe,” Bierkle says.
Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree says the program is exceeding his expectations, while providing new insights about county taxpayers. “A lot of people still pay bills with cash, and the kiosks are wonderful for them,” he says. “They don’t have to come downtown, pay for parking, and stand in line to pay their taxes. Now they can do it in their neighborhood.”
Bierkle’s company designed the software for the kiosk’s computers, which are equipped with video technology that allows officials to actually see money being deposited in each kiosk while keeping a running tally on the amount coming in.
The DivDat Kiosk Network is in the process of signing up two other civic agencies that collect high-volume payments. “We’ve signed the City of Detroit’s treasurer for tax payments, and we’re working through a contract with the 36th District Court (in Detroit) for parking tickets and those types of violations,” Bierkle says.
He’s also talking with a number of cities in Wayne County, and offering to tie their tax databases in with that of Wayne County. “We believe it would be the first time in the United States that a county and a city combined databases to give taxpayers a full view of what is owed currently, and what is in arrears,” he says.
In the future, he hopes to add the state of Michigan’s Friend of the Court, which would be able to handle payments in all 83 counties. “That one is a little further out because of state issues, but by the end of next year we should have all of them on board,” Bierkle says