Thoughts

A place for education, information, and insights about the water industry.

Topics: utility customers

The Utility Built for a Millennial

October 11, 2018
| By Ali Barsamian
 
According to population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, m illennials are expected to become the nation's largest living adult generation by 2019. 37% of millennials were homeowners in 2015 and this number continues to rise, making them a significant fraction of a utilities' customer base. The m illennial generation is defined as those born between the years of 198 2 and 199 8. Th e impact this generation has had in t ransforming t he transportation, shopping , and television industries is already clear : J ust look to the widespread use of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, the massive success of Amazon or the demise of video rental stores. Understanding how millennials think and what they expect from customer service is key to a successful future for utilities , particularly as they face critical infrastructure investments which often necessitate publicly approved rate increases
 
G rowing up in the age of internet
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Topics: water affordability

Customer Engagement and CAPs: Strategies for Water Affordability

August 28, 2018
| By Sophia Stetson
Affordability. It's a word that gets tossed around a lot as water bills continue to rise. Over the past 10 years the  median water bill has risen 75%  and is going to continue to climb as  our  national  wet  infrastructure requires  up to  $1 trillion in rehabilitation investment over the next 25 years . But with  nearly   1 5 % of the US  population  liv ing  below the poverty line  and spending  3% of their after-tax income on water ,  many  families are more vulnerable to bill increases and water shutoffs.  W ater utilities  have the  responsibility  of  maintaining public health by providing high quality, readily accessible water  and many  providers  have shown their commitment to their  low-income  customers through the implementation of  C ustomer  A ssistance  P rograms (CAPs) . In addition to CAPs, online customer engagement can reach low-income customers and help to ease their bill burden before they become delinquent.
 
Why CAPs?
By  taking advantage of  CAPs, 
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Topics: capitalizing software

Accounting for Utility Software Services

July 17, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton
The software vendor business model has evolved rather dramatically in the past decade or so. Traditionally, utility software providers (including SCAD A, customer information systems, work order management, rebate tracking, and other common solutions used by water utilities) would sell a pe rpetual license to their water utility customers who would then install the software on a local computer or server.  Customers would have the option of purchasing annual maintenance and support packages and could upgrade the installed software every few years as new versions with additional functionality became available. This business model allowed customers to 'own' the software which also meant they could budget for the technology expense in a single fiscal period and then decide whether or not to update to a newer version in the future.
 
Unfortunately this model has some inherent disadvantages for the water utility customer: 
  • The utility
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Topics: design processes

Reducing bill shock through design and testing

June 14, 2018
| By Charlie Czechowski
Bill shock. We’ve all experienced it. You receive a bill and let out a curse when you see that the amount due is WAY higher than expected.  Research has found  that “a high bill is something that 40% of customers reported experiencing during the past 12 months and a full 72% of those customers admitted was a source of anxiety”. Through user testing and research, WaterSmart has found 3 essential approaches to decrease anxiety and increase customer satisfaction:
  1. Present the right information at the right time
  2. Allow customers opportunities to explore
  3. Empower users with a strong foundation of data. 
 
Balancing information overload for Goldilocks  
In a 2015 study OPower found that “between 30 and 50 percent of calls are about billing . ” WaterSmart strives to decrease the volume of bill related calls with the introduction of our first-of-its-kind Bill Explainer solution. The interactive wizard proactively encourages customers to
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Topics: communications

Watershed Moments: A framework for maximizing utility-customer interactions

March 27, 2018
| By Seth Engel

How much time do customers spend thinking about their water utility? According to consulting company Accenture’s consumer survey, if they are anything like the average customer, it’s around 8 minutes a year.

Most people just don’t spend that much time thinking about their water. How, then, can water utilities break through with a message that their customers will receive? By taking a page out of the marketer’s playbook and focusing on the customer journey, water utilities can maximize their interactions with their customers.

Years ago, smart marketers had the insight that marketing had become too disruptive to consumers. Consumers were being bombarded with message after message without regard to who they were or what stage of the buyer’s journey they were in. As a result, consumers tuned out these messages and the marketing was not impactful. Smart marketers began thinking harder about the messages they were putting out to

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Topics: high bill surprise

Noticing Water Leaks

March 20, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

Water leaks happen. In fact, they happen a lot. Data that WaterSmart has collected from over 4 million households indicates that as many as 50% of households will experience some type of water leak within a given year. And more than 10% of households have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons per day. In addition to the frequency that leaks occur, they can be quite expensive. The U.S. insurance industry pays out about $2.5 billion each year in homeowner insurance claims due to water damage from leaks. That’s nearly $7,000 per household which is the number two home insurance claim annually.

Water damage happens for a variety of reasons and some of these causes are unavoidable. Catastrophic weather events that lead to floods or broken pipes and leaky roofs can result in damage that is often expensive to repair. However, most leaks are more mundane and, if not entirely avoidable, easily addressed if caught quickly before extensive
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