Imagine what a nightmare it would be if Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. checked your meter only once a year -- but you still had to pay monthly according to its best guess of how much you owed. Chances are, you'd spend a lot of time talking to BG&E's customer service department.
That's how the government-owned utility in Poland currently handles billing for its customers: The utility sends out estimated bills to its 30 million customers each month, all of which have to be adjustedwhen actual usage is tallied at the end of the year. That meansthe utility's accounting department is constantly in a state of chaos and customers are constantly frustrated.
But Poland is now trying to change all that -- using a computer software program developed by Maryland Management Systems Inc. of Severna Park.
The software program is part of a system designed by Bonair USA of Teeterboro, N.J., a systems integrator that sells computer systems to a variety of commercial and government clients.
Leshek Gladek, president of Bonair USA, noted that his native Poland uses computers to bill its customers for utility usage. But he said the technology used is so antiquated that it is totally inefficient.
That view was collaborated yesterday by Jerzy Pietrachowicz, head programmer of the Poland's Computer Center for Electrical Utility, the billing arm of the state-owned utility. Mr. Pietrachowicz is one of five Polish computer experts in town this week for training sessions with Maryland Management and Bonair.
Speaking through a translator,Mr. Pietrachowicz said the new system being installed by Bonair and Maryland Management should help streamline operations in Poland considerably.
Once in place, he said, customers for the first time will receive bills based on actual usage instead of state guesstimates.
"This will allow us to quickly service the customer," Mr. Pietrachowicz said.
That's not to say, however, that the Polish delegation's stay will be all work and no play while in Baltimore.
The group has had a tour of the Inner Harbor. Albert "Rich" Richburg, owner of Maryland Management and the group's tour guide, said he took the liberty of introducing the group to a new taste treat: mai-tais. Mr. Richburg said the group liked the exotic Polynesian drink.
Other Baltimorean taste-treats are also in the offing, with trips to several local seafood restaurants on the agenda.