Thoughts

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

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: Did you know?

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: Research

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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Topics: Research

Utility Service Requests Done Right

March 6, 2018
| By Seth Engel

Can you remember the last time you had to start or terminate your utility service? How difficult was the process? Anecdotally, having looked at scores of utility websites over the past few years, we can tell you that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way most utilities onboard, off-board, and generally manage customer interactions online. Many of them look a lot like this:

Typical start service experience

 

Utility consultant West Monroe Partners analyzed this issue a few years ago via a proprietary Customer Effort Index (CEI). They found that for the lowest-performing utility websites:

“Key tasks, such as a start/stop service online wizard was not available through the customer portal and users were required to call into the customer rep to enable/disable service.”

Why is this important?

  1. Customer expectations have changed rapidly, even in the past 2 years. For example, 64% of American households now have Amazon
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Topics: Customer Stories

Changing a Risk-Averse Culture

February 6, 2018
| By Ella Kobelt

How do you shift a risk-averse culture to adopt new thinking? In a recent WaterSide Chat, WaterSmart featured three industry leaderswho have earned reputations for being innovators in the water industry: Patricia Mulroy, Ed Archuleta, and George Hawkins. While they ran very different utilities facing their own unique challenges, each leader tackled change and attributed their achievements to collaborative management approaches internally, while emphasizing the value of forming partnerships externally.

When Hawkins first started with DC Water (he recently retired as General Manager and CEO), the organization faced low customer satisfaction and virtually no stakeholder support. He recognized the importance of communication between customers, staff, engineers, and local politicians. Hawkins set out to change company communications and took on his employees’ priorities as his own. As Hawkins put it, “they had to understand, change

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Topics: Editorial

Water Meter Data Management - To Sink or SWIM (Part 2)

January 16, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

(In part 2 of this post we review additional benefits and challenges of an MDM and what ideal technology solution best suits water industry needs):

Benefit and Challenge 2: Interoperability Electric utilities have a large number of data systems (as many as 12+) that require metering information. Getting access to all this data is no small feat (see diagram below).

The National Rural Electric Coop Association (catering to utilities under 300k endpoints) has developed a standard for meter data system interoperability known as MultiSpeak. From the MultiSpeak About page:

The MultiSpeak Specification is a key industry-wide standard for realizing the potential of enterprise application interoperability. The MultiSpeak Specification is the most widely applied de facto standard in North America pertaining to distribution utilities and all portions of vertically-integrated utilities except generation and power marketing.

Unfortunately,

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